2017 Habitat 500



A rainy day rest stop in 2016

The signature fundraising for Minnesota Habitat for Humanity is the Habitat 500 bike tour. Each July we ride – you guessed it – 500 miles over seven days in support of decent and affordable housing.

This is my 5th ride, and I’m thrilled to say that we’ve just passed $5000 in early fundraising. Our goal is $7500, and I think we’ll blow past this in a few more weeks! Each year we ride in a different part of the state. We stay in school gymnasiums, and eat meals prepared by local churches. Along the way, we are fed every 20 miles or so at rest stops that serve up the kind of high energy foods cyclists need. The cold pressed coffee at rest stop 2 is heavenly. This year’s ride is July 9-15.

mebikecoldTraining in early spring is a bit…uh…adventurous in Northern Minnesota. You need to wear a LOT of clothing: insulated tights, insulated jersey, neoprene booties like scuba divers wear, and a windproof insulated shell. On cold days I add a layer of under armor. You don’t want to forget to put duct tape over the vents in your bike shoes.

I’d like to think this makes us mentally tougher, since the best part of a cold ride is when it’s over. It’s a yearly rite of passage on the frozen tundra. But take heart! In the words of our Viking forbearers, that which doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Once the days grow longer, the sun higher in the sky, and the winds calmer; we are ready to ride in earnest…maybe with a hint of Viking aggression.

The online donation site is up, and can be found here.

A final thought. As the pastor of First Lutheran in Grand Rapids, MN I’m super pleased to say that we’ve been supporting Itasca Habitat for Humanity for several years. Behind me are more than 200 volunteers and donors who bang nails, serve meals to 150 hungry cyclists, and give generously.



The Road comes to an End

071My desire to return home to my family gave me speed on the final day of the Habitat 500. I took advantage of every tailwind and pulled hard into each headwind to average a tad less than 19.5 miles per hour. All told I pedaled 502 miles and climbed 17,444 feet – a splendid block of training to get me ready for our upcoming trip to Colorado.

Most importantly, by the end of the ride we we were passing $350,000 of fundraising, on our way to another [we hope] $500K year. That’s a lot of nails, and a lot of people touched: both recipients of homes and volunteers.

I exceeded my $3000 fundraising goal thanks to the fine folks from First Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids, MN, family and friends. Special thanks also to members of the Grand Rapids business community, including: Northern Lakes Dental, the good folks at two Thrivent offices, my massage therapist Jo Hernesman, Rowe Funeral Home, the Eye Care Clinic, and Dr. Dajana Condos at North Lakes Chiropractic – who kept me healthy and…well adjusted. A final thanks to the staff at Itasca Habitat for Humanity for their administrative support, and Pactimo Cycling Clothing for keeping me comfortable on the bike every day.

072Now it’s time to rest and prepare for our next trip. These past few days have been about naps, food and early bedtimes! The Grey Goose needs brake pads, a thorough cleaning and lube, shifters adjusted and wheels trued. In a few days we’ll be back home in Colorado’s mountains. New challenges await in the Copper Triangle and an attempt to cycle to the summit of Mt Evans.

Wherever the road leads you, I hope that you’ll receive it’s gifts and unexpected surprises. Cycling, more than any other activity, puts my journey of life into perspective. Big climbs and long miles are humbling – but feeling small reminds me of my daily need for God and all he’s done and is doing for me.

Habitat 500 Day 6


What a difference a day makes. Sun is restorative. It’s good for  body and soul. All the best love songs must’ve been written on such days. After yesterday’s rainy epic [complete with semi  trucks roaring by in hurricanes of mist], today I felt  the love.

Our route has been varied and  interesting all week. Today combined fast flats, undulating rollers and the long gradual climbs that SE Minnesota is known for. Maybe I’ll come back in September for Ride the Ridges.

As the ride winds down, I’m feeling the familiar familial tug on my heart. Cycling has a limited shelf life compared to what waits for me at home. Cycling gave me back my health, but God and my family give me life. It’s been good, no, GREAT…but it’s time to return to my calling of daddy, husband, best friend to a pair of German Shepherds and pastor of a wonderful church.

