Fundraisers roll through town
4 friends who use to live in valley return during bike tour to raise money for Project Rwanda.
Former Jackson residents, from left, Dan Morris, John Franklin, Ryan Auster and Ben Walker leave from the Town Square on Sunday morning as they continue their cross-country bike tour to raise money for Project Rwanda. The group raised more than $500 during a fundraising event Friday night at Cutty's. NEWS&GUIDE PHOTO / BRANDON ZIMMERMANView our entire photo gallery >>
By Brandon Zimmerman, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
June 10, 2009
Ryan Auster sat inside Cutty’s on Friday night, glad to be anywhere but on his bike.
After riding 900 miles over 14 consecutive days, Auster and friends John Franklin, Ben Kettle and Dan Morris took a break from their cross-country bike tour to hold a fundraiser in their former hometown.
The four friends, who lived in Jackson for various times between 2003 and 2008, are biking from the Oregon coast to Boston this summer to raise money for Project Rwanda.
“This just feels amazing,” Auster said. “At one point, my Achilles’ [tendon] was so swollen you couldn’t see my ankles.”
The group, called the Tumble Weeds Bike Tour, made the quad-crushing climb over Teton Pass early Friday, and cruised down into Jackson Hole, where old friends and a weekend off awaited them. It was clearly a signature moment in their journey.
“I was literally screaming when we came over the pass,” Auster said. “We were drinking beers and just looking down [into Jackson Hole] at our first milestone. It was quite a homecoming.”
Auster said the group was prepared to climb the pass after a tough stretch through the Cascade Mountains in Oregon.
“It’s a tough climb,” he said. “But we’ve had some good practice climbing the Cascades.”
The cyclists made the best of their two days off in Jackson. A raffle Friday night at Cutty’s raised over $500 for Project Rwanda. The foursome then stayed with friends Friday and Saturday nights while they had their bikes tuned up by their friends at The Hub Bicycle Service in Teton Village.
“We’ve still got a lot of good friends in Jackson,” Auster said.
The group has had quite the journey so far. The bikers have slept in campgrounds, on a ranch and in public parks, including one in Idaho in which the team was dosed by a sprinkler system at 2 a.m. The team did stay in one hotel, in Boise.
“We treated ourselves in Boise,” Auster said. “But we’ve definitely had some snuggle time.”
It’s been nice for these old friends, who met during their college days at Davidson, to reunite.
Kettle lived in Jackson from 2003 to 2005 and now works for a consulting firm in Washington, D.C. Franklin lived in Jackson from 2003 to 2006 and works for a health care research and consulting firm, also in Washington, D.C. Morris left Jackson in 2004 to get his Master of Divinity at Yale and is currently working toward a doctorate in American religious studies at Iowa State. Auster lived in Jackson from 2005 to 2008, working as a Jackson Hole Ski School supervisor, and is now in grad school at Boston College.
“It’s been a good time,” Auster said.
And a good cause. Project Rwanda is an organization committed to raising money for the country through the use of the bicycle as a symbol of hope. The group raised close to $3,000 before embarking on their trip, and donations continue to roll in.
“A big part of spreading the word is meeting people on the road,” Kettle said. “People tend to be curious about you when you’re on the touring bike.”
The group left Jackson amidst chilly and wet conditions Sunday morning, hoping to complete a 90-mile day into Dubois.
To follow the cyclists or donate money to Project Rwanda, visit http://tumbleweedstour.com.