By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
GOSHEN — Cyclists in the hundreds converged on Goshen and Shipshewana early Saturday morning for the kickoff of the 14th annual Friends of the Pumpkinvine fundraising ride.
With routes ranging from 10 miles to 100 miles, the annual ride and fundraiser is always a popular draw for cycling enthusiasts and casual riders alike. And apparently the word is getting out, as the annual fundraiser has grown significantly over the past few years, growing from 200 riders at its inception to the more than 1,300 riders recorded during last year’s event.
The ride is organized by the Friends of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail in cooperation with the parks departments of Goshen, Elkhart County, Middlebury and Shipshewana.
“The purpose is really to promote the Pumpkinvine Trail and to get people out and active, and also to raise money for maintenance of the trail,” said event coordinator Bob Carrico.
More than 1,000 riders were expected to participate in Saturday’s ride — a slightly smaller showing than last year’s record-breaking turnout do primarily to a forecast of intermittent rain throughout the day.
“With the rain today, we’ll probably have some people hold back, but it’s still a great turnout,” Carrico said. “We have maybe 200 from Michigan, we have some from Indianapolis, we always get a lot from Fort Wayne, Warsaw, and then quite a bit from South Bend and about 50 or 60 from Chicago. Then we also have some people from as far away as Arizona, Pennsylvania, New York and so forth.”
Saturday’s ride featured starting points at both Abshire Park in Goshen and the Shipshewana Flea Market. Participants choosing to start in Goshen were given the option of a 10 mile trail ride, a 28 mile ride, a 47 mile ride, a 61 mile ride and a 100 mile ride. Those choosing to start in Shipshewana had the option of a 13 mile trail ride, a 21 mile ride, a 33 mile ride, a 54 mile ride, a 61 mile ride or a 100 mile ride.
“The trail starts basically here in Goshen, goes over and up through Middlebury, and then over to Shipshewana. So the Pumpkinvine Trail itself is about 17 miles long,” Carrico said. “It also connects down here to the Maple City Greenway, and you can take that on out toward Elkhart and hit the Maple Heart Trail. So from Goshen up to Elkhart is eight miles. So all together, from Elkhart to Shipshewana, that’s about 25 miles of trails.”
And to make sure the riders had enough energy to make it all the way through their chosen ride, the event also featured several SAG, or “Supply and Gear” locations distributed throughout the event course where participants could stop and grab a quick drink or bite to eat.
“At the SAGs we serve things like bananas, granola bars, oranges, water and Gatorade,” Carrico said. “We have a couple different SAGs set up at various points throughout the course, so as they go, the riders have a place to stop and get refreshments every 15 to 20 miles or so. Then at lunch time, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., we also provide cold cut sandwiches for everyone.”
Cost per rider to participate in Saturday’s event was $20 for the trail ride and $25 for any other ride if registered before May 31, and $30 for the trail ride and $35 for any other ride after May 31. Commemorative T-shirts and jerseys were also sold at the event at a cost of $12 and $62, respectively.
Lynne Lehmer, a Goshen resident and cycling enthusiast, was revisiting the Pumpkinvine ride Saturday after a several-year absence.
“I did this two or three years ago, and I just think its a really fun ride,” Lehmer said. “For a period of time, about 12 years, I lived in Colorado Springs, and while I was there I decided to buy a mountain bike. They have great trails up there, so one day I decided to go to one of their events, and I guess you could say I got hooked.”
For Goshen’s Deana Baker, Saturday’s ride was the perfect excuse to get back into cycling after a long break to focus on running.
“I’m a biker, but I’ve been running lately, so I’m getting back into biking,” Baker said. “I usually ride up north, in Wisconsin, where they have a lot of really great trails. But this is a great trail too. I’ve actually only ever run the Pumpkinvine Trail, so this will be my first Pumpkinvine Trail ride, and I’m just thrilled to be here.”