Since 1972, families in Elkhart County have been supporting ADEC by participating in its annual Ride-A-Bike. What started 41 years ago has become a springtime ritual and a family tradition for many people. It’s also become the longest-running event of its type in Elkhart County. Why the longevity? We think it’s because Ride-A-Bike appeals to everyone, from the avid cyclist who whizzes through the 20-mile course, to the 10-year-old who pedals hard to finish the five mile route and then brags about it.

I came late to Ride-A-Bike, attending my first one in 2007 soon after joining the staff of ADEC. By 2008, I was hooked. That year one of the men we serve, Dale, set out on the 20-mile course. He had been advised to stick to the 9-mile route and not try the more ambitious long course with a killer hill toward the end. But he was determined.

Three hours later, red-faced from exertion, Dale crossed the finish line. The other riders had come and gone by then. The cheering section was gone, too, as were most of the spectators. Dale didn’t seem to notice. “I did it!” he bragged, reaching for the bottle of water and sandwich we’d saved for him. “20 miles.”

While packing up the last of that year’s Ride-A-Bike supplies, I overheard Dale on his cell phone talking to one of his friends. “I didn’t quit,” he said. “I wanted to, but I didn’t.”

We waited together for his ride home, and he repeated the refrain. “I didn’t quit. I kept going. 20 miles.”

That’s Ride-A-Bike.

A fundraiser. A community event. A family tradition. A challenge to meet.

Something to brag about.