Coast to coast for a cause

December 21, 2018

When Steve Sperling rode into Gloucester, Mass., on Aug. 20, it concluded his 4,300-mile cross-country ride.

However, the money he raised with the ride for a pair of good causes is still rolling in.

Sperling rode to raise money for The Reading Center in Rochester and for Smiles for Life, a dental mission organization that combines small-business loans and dental care for people in developing countries.

The Reading Center recently broke ground for a new location. Sperling said it has provided needed services in the community, including to his son who has dyslexia, and continues to train instructors.

“Both organizations have the ability to leverage people’s donations,” Sperling said.

Sperling plans to donate more than $20,000 to the Reading Center through the Rochester Area Foundation.

“People were really generous with this,” he said.

Sperling began the cross-continent trek June 17 outside Seattle. The first leg of the trip started with the toughest elevation changes. The route was chosen in part to keep the common prevailing winds with the riders.

The strategy had limited success.

“We always seemed to have a headwind or crosswind,” Sperling said. “It was blowing in all directions except from behind.”

That route did put the hardest day’s ride early in the nine-week trek.

The Thursday of the third week had the highest elevation climb of the ride, he said. That three-week stretch was dubbed “boot camp” by the riders.

“After that stretch, mentally you’re pretty sure you can make it the rest of the way,” Sperling said.

A day in the Black Hills riding through construction and sharing a narrowed lane with vehicles traveling at 65 mph was one of the more mentally tough riding days, Sperling said.

“I decided to treat myself to some ice cream after that,” he said.

Sperling rode with a few dozen other riders. Some rode legs of the journey or joined later. A group of about 18 arrived with him in Gloucester, Mass., to dip their front wheels in the Atlantic Ocean.

“The biggest thing I wanted to do was get in a hot tub and have a massage,” Sperling said about ending the ride.

The route and riders were coordinated by Cannon Falls-based Cycle America. Sperling said planning ahead was a key to the success of the ride.

“I’m kind of a planner,” he said. “I don’t like to bike and not know where I’m going to stay.”

Most stops were at schools, where most of the group camped outside. For bad weather or people who preferred not to sleep outside, most towns allowed riders access to the gym to sleep.

One of the reasons Sperling did the ride at age 60 was to see if he could do something so challenging at his age. Now that he has proven he can, he’s mulling another adventure. For now, regularly attending spin class in Rochester has become part of his routine and keeps him in good condition to ride.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started, but it’s really fun,” he said.

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