Ride to Read

Text: Donna P. Geisler • Photography: Donna P. Geisler

Last June a new fundraising event was inaugurated in the Gem State - Idaho's Ride to Read Rally, a 300-mile roundtrip ride between Boise and Stanley. Initiated by Jerome Eberharter, founder/CEO of White Cloud Coffee and an avid motorcyclist, the ride incorporated his love of motorcycling and his passion for reading. "Literacy," he states, "is a fundamental tool for success in our society that we frequently overlook."

"Tapping into the motorcycle community seemed a perfect way to combine something really fun with an important cause." Seeing 900 riders turn out for an earlier, motorcycle safety rally provided a good deal of encouragement, too. Eberharter also tapped into the talents of a few good volunteers to bring it off. Working on a shoestring budget, with only six months planning time, Eberharter was delighted when more than 40 riders rolled up on rally day. Television coverage and radio personality appearances accentuated the excitement.

Motorcycle Heaven
In Boise, motorcyclists are lured onto the streets as soon as the spring weather breaks. Its high-desert geography results in long, hot but dry summers, and a glut of mountain roads quickly take you from the desert to river-filled canyons and lush high valleys - and daylight lingers long past 9 p.m., making the locale ideal for motorcycling.

Rally day started sunny and cool, following several days of murderously hot weather with intermittent thunderstorms. Some cheerless clouds threatened but dispersed, although the day was chillier than anticipated. "You have to expect that in Idaho," says Eberharter, who was determined to go on whether five or 500 turned out. Undaunted, riders headed out after breakfast, warmed by plenty of White Cloud Coffee's fabulous brew.

And They're Off
The route taken to Stanley didn't disappoint for scenic views. We traveled down Highway 55 to Banks. From there, we turned onto a winding canyon road rambling alongside the south fork of the Payette River through the lush Garden Valley and on to Lowman. Rafters and kayakers floated alongside heading into some three-plus whitewater action. The high point of the ride, literally, came along this stretch where a narrow bridge clings to the cliff several hundred feet above the rapids.

From Lowman we turned north toward Stanley and Redfish Lake Lodge along Highway 21, where a lakeside lunch awaited. The canyon dissolved to views of the stunning peaks of the Sawtooth Mountains, rising jaggedly over 10,000 feet.

If you watch the Weather Channel, you may know Stanley is frequently remarked upon as the coldest place in the country. Even in late June, temperatures can be frigid and snow may surprise the unsuspecting. The night before our ride was no exception: area campers received a light dusting of snow that melted away as the day warmed.

A couple of stragglers, my husband and I, missed the turnoff to the lake and rode slightly farther than intended. We eventually rejoined the group at Redfish late, chilled and hungry. But the hot food and beautiful views of the Sawtooths quickly rejuvenated us.

Ensuring a Good Turn Out
With the abundance of motorcycle events in June, we were concerned about the numbers turning out for the cause. Eberharter's close association with the local BMW club and involvement in Idaho's STAR Program (a motorcycle safety training program) helped ensure a good showing. Happily, the rally raised more than $ 4,000 in donations distributed among several groups, including Boise's Learning Lab (an adult and family literacy program), and Bells for Books (a mobile library service for underserved neighborhoods in Garden City, Idaho). Success by 6, a United Way program, and the Stanley Library also received a share of the proceeds.

We stopped for a final photo op outside the modest Stanley library where a line of bikes and riders gathered. The library serves Stanley's off-season population of approximately 100, and the 2,000 or more summer residents who fill its campgrounds, lodges and summer homes to capacity. Once a small home, the library is a treasured community resource, linking its fluctuating population with books, magazines, and high-speed Internet services.

All in a Day's Ride
Once all photo opportunities were exhausted, the rally riders departed. Temperatures eventually rose to an enjoyable level, which capped the day off with a delightful ride home in the knowledge that each of us had contributed to improving lives in our community.

(Donna Geisler is a freelance writer in Boise and a volunteer for the 2003 Ride to Read Rally.)