JEFFERSON, Iowa, Aug. 8, 2017 -- A new bicycle ride on the Raccoon River Valley Trail on Saturday, Aug. 26, will not only give cyclists an opportunity to explore the trail in what should be beautiful late-summer weather, but also a way to support the good works of Heart of Iowa Habitat for Humanity, which is improving housing for low-income families in Greene, Guthrie and Boone Counties in west central Iowa.
It's the first annual "HabiTour" for riders of all abilities, with both the start and finish here in Jefferson. There are fully-supported rides offered on routes of three different distances -- 30, 50 or 100 miles. All will be on the paved and lushly-canopied RRVT.
Participants are required to find at least $100 in sponsorships or donate that amount themselves to the Heart of Iowa Habitat organization. If people raise more than the $100, they can designate the excess to be sent to any other Habitat organization of their choosing.
You can get more information and do online registration on this website: https://www.heartofiowahabitat.org/habitour. The online registration is Aug. 14, if you want to reserve a neatly-designed "HabiTour" T-shirt, but you can sign up as late as the day of the ride if you don't mind missing out on the T-shirt deal. You can also phone with your questionsn to the Heart of Iowa Habitat office in Boone at (515) 432-1168.
Corporate sponsors of the event are Fareway Food Stores, Kum & Go, Boone Hardware, T & K Designs and John Deere.
The idea for the ride came from Erich Kretzinger who is in his eighth year as executive director of Heart of Iowa Habitat for Humanity. His time as the full-time director of the organization, which organizes hundreds of volunteers for its building projects, parallels the time he resumed riding a bicycle as an adult.
"The last four years, I signed up sponsors and rode a 'Habitat 500' fundraising ride in northern Minnesota," Kretzinger said. "It's always a week-long, 500-mile-long bike ride that has 135 riders or so. After doing it the fourth time last summer, I realized I wasn't excited about going back up there this summer -- particularly going on a camping ride again. I'm at an age where I'd much rather sleep in a bed. So I started thinking that maybe I should organize our own Habitat bike ride, here in our own area and benefitting our Heart of Iowa Habitat organization."
He said the 89-mile-long RRVT, with its 72-mile interior loop, "seems to me to be an ideal route for that. It's the only place I know where you can have a full century ride and never have to leave the trail and ride on roads."
He also thinks the ride is set on a very good date. "We have the high school football season opening the night before our ride on the 26th, but the college football season doesn't start until a week later," Kretzinger said. "So we've got a pretty open Saturday for the ride."
The starting and finishing point for HabiTour will be the Jefferson Depot at the north terminus of the RRVT. There will be a continental breakfast there that is included in the registration cost.
Starting times are staggered, with the 100-mile riders scheduled to leave the depot between 6 and 7 a.m. The 50-mile riders are encouraged to start between 9 and 10 a.m. and the 30-mile riders are asked to leave between 10 and 11 a.m. The reason for that is so that all the riders can be arriving back at the depot in Jefferson about the same time in the mid-afternoon. They're all then invited to celebrate the ride's finish by gathering at Doc's Stadium Bar & Grill on the east side of the courthouse square in Jefferson.
The three staffed rest stops for the participants will be in Jamaica at the downtown shelterhouse next door to ToJo's Bar & Grill; in Panora at P.J.'s Drive-In trailside, and in Dallas Center at the trailhead at the east end of the business district. There will be mechanical support available for riders out on the route, and they'll all be provided with a "support hotline" phone number by Jefferson Telecom.
Kretzinger said he has "high hopes" that HabiTour will grow in future years, eventually even including a concert and meal at day's end. "Actually, I'd hoped to do that this first year, but we've realized that we need to grow into that," he said. "Meanwhile, we're focusing on having a well-organized, enjoyable event so that our riders this year will want to tell their bicycling friends about it, and they'll all want to come back next year."
Money contributed by sponsors and the riders on HabiTour will be used by volunteers across the three counties to assist low-income families attain opportunities for safe, decent and affordable housing. The Heart of Iowa Habitat volunteers have one new home under construction in the Boone County town of Madrid this summer, while 10 additional critical home repair projects are scheduled or under way in communities across Greene and Guthrie Counties.