by Howard Lestrud
ECM Online Managing Editor
How would you like to take a trip to Alaska? We can all ride along with a former Zimmerman BMX biker, James Rienstra, as he begins a 3,300-mile bicycle trek from Zimmerman to Anchorage, Alaska on Friday, May 20.
People around the world likely will be following the 35-year-old Rienstra’s Minnesota to Alaska Pedaling for Pennies campaign. The slender, determined Rienstra is personally accepting the challenge to raise money for cancer research to honor his father, Walter, who died of pancreatic cancer five years ago.
Rienstra’s planned crusade for charity has been well planned and he is working with the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund to raise his goal of $10,000. In actuality, James hopes he can raise far more than the $10,000.
All monies earned will go to the Shaver fund. Rienstra chose the organization because of Shaver’s own cancer struggles and says he wants the money raised to stay in Minnesota.
Monies are already coming in via his personal blog at www.pedalingforpennies.info
James says he will not see any of the money that is raised through his blog, which utilizes the Razoo application. He will also be documenting the trip on https://www.facebook.com/PedalingforPennies.
Clicking on the Web and HometownSource.com will link with Rienstra’s blog and provide viewers a daily sampling of how the trip is going. James is hopeful he can log at least 50 miles a day and says he should be able to complete his journey in about 70 days, which would bring the completion sometime in early August.
James admits that it is still difficult five years later to deal with the loss of his father, who he called his best friend. “We went to Alaska together shortly before he began his battle with cancer; he was my fishing buddy,” says James about his father. Jim also praises his mother, Linda, and older brother, Kerr, as making up one special family.
Although continually reminded of his father’s absence in his life, James believes that “some good can come” from his father’s battle with cancer. “I am in for the ride of a lifetime and I haven’t done one mile yet,” James relates. “It gives me goosebumps.”
Jim just recently took delivery of his 30-speed Surly Long Haul Trucker bike that he will be riding on his Alaskan journey. He will be camping all the way and will be carrying all of his gear in a pack, with the 40 pound bike the total weight is 100 pounds. Jim has been training already, bicycling 15 miles to work on a daily basis. He works for Miles Construction, specializing in remodeling. He has also been jogging four to five miles daily.
Excited about telling his story while it happens, James said he will be connected to his Verizon cell phone and hopes to provide accounts of his travels on a daily basis. He does expect to be out of communication range at times, especially when he reaches the Yukon. In addition to a written account of his travels, he plans to provide lots of photos and video, too. He says he has been looking at lots of similar fund-raising blogs to help him structure his own.
James plans to talk to Zimmerman elementary and high school students on the day he leaves. Friends and family will ride and camp out with Jim for the first few days, or until he reaches Bismarck, N.D. From there he will travel solo. He says that the mental part of the journey will be the toughest, being away from his family.
Mother Linda will send him CARE packages along the way. These supplies will keep him energized throughout the trip. “Good energy attracts good energy,” he says.
When he reaches Alaska, James says he plans to hit the salmon run all the way. “I can’t wait,” he says.
Reflecting on his BMX freestyle racing days, James says these were experiences that helped him escape boredom. He said his dad gave him the challenge to build a half pipe at age 14. Rienstra turned pro at age 20, once recording what Ride BMX Magazine called the best trick in BMX history.
Rienstra performed lots of tricks for sponsors but said his decision was made to walk away without carrying a permanent limp. He said he suffered broken wrists, fractured ribs and battled two concussions. “I’m ready for a new chapter in my life” and says he wishes to help others fight cancer.
Asked if he thought he has lived “on the edge” much of his young life, James quickly answers “no.”
Convinced that he will accomplish his 3,300-mile bicycling journey, James says anyone can “pretty much do what you want to do.” He says, “Dream and dream big.” In his soft-spoken but stern manner, James says he would like to see his crusade bring in $25,000 or more. He believes it is possible.
Upon completing his ride, James says he hopes “to chill out” and enjoy the natural hot springs of Alaska. At the end, he also hopes to do some commercials and put together some promotions based on his ride. The ultimate satisfaction of all this, of course, is the result of earning money to help with cancer research, he emphasizes.
A benefit to raise money for Pedaling for Pennies is planned from noon to 3 p.m. at Paddy Wagon’s Irish Sports Pub in Coon Rapids on Sunday, May 1. Paddy Wagon’s is located at 133 Coon Rapids Blvd.
Go to James’ blog and find his route to Alaska. Also, learn more about him. Let’s read:
“I do not identify myself as a cyclist — not yet at least. But, pedaling my bike from Minnesota to Alaska has been a dream of mine since my father passed away on Nov. 22, 2005.
“To be able to do it for charity, and in honor of my father who has gone before us — well, that just makes everything even more special.”