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Saturday, August 26, 2000 -- Carmichaels, PA
King Coal Bike-a-thon
Story and photos by Don Parks

[Details] [Coverage] [Pic Set 1]

Ride Start
Ready to roll for Habitat in Carmichaels
Saturday morning, August 26th, was another beautiful day for cycling in Green County, Pennsylvania. This rural county in the very southwest corner of the state is well known, by local area cyclists, as a road biker's playground. On a mild summer morning or afternoon, like this day, it is quite typical to pass all sorts of riders out for a weekend's ride. But, the group of cyclists that had gathered early on this morning, outside of the Carmichaels-Cumberland Township Fire Hall, had a very special purpose.

The King Coal Bike-a-Thon, in its inaugural year, had attracted a diverse crowd of enthusiastic supporters. Under the direction of John Morgan, Roger Saunders and the Greene County Habitat for Humanity (GCHFH) Team Habitat, a wonderful ride through scenic small towns and rural country roads had been meticulously planned to coincide with the Pennsylvania Bituminous Coal Show and Parade in the town of Carmichaels.

Jefferson, PA
A nice place to live, and a great place to ride
Team Habitat is a group of non-competitive cyclists from southwestern Pennsylvania committed to helping Habitat for Humanity International achieve its goal of eliminating poverty housing world-wide by organizing cycling events as fund-raisers for local Habitat for Humanity affiliates. Some of their goals include increasing awareness and visibility for Habitat for Humanity International, and for local Habitat affiliates, and to promote recreational cycling. Certainly very noble causes that add a sense of purpose to an otherwise perfect morning ride.

The King Coal Bike-a-Thon was successfully designed to be a fun ride for everyone with choices of 5, 10, 25 and 50-mile routes. The largest group set out just after 8:00am, as the cool morning fog was still burning off, complete with a lead vehicle and a SAG wagon. Everyone was given a detailed copy of course directions, and found along the way plenty of arrows painted on the route to make finding the way quite easy.

A tour that everyone can enjoy
Racing ahead of everyone to arrive at the First United Methodist Church in Jefferson, and the first aid station, were the father and son riders, John and Ryan Mele. While the senior Mele is quite an avid cyclist on his own, his 15-year-old son is already an accomplished rider with the Pittsburgh Cycling Club, and is nationally ranked among junior cyclists. The two took wonderful advantage of the nice day by also commuting on their bikes to the event from their home in Washington, PA.

Further back in the stream of riders, Team Habitat made their way past Jefferson and on west towards Waynesburg and a crossing under I79. It's here that a chance meeting with Miroslaw Gacek added another rider to the mix. Gacek, who currently spends much of his time driving trucks, was passing through the area. Something he always brings with him on his travels is his handy two-wheeler. As it turns out, Gacek was a rider for the Polish Olympic Cycling Team in 1979 and '80 and now lives in Toronto, Canada. When he's out and about, he heads out on the back roads "just taking a chance," that he'll find a nice ride. Well, it seems he got quite lucky on this day and everyone enjoyed the additional companion.

Green County
The rolling hills of Green County are waiting for you
At various times throughout the day, new riders headed out to get in a few miles while others made their way back to the finish to tell their stories. For their efforts and show of support for Team Habitat's mission, they were rewarded with plenty of fruit and drinks as well as souvenir T-shirts. But, the real reward that everyone was taking away with them on this day, was the knowledge that they helped support the homeless people, in their own community and across the world.

If you enjoy riding a bicycle (and who doesn't!?), why don't you join Team Habitat and put a little more purpose in your pedaling? They have great plans to do more rides and encourage other Habitat for Humanity affiliates to follow their lead. An upcoming event in Southwest, PA, that promises to be great fun is the Cool Country Covered Bridge 103 on September, 16th. So come on out and enjoy a scenic tour of covered bridges while you support Habitat for Humanity. WVOutside/iPlayOutside is making plans to be sure we're there, and we hope you will join us!