Biking about 70 miles from Wadena to Little Falls, Saturday, July 23, MS TRAM riders kept going despite the thunder, lightning and heavy rain fall. It was completely the opposite of the weather anticipated, said Kris VonBerge, executive director at the Little Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Believing it would be a sunny day with hot temperatures, a fire truck had been arranged to spray a stream of water in a bow across the road as the cyclists reached the resting point at Le Bourget Park.
It was also planned to have food and beverages served at the park with a local band, Total Monroe, providing music. A shuttle bus to carry riders who wanted to visit local attractions, to restaurants and hotels was set in place, as well. About 700 people also planned to camp overnight, she said.
When the torrential rainfall arrived at about 11:30 a.m., Plan B was set in motion. It was a plan that couldn’t have been carried out without the community pulling together, making it happen, VonBerge said.
Extra shuttle buses were called in from Palmer Bus Company and Andy’s Charter Service. Shirley Mae’s Outfitters also volunteered its shuttle bus to take riders wherever they needed to go, whether it was to a restaurant, hotel or other attraction. Because of the rainy weather, an additional stop was added to the various bus routes — the laundromat, VonBerge said.
The band was canceled and the beverages and food moved to another location to better accommodate the riders. Many who planned to camp overnight spent the night in the Mary of Lourdes Middle School, since parts of Le Bourget Park and other areas were flooded. About 20 local residents volunteered to load and unload more than 700 bags for the overnighters.
“They worked tirelessly in the rain,” VonBerge said.
Pete and Joy’s Bakery provided “emergency coffee” to the wet cyclists, as well.
Despite the dreary weather, visitors had a good time in Little Falls. When the sun came out later in the afternoon, many were seen walking downtown, visiting various businesses. Volunteers also made sure everyone had the new schedule and information after Plan B went into effect.
The ceremony was moved from the Le Bourget Park to the school, as well, where Mayor Greg Zylka greeted the visitors and welcomed them to the town. The people who had worked hard to make the transition to Plan B smooth and the visitors’ time enjoyable in Little Falls were thanked. A hat was passed and people donated nearly $1,000 to the Mary of Lourdes Middle School, because of hospitality shown.
Just before the night ended, visitors heard from guest speaker, Carol Specker, who has MS herself and thanked everyone for the support.
The following morning, most were up by 5 a.m. and had some coffee before they headed out on their grand finish of the MS TRAM Ride — about 46 miles to St. Joseph. Since the route brought them near Bowlus, about 500 cyclists stopped for a breakfast of eggs, pancakes and sausages, as well as juice and coffee at the Bowlus Community Center and at the pavillion in the City Park, said Jordie Stay, owner of Jordie’s Trailside Cafe.
Stay said the core group, the Bowlus Lions Club, the Fire Department, the First Response Team and Central Minnesota Bike Club, planned and headed up the breakfast event. About 70 volunteers helped to ensure that cyclists’ needs were well met and taken care of.
Stay said several businesses and organizations in the area donated product or money to make the breakfast possible.
“Our breakfast was put on for them as a freewill offering,” she said.
Stay said after the cost was covered, the remaining balance will be given to residents in Morrison County, who have MS.
“Most patients who have MS pay about $4,000 -$6,000 per month for medication they have to take for life. That’s a huge amount they have to always put out of pocket, so any help we can give them is great,” she said. “I feel so much pride of our community wanting to do this and to see such a great response to help. It was just excellent.”