Family, friends and even a firetruck welcomed home 46 deCycles riders at 4 p.m. Sunday from a 25 day-long trip from Arizona to Montana. The tanned cyclists looked exhausted but finished their journey strong as they rode to the Monroe County Courthouse for the welcome home gathering.
Dr. Norm Houze spends around seven months planning the deCycles trip each year. The 2019 trip was Houze's 26th year participating.
"It's a modern pilgrimage," Houze said.
According to the deCycles's website, about half the group flew from Indiana to Tucson, Arizona, to begin the ride while the others were driven. The group began biking at the Saguaro National Park and traveled to the Grand Canyon.
From there, the bikers rode to Salt Lake City and then Yellowstone National Park. They completed the journey at Montana's Great Falls and were driven back to Bloomington. Once they arrived, they mounted their bikes again to ride to the courthouse with a firetruck escort.
Half of this year's participants were inexperienced cyclists, Houze said. He said the riders began training for the cross-country trip in April.
Leela Breithaupt's son Noah Breithaupt was 2019's youngest deCycles rider. He turned 13 on the trip.
Leela said Houze worked with different churches around the country months in advance to find housing for the group. The riders would sleep on church floors after long days of cycling. deCycles' riders stored sleeping and food items on a large van following their route.
IU junior and Little 500 biker Brandon Soni had another name for the van: "The Wussy Wagon." The first time deCycles' rider said he was proud he made it through the strenuous cycling without having to give up and ride in the van because his knee started to give out seven days into the trip.
"We rode a 187 mile day with 9,000 feet of climbing," Soni said.
The group would ride from around 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Soni said. He rode his Trek Émonda Air through eight national parks on the trip, including Zion and Yellowstone national parks.
Houze said the deCycles group faced very serious weather conditions in Yellowstone. Hail bounced off of the bikers' helmets as they rode. Some shivered uncontrollably.
Although the deCycles group had a few crashes along their 1,500 mile journey, Houze said it was a great ride.
"It's not a bike trip, it's a life trip," Houze said.
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