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Have bike, will travel - Kerwin to pedal cross country for area causes

Donald Kerwin is planning to set off on his fundraising odyssey April 4. The small trailer will transport necessities. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

When the sun makes its appearance next Saturday, Donald Kerwin plans to board his bike, tethered to a trailer, and head west.

Destination: Apache Junction, Ariz., 2,000 miles through forest and prairie, plateau and desert.

He intends to complete the trip in 35 days, averaging 60 miles a day, with most nights spent in a tent.

"It will be a challenge to accomplish," the novice biker and camper admits. But he relates this to the tough economic times America is facing. He's dubbed his mission "American Spirit."

"I'm relying on God's strength to get me there."

Kerwin, 54, is no stranger to the route, delivering and retrieving mom and step-dad Roger and Glenna Merritt from Arizona, come spring and fall. He flies down and drives north and vice versa.

But scenery whizzed by the chauffeur. He began to consider making the journey via bike.

Initially, the novice cyclist discounted his pedal-pushing plan as "frivolous" - until he determined it could be a fundraising initiative.

When he became unemployed, knee surgery precluding long hours standing at work, he decided to follow his dream.

"We need goals, to strive to achieve," Kerwin said.

He's chosen his hometown's Akeley Regional Community Center (ARCC), Hubbard County DAC and Headwaters Animal Shelter as donation recipients.

Pledges will be collected by the organizations, with "100 percent of the amount going to the charities," he said. "Nothing will go toward expenses."

His chosen route will avoid main highways. He plans to head down the eastern border of South Dakota to the southern rim of Nebraska and into Kansas, pedaling southwest across the Oklahoma panhandle and northwest tip of Texas into New Mexico and on to Arizona.

Training began in January, on a stationary exercise bike. His regimen increased to include two 30-minute workouts of sit-ups, weight lifting and stretching "I'm not a fitness fanatic," he admits.

His outdoor bout on the bike last week ended in a fall after hitting an ice patch. "It knocked the wind out of me."

But it has not curtailed his spirit.

A 21-speed, second hand bike he purchased at the Rotary sale a year ago will propel him across the continent. Kerwin had initially planned to make the journey aboard a 30-year-old Sears freestyle, but Northern Cycle advised against it, citing a fractured hub.

"You won't make it out of Minnesota," they warned.

He was off to the bike shop this week for some lubrication and final adjustments, with headlights taillights and a basket added, before he pronounces it "road ready."

Initially, he'd hedged on wearing a helmet, but decided lack of the safety gear would set a poor example.

Kerwin headed to Bearly Used, where the inventory included a baseball and a child's helmets. Then, an employee recalled one had arrived the day before. Inside the box was a new helmet - that fit perfectly and matched his bike.

"It's daunting," he admits of his journey. "Rationally, I don't think I can do it on my own strength. With God helping me and blessing me, it will be done."

Watch for updates on his pedaling pilgrimage on the Enterprise Web site.

To make a donation to the ARCC, contact Fred Rogers at 237-5263. Funds will be used toward the Minnesota Folklore Theater, the school's original gym to be renovated for performances.

Contact Linda Hanson at the Hubbard County DAC at 237-8517 to make a pledge.

Make a donation to the Headwaters Animal

Shelter by contacting Julie Westby at 252-2265.

Pledge sheets will be available at each of the sites.