By Jennie Zeitler, Correspondent
Laughter and applause could be heard in Royalton’s Sportsmen’s Park Wednesday, July 2, as local residents played host to a group of cyclists. The riders were taking their nightly break from a journey spanning from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Twenty-one riders and four route leaders stopped for fellowship, a meal and a place to pitch their tents for the night.
For the past six years, Royalton has been one of the stops on a 69-day bicycle trip from coast to coast – the “northern tier” of the “Bike the US for MS” annual summer rides.
These cross-country bike tours raise awareness for multiple sclerosis (MS) research. They follow America’s most-traveled bike routes and combine an important cause with an awesome experience. Funds raised in 2014 will support research and treatment and fund home modification projects across the United States.
This year’s northern tier riders hail from Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico and South Dakota. Many of them are from Virginia and one from Germany. Some have never tried such a long bike trek before, while others try to ride each year.
After finishing their meal, everyone present was asked to share their experiences on the ride and why they do it. Many told familiar stories of wanting to bike cross-country but not wanting to do it alone. Several mentioned how good it was to be doing it in such a way that allowed them to give back to people who need it.
“It’s sad to see the toll MS takes on people, especially when they were so vibrant,” said Richard Davies of New Mexico.
“I was really hooked on doing this when I rode the MS 150 which started in Duluth,” said Rick Egdorf of the Twin Cities. “At the first rest stop, a woman with tears in her eyes handed me a peanut butter sandwich and said, ‘Thank you for riding for me.’”
Other riders told of family members and friends who have been diagnosed with MS.
Riders also shared a highlight of their trip. By far, the one mentioned most often was a visit the group paid to the MS Achievement Center in St. Paul. One rider described how moving it was to hear the stories of people living with MS.
Route leader Kristen Cowgill of Arizona is doing her second trek. Her grandmother has MS and has lived with her and her family for several years. Just last year, one of her aunts was also diagnosed with MS.
“I’ve always wanted to bike cross-country since I was in sixth grade,” she said. “This is a good way to do it.”
Riders need to raise $1 per mile, which is $4,295.
It’s recommended that riders prepare for the trip by riding 500 miles before participating, with at least one 50-mile trip. Average mileage for each day is about 65 miles, with totals ranging from 40 to 107.
Royalton resident Rita Trettel and many members of her family were glad to share a meal and stories with the riders. Trettel was a full-time teacher with four young children when she was diagnosed.
“I was in the prime of my life and I wondered how I was going to do this,” she said. “My brother also has MS and he told me it was a blessing. I didn’t understand. I remember being angry. But 14 years later, I can say it’s a blessing.”
Trettel spoke of having the support of her family, friends and complete strangers.
“MS has brought me experiences the average person will never see,” she said. “God is in control. People all over the world are supporting this cause. Life is good.”