Cycling for change: 120-mile ride raises funds for Lung Association
They call it the ride of your life, and for some, The Alaska Clean Air Challenge really is all about living. The event, set for May 18-19, supports the American Lung Association, an organization that is working to eradicate lung disease in America.
Organizers are hoping this year’s Clean Air Challenge will experience a bit more summery weather than last year’s event. After a record snowfall in 2012, the snow was slow to melt and the ride — while still a blast, said event organizer John Glidden — was a little on the slushy side.
“We’ve been blessed with great weather most of the years this ride has happened,” Glidden said. “My first time, in 2002, I had just moved here, so it was my first time seeing Denali up close. It was 84 degrees and sunny. It left quite an impression.”
Mid-May is indeed the perfect time to ride. It’s generally not too cold and still early enough in the travel season that heavy tourist traffic has not yet begun. Glidden said much of the ride takes place on the multiuse paths that line the Parks Highway.
“The city of Houston is really good because they always do a full sweep of the bike route the night before,” Glidden said.
The destination, as in years past, is 60 miles north from Houston High School along the Parks Highway to the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge, which for years has helped support the event. Weary cyclists can relax there, enjoy fine food and fellowship among those who’ve made the trek alongside them. Some may opt to go home after this portion, while others will sleep over and prepare for the return ride.
The next day, after a hearty pre-ride breakfast, rejuvenated riders will reverse course, cycling back to the finish line. The ride is fully supported, Glidden said, so cyclists can focus on enjoying their time rather than fretting over details like not having enough water or getting a flat tire.
“We have sag wagons provided during the whole event, and REI is very gracious and generous and provides all the mechanical support,” said Glidden. “We have three rest stops that are broken out over the course of the 60 miles that provide everything from bagels to a full-blown barbecue in the middle of the day.”
The result, Glidden said, is an energized, happy group of trekkers.
“It becomes very festive,” Glidden said. “Since this is an event and not a race, they’re all really having a good time. Most of them are there to help support lung health, too. They might have a friend or family member affected by lung disease and they are trying to promote lung health.”
That’s what underscores the entire event, Glidden said. Participants’ fundraising pledges help the Lung Association fight lung disease, which starts with having clean air.
“The work of the Lung Association affects not only Alaskans with lung disease, but each and every Alaskan,” said Marge Stoneking, Alaska director of the American Lung Association. “The Clean Air Challenge is about raising awareness as well as funds to keep the air we breathe each day healthy.”
Stoneking said asthma is the most common lung ailment found among Alaskans. Clean air can help alleviate its symptoms.
“More than fourteen percent of the adult population of Alaska, or approximately 64,500 adults, are likely to have been diagnosed with asthma,” she said.
Prizes in the Clean Air Challenge include a new Gary Fisher Wahoo bike – awarded to the person who recruits new riders to the event and whose name is drawn from the pool of qualifiers. The top fund raiser earns two unrestricted round-trip tickets from Alaska Airlines; Other prizes include T-shirts, hoodies and Winners Circle jackets – the jacket is reserved for those who raise $1,000 or more.
To sign up for the event, go to www.cleanairchallengeAK.org. Cyclists who opt for the 60-mile, one-way ride to Talkeetna must secure their own rides home if staying overnight. For those returning the same day, motorcoach service is available back to Houston High.
Seward harbor opening celebrates Armed Forces and summer
There’s nothing better than clear skies and a slight wind for those who keep sailboats in Seward. It’s the conditions those folks will hope for when American Legion Post 5 and the city of Seward host the annual Seward Harbor Opening Weekend — or SHOW — May 18.
SHOW has become a local tradition for years, said Erin Lemas, events coordinator for the Seward Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s also Armed Forces day, and we set up food and drinks underneath the awning near the harbormaster’s, and there are people wandering around in that plaza area,” Lemas said. For residents in Seward, Lemas said, the event is also about celebrating “that all the snow is gone.”
The American Legion donates all the food during the event, and in the harbor, visitors are invited to walk the docks and see fishermen and recreational boaters preparing their boats for the season. Among the planned activities are a blessing of the fleet, a boat parade, and an open house aboard the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mustang and other vessels. The Coast Guard also will be conducting boat inspections for those putting their boats back in the water.
“We’re still working out a lot of the details,” Lemas said.
Lemas said the spring wildlife is showing up, too. From the docks, it’s not uncommon to see otter or sea lions foraging the waters.
“Kenai Fjords is running their gray whale tours, — there was a whale in the harbor not long ago — and they’ve been seeing whales out in the bay, too,” she added.
More than anything, Lemas said, SHOW is a wake-up call for everyone who’s wintered over and is ready to get outside again. Around town, she said businesses are opening, seasonal workers are returning, and the vibe is livening up.
“The population picks up, and the businesses are opening their doors,” Lemas said. “The boat harbor itself is this whole community, and there’s boat captains putting their boats in, people getting ready for the season. A lot of people come out to celebrate — a lot of vets, a lot of people with boats.”
For more details on Seward Harbor Opening Weekend, visit www.seward.com.
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