On a roll for veterans
For three able-bodied cyclists, a two-day, 110-mile bike trip from Washington, D.C., to Gettysburg, Pa., is a veritable ride through the park.
For some in the field of 600 cyclists in the 2016 Face of America event, the April 23-24 trek will be an achievement, marking another milestone in overcoming injuries incurred during military service.
Architect Ken Snelling, retired businessman Bill Anderberg and real estate agent Terry Rasmussen are paying their way to the nation's capital to participate in the fundraiser. They are each tasked with raising $800 toward the organization's 2016 goal of $600,000.
Snelling managed a nine-month, trans-global ride put on by World Team Sports, which also oversees the Face of America ride, two decades ago. At that time, the organization's purpose, he said, was to honor and challenge mentally and physically disabled athletes, providing support. Seven years ago, WTS moved to working with disabled vets. Hence the ride commences at the Pentagon and rolls into neighboring Arlington National Cemetery before heading north, with an overnight stop at Frederick, Md.
Among the riders will be three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond and eight world ride veterans from two decades ago. About 200 riders will be disabled veterans using hand cycles, recumbent bikes and road bikes.
"Some are missing a leg, missing an arm," Snelling said. "One guy I know is missing an arm and a leg and can still whip any of us in a bike race or ride."
Rasmussen had a challenge of his own, rehabbing from Dec. 31 ankle surgery.
"I've done long-distance riding on horses," Rasmussen said. "But I haven't owned a bicycle since I was in my 20s. When Ken asked me in January, I was on crutches, so I hobbled into Starbucks one morning, and he says, 'I'm thinking about doing this ride, do you want to go with me?'"
Rasmussen is often in the middle of charity fundraisers and coaching, but this experience is new. He bought a bike in February and has ridden 15 to 20 miles a day.
"I'm having a hoot," he said. "You get to a stage in life when things like this come along. I went home to my wife, and she said, 'You can't not do it.' How many more opportunities are there like this?"
Anderberg, a longtime competitive powerlifter, said a new challenge was to his liking.
"I did 100 miles one time, but that was so many years ago I hate to even admit it," Anderberg said. "I was about 25, and I'm 65 now. The emotional part for me is when you see guys with one leg or arm assisting a fellow veteran on a hand cycle."
Snelling said camaraderie plays a critical role in attracting veterans and their supporters.
"I think any of us could get on a bike and ride 50 miles. Now, we wouldn't be happy, but we could do it," Snelling said. "This is about assisting and helping these vets. We grab the backs of their seats and push them, the same way we did on the world ride."
Snelling would've liked a larger contingent, but he admitted the travel costs and regional cycling events in Bend and the Rogue Valley pared down the numbers.
"The cool thing is that 91 percent goes to the veterans," he said. "That's far more than many organizations."