Pine Island resident writes about the bike ride of a lifetime

By Marc Lunde

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

His name might be Kenny Rogers, but this isn’t "The Gambler."

However, this Rogers, a Pine Island resident, made a gamble 25 years ago that changed many lives.

Rogers and co-worker Steve Anderson, both 29 and unmarried at the time, were working in the same supplies office in Minneapolis.


"Over cold beer," Rogers said, "we were talking about how I hated my job."

Anderson mentioned he had bicycled to Florida before and propositioned Rogers into taking a tour around the country. Needing the change in his life, Rogers put some thought into the cross-country trip.

"This was my personal challenge," Rogers said. "I didn’t feel I was doing anything in my life."

A challenge it was, considering how much preparation went into the trip.

"Neither of us trained; we just decided to do it," Rogers said.

But before the trip was planned, Rogers was listening to a radio program in the Twin Cities which gave him another reason for the trip. The announcer was talking about a local act of kindness and urged anyone in the audience to call in or write if they had an idea that could help others.

"I said ‘this is it,’ " Rogers said.

Rogers contacted the radio station. What started out as two guys doing a year-long bike ride turned into a seven-month fundraiser for the new-to-Minnesota Make-A-Wish Foundation.


So on July 20, 1982, the duo put touring tires to the pavement. Every Friday they would call in their miles so the money they earned could be tabulated in the Twin Cities.

Wishes started to be granted.

On Feb. 5, 1983, the trip of 10,288 miles would come to an end. Also on that day, the fifth wish in Minnesota Make-A-Wish Foundation history was granted — all five of them funded by money raised by the two men.

Both men took notes as they rode, knowing they would have a great story to tell. They decided to write 10 pages a day. Then around Christmas of 1984, they took a break. It took nearly 22 years before either would write another word.

One day, a friend of Anderson’s asked Rogers to speak about the trip to a freshmen orientation class in 2006. So he dusted off the old photos and cassette tapes and prepared his presentation.

"The audience and staff went nuts," Rogers said. "It finally hit me. This story is not old. It is timeless. I need to get that book done."

Last December, the finished product of "Pedaling On Purpose" arrived at Rogers’ doorstep.

"I wept," Rogers, now 54, said. "It was a tremendous accomplishment."


Rogers’ story is a good one; he’s received e-mail from as far away as Australia praising him for his work.

But why is his story so inspirational? "There’s no violence, no bad language," Rogers said. "I think the world needs a good story."

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