Cross-country bicycle ride to raise open space funds

       Dave VanDerWege is heading south for the next two months - to places such as St. Augustine, Fla.; Austin, Texas; Tempe, Ariz.; and San Diego, Calif.
       It seems like a great idea, considering the way winter's been here this year. But before you start wishing you could go along, there's something you need to know about VanDerWege's trip:
       He's doing it on a bicycle.
       In fact, by the time he reaches San Diego (the expected date is March 28), he will have pedaled all the way across America - a total of 3,062 miles
       “For many years, I've wanted to do a cross-country trip,” said the just-retired director of the Palmer Land Trust. “Now the window is open to me.”
       Known as the “southern tier,” the St. Augustine-San Diego route has become well-established among distance cyclists since being accomplished as part of the U.S. Centennial celebration of 1976, VanDerWege explained. Riders in ensuing years have “knocked out the best places to stay and the best roads to take,” he added. He'll be following that established itinerary pretty much, other than stopping over with friends in a few places.
       Before becoming head of the Land Trust five years ago, VanDerWege had spent most of his working life in non-profit management. The Land Trust is a Westside- based non-profit that focuses on preserving open space in the region.
       His retirement, effective the first of this year, hardly means he's leaving his old agency behind. His ride “has evolved into a fund-raiser for Palmer,” VanDerWege said. He's been taking pledges leading up to the ride, and a website will follow his progress. “I'm hoping it will raise awareness of Palmer and conservation across the United States,” he said.
       He plans to start Feb. 1, taking a plane to Jacksonville, Fla., then cycling the 69 miles south to St. Augustine, located on Florida's eastern coast. The next day he will start west.
       Carrying about 50 pounds in panniers (compact knapsacks hanging on either side of the wheels), “I'll be fully loaded and not moving too fast,” he said. His average distance per day will be 60 to 70 miles, although he plans to take rest days here and there, depending on the weather and how he's feeling.
       He will be alone, except for occasional stretches where other riders might join him.
       Though he's 60 years old, VanDerWege is not concerned about his readiness for a solo trip that could be grueling at times. “For the last 10 years, I've been real serious about cycling,” he said. “I'm president of the Colorado Springs Cycling Club, and my wife and I ride tandem a lot. It's become a very big passion for me.”
       He's also involved with the Pikes Peak Bikeways Coalition and is an instructor with the League of American Bicyclists.
       Getting in shape for the ride, VanDerWege has been cycling around town in recent weeks - including stints on the Westside's Midland Trail - with panniers loaded heavier than what he expects to carry on the trip.
       Anyone wishing to sponsor him can call the Land Trust at 632-3236, or go to the website: (the “Dave's Ride” link is at the bottom of the page).

Westside Pioneer article