Tomorrow I will drive home full of anticipation of hugs and the soft whack of wagging tails.

Thanks for sharing the road with me.

Habitat 500 Day 5

You know it’s been an epic ride when it takes 30 minutes to clean your bike afterwards. Eating a medium mushroom and sausage  thin crust pizza afterward is further testimony.


We headed out of town after a spinach quiche breakfast served in the local  hospital  parking lot. The rain held off until rest stop number one, and began in earnest as we strarted our climb out of the valley. I was well equipped for the conditions, but my concern was for all those without rain jackets. Several riders got borderline hypothermic, and needed to leave the road. For  me it was challenging to stay warm…seems I’m missing the body fat that used to keep me better insulated…but I managed.

Rides like this evoke a strong response – almost primal. Driving rain, 25 mph winds and falling temperature made us feel rather small – certainly not in control of the conditions. They dictated our agenda today, and we traveled on their terms.

It was with great relief that I finished just before noon.

Habitat 500 Century Day

Prior  to doing a 100 mile ride I have a talk with myself about why I want to work so hard. Why do I want  to put my body  through this? Can’t  I find somewhere else to sit for five and a half hours than on my minimalist bike saddle? Seems like I always lose that argument.

I was on the bike at 6:50 this morning.

David and I teamed up and hit the first climb together. Because he weighs 160, and because I have gravitational issues due to my considerable mass, I fell behind. It took 15 minutes to catch him, and then we traded pulls into the forecasted LIGHT AND VARIABLE [really 20 mph] winds. The first 22 miles were unpleasant.

We did persevere and found our way to the descent into La Crosse Wisconsin – no doubt named after a native American sport involving sticks and balls made from animal skins.


After picking up a nice tailwind [aren’t all tailwinds nice?] we ate up the miles – including the 14 mile climb that killed us yesterday. It’s a fine way to end a century ride. Sometimes a tailwind comes just when you need it.

Habitat 500…a third day

We were treated  to blue  skies and a crisp  north wind as we rolled  out  this  morning. Early on we came into a set of rolling hills to wake the legs and settle into a climbing  rhythm we’d  use several times during the day.

The best moments of the day were sprinting past two young guys on a steep roller, [they looked a little surprised], and a very  special  descent. The road twisted and turned,  descending  for  3 miles of perfect pavement…which I enjoyed at 42 mph.  Which also explains my broad smile below.


My celebration was short lived since, first, there was still 38 miles to go, and second, I was not done climbing by a long shot. The big climb for the day lasted 14 miles, climbing 350 feet to a plateau, and 800 more for the last 4 miles. At the very top a lady wearing pearls and driving an Audi slowed down to stare at me.

I stared back with sweat dripping off my nose.

Again today  I was the first  rider in. I celebrated with a tasty flat bread pizza shared in the company  of my riding buddies. 86 miles ridden, 3800 feet climbed.

Habitat 500 Day 2

There was no ac in the Albert Lea  school  gym  last night. Sleeping was a sultry affair. At least, that’s the word that best describes how my bedding stuck to me as I attempted to roll out of my inflatable bed.

We got on the road at 6:45, and peddled for 2 hours in a cloud. The water ran off of us as the humidity in the air condensed on bike and body. A rain shower  would’ve been drier. Long rips in the overcast appeared  as the moisture burned  off, and then vistas  of rolling fields of corn…and windmills.


Being from the northern wastelands of Minnesota, I’m not well acclimated to heat and humidity. Indeed, summer  has become something of a novelty. So I held back  today so as not  to bury myself  with 5 days yet to go. Though I often ride in excess  of 19 mph, I settled for 17.8 and will live to ride  another  day.

A & W root beer floats are my new recovery  drink,

73 miles, and 1531 feet  climbed. Tomorrow  we head to the bluffs and first serious climbs.