Brent Renneke, MS Society,
The Ride Across Minnesota (TRAM) is a week long bike vacation organized by the Upper Midwest Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to raise funds for those affected by multiple sclerosis. This year’s ride, July 20 – 24, starts in St. Joseph, MN, Each year it tours a different region in Minnesota, offering cyclists an opportunity to uniquely experience the beauty of the state.
However for many on the five-day riders, it becomes more than a scenic ride through previously uncharted territories. It takes a bigger meaning, like it did almost immediately for Cottage Grove, Minnesota resident Dave Britz (in the photo above).
In 1993, Britz found himself reading a column by Pioneer Press journalist Norm Coleman, who was chronicling his own experience on TRAM. It was the motivation he needed to get back on a bike, so he could participate in the nearly 300-mile journey. Come 1995, Britz found himself on the starting line of TRAM, ready to embark across Central Minnesota, full of beautiful rivers and charming towns far off the beaten path.
In his 20 years of TRAM rides since, what Britz finds most memorable are the people he meets along the way, particularly those living with multiple sclerosis.
Going back to his first ride, he remembers an older lady slowly pedaling her Schwinn bike alongside the 1,500 TRAM participants while on her daily commute. Britz took the opportunity to slow down and strike up a conversation with her. In doing so, he finds out her name (Ellie) and also that Ellie lives with MS. It was all the motivation he needed in his first year.
“I told her, ‘Ellie, I am riding the whole week for you.’ From that point on, my tires were five feet off the ground because I was able to make that connection.”
Ellie was the first name of 278. Every year while riding TRAM and in his daily life, Britz keeps a running list of names of people he meets who live with MS. It serves as a reminder of why he has fundraised more than $173,000 over 20 years participating in TRAM and why he keeps coming back.
“It is a list that I carry with me wherever I go,” Britz said. “I’ve met these people at rest stops on the [TRAM] ride, they are in a wheelchair or sitting on a porch of a farm house. Making a difference for them is the incentive that really keeps me going.”
If you would like to participate in TRAM alongside Dave Britz in 2016, July 20-24, visit BikeMS.org for additional information. Riders can choose between three- and five-day route options.