“I think I see a trip to Africa in your future,” I was told, after completing the 2017 Tour de H2O, bringing water to those who need it most.
Safety precautions were reviewed, and helmets were strapped on. Maps for five different bike routes, originating from Batelle Darby Metro Park, were readily available, next to the registration table. The routes had been marked with bright blue spray paint, with arrows pointing the way, and encouraging tired riders to keep moving forward. The routes had been very well planned, with safety in mind, and they were well marked!
A 7:15 am arrival at the park, on a Saturday morning, to assist with setup, doesn’t happen without a large dose of black coffee. I was uncertain whether there would be any on site, so I fueled up on my way to the west side of Columbus.
Blue is the signature color of Tour de H2O, for obvious reasons. Riders who had raised $100, as their entry fee, lined up to pick up their packets, ride number, and official blue Tour de H2O T-shirt. Someone well versed in the Pantone color system selects the years shade of blue, and the deep navy for 2017 was a big hit.
The charity brings fresh water to African residents, and riders who met the goal of raising $500 in donations were invited to pick out one of the Tour de H2O cycling jerseys. Cyclists get excited about the little things, including this year’s lightweight, breathable fabric, and the number and placement of pockets, allowing easy access to granola bars & sunblock. and an outstanding design!
The night before the ride, organizers had printed the list of who qualified for a jersey. As I checked in at the Batelle Darby shelter, my name had “T-shirt” typed next to it, for the first time, and I was a bit disappointed (I’ve been riding Tour de H2O the last 4 years, and met the $500 target every year). I learned a bit later that the morning of the ride, “T-shirt” had been crossed out, and “Jersey” written in by hand. I’d met the $500 goal, with a donation submitted that morning, so I headed over to select this year’s jersey.
It’s easy to remember how long cyclists have been riding Tour de H2O, in an effort to bring clean water to those who need it. The organizers of the ride, Keely Croxton and Steven Hurt, were expecting their daughter the first year that the ride took place, and the (soon-to-be) 7-year-old is present at the ride every year. Speculating about the future of the ride, this wise, young soul explained to her parents that the ride had to continue, indefinitely . . . because there were still people who needed access to clean water!
“Global Partners for Development raises funds to provide resources and skills for basic survival, promoting self-sufficiency and education in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. They engage in a variety of projects with communities, including building systems to provide clean water, providing animals that offer income generating opportunities for women, educating teachers and providing medical supplies.” (Tour de H2O website)
Steven is on the Board of Directors for Global Partners, and the funds raised by the Tour de H2O ride (and the walk/run added in recent years) are used specifically in the efforts to provide clean water.
For the last eight years the launching point has been Columbus’s Batelle Darby Metro Park. It’s an ideal location, with lots of shade on a hot June day, as well as cover from the elements, should there be a June rain. The shelter house that Tour de H2O launches from is also the ride’s finish, and the site of an African lunch, catered by Medina Restaurant. The meal is a chance for riders to connect with one another, celebrate the success of the charity, and recover from their cycling efforts.
The event itself. . . well, the beauty of the ride is that it is accessible to all!
Beyond there being multiple routes, with staggered start times that allow most participants to finish together, it’s a ride that can be done at your own pace. The cause is so important, so significant, and addresses so basic a need, that the more participants there are, the better.
On this day, Battelle Darby becomes a haven, from potential summer heat and the physical exhaustion of any bike ride; it is also a place of excitement, comradery, and celebration. The run and walk were introduced, taking advantage of paths within the park, and these activities make Tour de H2O even more open and more accessible.
It is very fitting that the ride takes place in the summer; before rolling out, the riders are invited to pause, and reflect a moment on the reasons that they ride. The summer months are full of bike rides, including a number of other charity rides, but this Saturday morning is special. As they wipe the sweat from their foreheads, and reach for the water bottle attached to the bike’s frame, or breathe a sigh of relief at the refreshments provided at the rest stop, riders are encouraged to be grateful for what they have such easy access to. There are so many who do not have that luxury!
The ride’s routes take advantage of nearby bike paths that are part of the Rails to Trails program, which has converted old railway routes into recreational paths. On the country roads surrounding the park, riding along rollers, or what experienced cyclists call a “relatively flat” route, cyclists use the momentum of one hill to push them 1/2 way up the next. The sun was shining brightly, so the smell of sunblock had filled the air at the start.
In the Midwest, there is a definite possibility of rain in mid-June, but Tour de H2O can handle that:
“The Rain Plan: There’s something poetic about being in the rain to help bring clean water to Africa, so we plan to ride/walk/run in anything short of a thunderstorm! Fortunately, they are currently calling for dry weather, but if that changes we will send out another e-mail with our ‘rain plan.’” (Tour de H2O website)
An extensive network of support and friendship has grown out of Tour de H2O. I can only claim to know a fraction of those who participate, but some of the riders I know came into my life because of this ride.
Four years ago I was invited to this ride by a seasoned rider who has been participating in Tour de H2O longer, and more consistently, than most. She has raised thousands of dollars, and has brought on new riders every year. She’s worked hard to promote the cause, and connects new riders to the more seasoned ones, to make them feel welcome.
Getting behind the cause, to bring reliable access to fresh water to those most in need, is what drives these riders to raise funds year after year. Imagine visiting the places that benefit from these efforts; imagine seeing the positive results of all these efforts.
“I think I see a trip to Africa in your future,” I was told, after completing the 2017 Tour de H2O. I would not be opposed to that!
Donations are still being accepted, for the 2017 ride, so please consider making a contribution: https://www.tourdeh2o.org/
Join me on my next adventure,
Tour de H2O: https://www.tourdeh2o.org/
Friends of Columbus Metro Parks: http://www.metroparks.net/about-us/friends-metro-parks/
Columbus Metro Parks: http://www.metroparks.net/
Map of Batelle Darby Metro Park: http://www.metroparks.net/parks-and-trails/battelle-darby-creek/park-map/
Global Partners for Development: https://gpfd.org/
Madina Restaurant: https://www.yelp.com/biz/madina-restaurant-columbus-2