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Ride to benefit diabetes research

Ruth Bakken will celebrate her 75th birthday while raising funds for the American Diabetes Association. She was diagnosed with diabetes at 25. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Ruth Bakken defies traditional aging.

Facing the three-quarters of a century milestone has not slowed this pedal pusher, but inspired her.

She will celebrate her 75th birthday aboard a bike - riding 75 miles - while raising funds for diabetes, a condition she's battled for half a century.

The idea that it be a fundraiser originated with Ruth's brother. The Long Lake resident told him about her celebratory ride and he suggested it benefit the American Diabetes Association.

She and husband Curt mentioned it to the Hubbard Prairie Bike Club and Bobbi Zigmant hopped aboard.

Ride with Ruth, "celebrating 50 years on insulin and her 75th birthday," will take place Friday, Aug. 13, departing at 8 a.m. from Heartland Park.

"I want to encourage and to demonstrate that people with diabetes can have an active lifestyle," said Ruth, who admits the diagnosis at 25 was difficult - emotionally and physically. She's been on insulin for 50 years.

"It's always there. You're never away from it. I try to control it and not let it control me," Ruth said.

"Exercise, nutrition and insulin are three parts of every day," she said. Ruth tests her blood sugar several time a day and administers a minimum of four insulin shots daily.

While biking, she stops every 10 miles to check blood sugar levels.

There have been so many changes - for the good - in the past 50 years, she said. Diabetic food was awful, she recalled. There were no diet sodas. And testing was done via urine - "and then it was guess work.

"Exercise is so relaxing when it becomes a lifestyle," she said. "Relaxing and invigorating."

"It's phenomenal she's able to do this at this stage of life," her physician husband said. "She's the ideal patient," an observation shared by his peers at Mayo.

"She never complains; she deals with it," he said.

The bikin' Bakkens have now logged 24 European sojourns as well as New Zealand and other ports. This summer, they battled brutal winds and chilly temps while heading across Denmark.

Their cross-country bike trips originated in Amsterdam in the mid-90s when Curt Bakken was introduced to Herman Hindriks, owner of a bike tour company.

Bakken broached the idea to his cohorts and the wheels began turning, rolling ever since.

Vietnam is on their winter itinerary, Austria next summer.

The Ride with Ruth bikers will be asked to make a free will donation to the ADA.

The full route will take bicyclists to Walker, heading north and turning around at 37.5 miles.

Thirty have committed to the full ride; bikers are invited to ride the distance of choice. A 7-year-old, for example, will ride 40 miles with grandparents while her parents take on the full route.

There will be a rest stop in Nevis and a lunch stop at the Leech Lake boat landing on Kabekona Bay. Peanut butter and/or jelly sandwiches, bananas, oranges, trail mix, cookies and beverages will be served.

A "sag wagon" will be provided but with no mechanic available.

The event concludes in Heartland Park at 5 p.m. with a dinner of sloppy joes, salad and corn on the cob.

"We always eat after we ride," Curt said. "That's the incentive."

To RSVP or make a donation, contact Bill or Bobbi Zigmant at 732-9293 or bbzig