Herald JournalHerald Journal, July 4, 2005

Lester Prairie is halfway point for coast-to-coast bike riders

By Liz Hellmann
Staff Writer

Burning up pavement in 90 degree heat, a group of about 25 college students took a break from their 4,000-mile bike ride across the country, in the Lester Prairie city park June 24.

Lester Prairie is roughly the half-way point for the riders, who will eventually end up in Seattle, Wash.

The group, mostly made up of Yale students and recent graduates, is participating in the 12th annual Habitat Bicycle Challenge, which began in New Haven, Conn.

They are riding coast-to-coast in an effort to raise money and awareness for the non-profit organization Habitat for Humanity, which helps supply low-income families with housing.

“We are relying on local churches for support, somewhere to sleep and shower,” Danny Gusman, the team’s leader, said.

The riders also stop along the way to help participate in builds.

“We’re not only biking, we’re also working,” Gusman said.

The team is one of three teams that started off in New Haven. Lester Prairie gave shade to the northern trip, while the central trip rides to Portland, Ore., through the middle of America, and the south rides further below them, ending in San Francisco, Calif.

Often, the riders will get up at 4:30 a.m. to avoid the afternoon heat. They will take refuge in shaded areas and parks, like the park in Lester Prairie, and then ride again in the evening, when it cools down.

However, the heat is not the biggest problem for the team, which has already experienced injuries and torrential downpours.

The group also took on about four to five hours of flash flood rains from Battle Creek, Mich., to Benton Harbor, Mich. One student had to go home after breaking her elbow on the ride.

“People on the trip are pretty amazing,” Gusman said.

Altogether, 90 people are riding in the challenge. Before riding, each person raised $4,000 and contributed volunteer hours to Habitat for Humanity.

This year, $350,000 was raised through the bicycle challenge, which will be used to build five new homes.

These homes will then be bought at cost, with no added profits, by low-income families. The families will also be required to work 300-500 hours helping build their house, and houses for others.

For more information about the trip, or to track their progress, visit their web site at www.yale.edu/habitat.

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