NUMB 2017: a long ribbon of highway


Witte Communications

And I went *biking that ribbon of highway
And I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me the golden valley
This land was made for you and me

Riders discovered the “long ribbon of highway” referred to in the Woody Guthrie classic folk song on the never-ending hills in north-central Nebraska during this year’s Nebraska United Methodist Bike Ride for Hunger (NUMB 2017).  The number of riders was down but fundraising stood firm with more than $55,000 raised for hunger projects, including Heifer International, United Methodist Committee on Relief’s Africa University Agriculture Program, Food Bank for the Heartland and the Society of St. Andrew. The 22-year total now stands at $909,000.

I have ridden in the 13 most recent years of the ride and found this series of days the most challenging of my NUMB-riding career. The hills seemed endless, as was the wind. Significant head and cross winds every day of the ride really took a toll on riders. Mild temperatures were the saving grace.

An optional out-and-back ride on Saturday, June 24, signaled the beginning of NUMB. The official ride started on Sunday, leaving Wisner at about 6:30 a.m. and proceeded to Albion, followed by consecutive day-treks to Plain View, Ponca and completing the loop to Wisner (about 280 miles total). Did I mention the hills?

There were 19 first-time NUMB participants this year, including several who happened to find the ride by online searches. Riders represented a dozen different states including Alaska. Some riders had personal goals achieved unrelated to fundraising. By ride’s end, we all just wanted to finish. Did I mention the wind?

We rode through corn, hay and soybean country, sprinkled with a few cattle operations. I couldn’t help but think of the irony of riding my bike to raise money for hunger projects in the midst of all the agricultural plenty. This reminder of how blessed I am to have been born into this land of plenty kept me going on some days as I thought about the food shortage in so many places around the world and in our own cities and towns. There were many beautiful cloud-filled skies and picturesque farmscapes to behold; the bike-level view is so much more intimate than riding in a car. And, did I mention the hills and wind?

Our support and gear crew (SAG support) was top notch. About every 10 miles (closer when necessary) SAGs are located to supply a bit of shade, a tire pump, snacks, hydration and words of encouragement. The SAG location also enabled riders to call it a day if necessary. Oh yes, the hills and the wind.

Of the many heart-warming stories to tell, ride director Rev. Bill Ritter reported that while in Plainview an elderly woman came to the camp carrying a plastic bag. She said she heard about what NUMB was doing to support feeding the hungry of the world, but she didn’t have the money to donate. She came with five cans of food from her pantry and said she wanted to give so that someone in need would have food.

Riding the hills and the wind is a simple analogy for what it must be like to struggle to put food on the table. Whether the famine is drought or natural disaster, or the result of little means and poverty; the annual NUMB Ride has proven to be a reliable resource for the selected mission beneficiaries to help feed the hungry of the world.
Bring on the hills and the wind … and I’ll be singing …

And I went *biking that ribbon of highway
And I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me the golden valley
This land was made for you and me
  (*actual lyric is “walking”)


NUMB Ride for Hunger 2017

Behind the Bike Shop

It takes an extraordinary amount of planning and support to make a bike ride of NUMB’s magnitude a success.

Leading the team is ride creator, the Rev. Bill Ritter, Great Plains Blue River District superintendent. This is Ritter’s 22nd year as tour leader.  His riding credentials include leading numerous cross-Nebraska bike tours for The United Methodist Church since the 1980s and is a veteran of 14 BRAN trips. He has participated in RAGBRAI, MS150, BAK, SAGBRAW, Tour de Kota, Candisc , BAM, WOW and various other bike tours.

Also helping with NUMB are Greg Bakewell, route director;  Regina Bergman, registrar and director’s assistant; Nina Clark, social director; Wayne and Kathy Minikus, SAG directors; and bike mechanics Geoff Paterson, Olympia Cycle of Omaha, and Dick Vandenberg, Nebraska Cycling and Fitness of Columbus.

The Minikuses enjoyed the help of the following SAG volunteers on this year’s ride:

  • Phyllis and Gary Larsen
  • Karen Bakewell
  • Rogene and Tom Silletto
  • Howard Bergman
  • Steve Bugajny
  • Elyssa Luckinbill
  • Irene Faesser
  • Sarah Borgman – EMT
  • Sandi and Ray Weinberg – mark route
  • Joe and Deb Hanson – luggage truck
  • Deb Ritter


NUMB Hunger Projects: Where the Money Goes

One hundred percent of all the funds raised for the projects listed below go to help those in need. No donations are used for administrative costs.

Heifer International is an interfaith organization that provides animals and other forms of help to rural families. Heifer helps people obtain a sustainable source of food and income. Project families gain new skills and self-esteem from the training and support they receive in caring for their animals to improve their lives.

United Methodist Committee on Relief:  Africa University Agriculture Program
enables Africa University’s (AU) farm to improve instruction for agriculture students and area farmers. The university’s facilities offer practical farming courses for 100, degree-level students every year. The university also supports research facilities for 10 undergraduate and 10 graduate students. The university’s ag program supplies all the eggs and milk plus 80 percent of the chicken and pork for the AU dormitory food service at prices no higher than local prices. The ag program has the goal to provide revenue to the university equal to 10 percent of the operating budget of the farm.

Food Bank for the Heartland
supplies food banks in Lincoln and Omaha and serve the food pantries in all 93 counties in Nebraska. Three-fourths of the households using the food pantry system include children. The latest information obtained shows that 235,000 individuals are served in this state.     

Society of St. Andrew
believes that all of us working together can eliminate world hunger, beginning by ending hunger in the United States. A gift of $1,000 helps a soup kitchen feed 500 people a month; $500 gives three families fruits and vegetables for a year; $100 provides 5,000 servings of healthy produce; and $50 delivers 700 pounds of fresh vegetables to a food pantry.

This video accompanying this story provides more insight into what NUMB is all about and how the event has helped feed the hungry for more than two decades.

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