...and nothing like Donald Kerwin's 50-mile trek from Pipestone to Lake Herman, just another chunk of his roughly 2000-mile trek from his hometown of Akeley, Minnesota, to Apache Junction, just shy of Mesa and Phoenix, Arizona.
I was biking along the Highway 34 bypass when I saw a fellow heading west. As a bike guy accustomed to bike shorts and other fancy cycling duds, I thought the oncoming cyclist looked rather casually dressed for a long ride, but when I see that much gear on a bike, either Dick Wiedenman's cleaning out his garage, or something else interesting is going on.
As we approached, the rider shouted, "State park this way?" That told me visitor in new territory. I swung around, he stopped, and we talked. Donald Kerwin is his name. He's on his own, no sag wagon or fellow cyclists. Between jobs, Donald thought he'd try raising some money for some hometown programs by going on a bike ride... a long bike ride. So he got the bike shop in Park Rapids, Northern Cycle, to tune up his secondhand GT Slipstream, which he picked up at an outdoor sale, complete with B.O.B. trailer, for $150—heck of a deal!), did some sit-ups and other training over the winter, and took off from headwaters country last Monday.
Donald is raising money for three local organizations back home:
- Akeley Regional Community Center: They're a local non-profit that has bought an old vacant building (the former Akeley school) and turned it into a community cultural center to bring more activity to town (sound familiar?).
- Hubbard County DAC: like Madison's ECCO; they run the Bearly Used thrift store and do recycling under contract with the county.
- Headwaters Animal Shelter: they have a pledge form available for Donald's "American Spirit" ride.
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Donald has a mail pickup planned for Kirwin, Kansas (he may also try to convince the folks at the courthouse there that he's the last living descendant of the town founders and has a claim to some choice city property). Other than that, the route is flexible, as he picks out the more interesting (and quieter!) county roads that the big maps don't show.
Donald was going to stay at Lake Herman State Park, but I wasn't sure if the showers and such were hooked up for the season yet, so I invited him to come stay at Madville Times World Headquarters on the west side of Lake Herman. He had some lasagna with us, got laundry done, and enjoyed a restful night with a roof over his head (a roof originally built by Dick Wiedenman).
As I noted above, Donald is not a regular cyclist. He's worked as a marketer, machine operator, and childcare provider. He said that last year when he bothered to ride his bike, he went maybe 4–5 miles at a time and that was it. He's never done a long-distance bike trip like this. He had surgery on his right knee last year, and a couple days in, his left knee swelled up and kept him off the road for a day. But he rested, and yesterday biking out to the lake, he looked pretty good.
And now this morning, couple bowls of cereal, a check of the weather, a prayer, and he's off!
Just a regular guy, wearing regular comfortable clothes, riding a pretty regular bike... to Arizona.
Good luck and good weather to you, Donald!
Update 2009.05.18: He made it! On Thursday, May 7, Donald Kerwin cranked through mile 1931 to his destination in Apache Junction, Arizona. 32 days... that's 60 miles a day. Not bad! But now the question that keeps all great adventurers up at night: What's next?