Friday, August 09, 2002
By Adam Rynkiewich
He's been doing all the work, but Ed Rohlik wants to thank Granite Falls anyway.
"Granite Falls has been very good to me in contributions," said Rohlik. "Last year I was 79th in contributions out of about 1200 participants."
On July 26, Rohlik, a Vesta native who has lived in Granite Falls for 15 years, finished his sixth National Multiple Sclerosis Society's Minnesota Chapter TRAM (The Ride Across Minnesota) tour, a 300-mile trek across the state that raises money for the MS Society. Last year, the tour raised $748,211 to fight MS.
Originally Rohlik's interest in the five-day bike journey was piqued after one of his brothers (he has a 10) suffered a massive heart attack.
"I said, 'I am not going to go down without a fight.'"
Rohlik started biking and training for the first time in his life just a year before he took on the MS TRAM.
"I started doing this all for myself, to get in shape" said Rohlik, "but then I found out pluses of the race later on. The time (on the trip) for me now is really about meeting people in the tour and also spending time with people who have MS (the rest stations are operated by people with MS)."
Rohlik's wife, Lorraine, has a niece and a grand-niece who suffer from MS (a chronic, often disabling disease of the central nervous system) and has witnessed what the disease can do to people. Although she cannot ride with her husband due to chronic back pain, Lorraine said she is glad that her\ husband aids the fight against MS while he bikes for his own health as well..
"I like him to go because I see the people with this disease up close," said
Lorraine. "He's helping raise money so that maybe people with MS can function a little better and live a little better."
Rohlik trains in the summer months on the highways around Granite Falls. He said he has no particular route but he tries to find a way to head out into the wind and come back with the wind - something not always possible to do in the swirling prairie gusts. Riding nearly 1000 miles (his goal) every summer season after working 12-hour shifts at the beet sugar plant in Renville, where he has worked for 27 of his 55 years of life (he'll turn 55 this month), Rohlik sees no time when he will stop, at least no time soon.
"There are people a lot older than me riding in the race," said Rohlik.
Of the six years he has ridden in the tour, Rohlik said that just once did he have to leave and not finish the race.
"I heard about the tornado (in Granite Falls)," said Rohlik, "in 2000 and I had to come back to see what had happened."
The 2002 tour was the 13th annual MS TRAM held. Rohlik said that the field of trekkers consists mostly of people who are retired, still in school or who have enough vacation time to take a five-day bike tour. This year the tour went from Faribault to Lake Elmo through Lanesboro, River Falls, Austin and Wabasha, the prettiest of which, Rohlik said, was Lanesboro. The TRAM group does not travel together necessarily but they do stop at the same marker each day, usually 60 miles from where they started in the morning.
"Some of the hard-core riders will take the daily route, go back to the start and then do it again while the rest of us are riding it once," said Rohlik with a laugh.
But Rohlik said that the tour is mostly a family event with children riding behind and alongside of parents.
"That's one of the neatest things about the time, seeing families riding
together for a good cause," he said
© 2002, Advocate Tribune