Cool temperatures and a strong northwest wind brought out hardy riders for the 19th annual Hiawatha Classic Bike Ride Saturday in Perry. About 40 riders were on hand for the 9:30 a.m. start, but others could be seen unloading their bikes and preparing to join the ride.
Rocky Raccoon, cheerleader for the “Let’s Connect” connector-trail fundraising effort, might have been the warmest person present, but he had a lot of company when he set off as the pace bike for the ride.
Mary Laborde, chairperson of the Hiawatha Classic organizing committee, said the annual ride “has always been about helping with trail development all around Perry and promoting the health of the community, but now we’re really focused on getting that connector to the High Trestle Trail built.”
Mike Wallace, executive director of the Dallas County Conservation Board, spoke briefly before the start of the ride about recent progress in the efforts to build the connector trail, such as the board’s final selection of a route and the grant-seeking and fundraising efforts, which he said are gaining steam.
Laborde also welcomed this year’s Hiawatha Classic special guest speaker, Coach Dave Ertl of Waukee, who pepped up the riders at the starting line and shared his experiences from seven years as a RAGBRAI coach. Ertl, the author of “Peddle Off Pounds” (2012), is a USA Cycling level-one coach and Peaks Coaching Group elite coach. He focuses his coaching on road, mountain bike, cyclocross and time trials.
The Hiawatha Classic organizing committee received assistance from the Perry Parks and Recreation Department and the McCreary Community Building, particularly Director John Anderson and Recreation Coordinator Becky Towers.
Ladies of the Nu Alpha Gamma Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma were set up early in order to hand out t-shirts to the riders. Chapters members Sue Leslie, Sonja Sturtz, Ann Sackett and Karen Kline swung the swag.
“This event really showcases voluntarism in Perry,” Laborde said, drawing special attention to the presence of several of the event’s original organizers, such as Rich Saemisch and Karen Kline, wife of the late Jim Kline of Perry, who was himself among the ride’s original movers.
Raffle tickets were sold for numerous items, such as package deals at the Hotel Pattee and the McCreary Community Building, an original artwork by Betsy Peterson and bicycle art from Ben’s Five and Dime, meat bundles from Tyson Fresh Meats and Hy-Vee, gift cards from Fareway, specials at the Mandarin Cafe and Micky’s Irish Pub and a cast iron Iowa Hawkeye skillet.
Prior to the start of the circuit, riders were invited to munch on apples and bananas provided by the Perry Fareway and muffins donated by the Perry Hy-Vee. Lunch was served after the ride from noon to 3 p.m. at the Hotel Pattee.