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Cyclists hit the breaks in Mendota

Posted: Thursday, Jul 11th, 2013


Cyclists, Nate Robeson, Will Thompson, Jack Haar, and Howard Smith meet by chance at Parkway Restaurant in Mendota on July 2. Both sets of men are traveling opposite directions on the Northern Tier bike route to raise awareness and funds for each of their causes, World Bicycle Relief and RideForJim. (Reporter photo by Jennifer Sommer)


MENDOTA – Lutfije Aliu, owner of Parkway Restaurant in Mendota, cheerfully brings two loaded breakfast plates to patrons Will Thompson and Nate Robeson last Tuesday morning. As she sets them down, she tells the two young men that she is picking up their tab.

Thompson and Robeson are grateful for her generosity and hungry for the bounty set before them. Admittedly, they both recently have lost some weight from long days of bike riding and relish in hearty meals when they get them.

Thompson and Robeson are cycling enthusiasts, passionate environmentalists and supporters of alternative transportation. Recent college graduates of Saint Michael's College and the University of Vermont, they decided to take an extended road trip before committing to a full-time job. They ventured out for a trek across the country on the Northern Tier bike route starting in New York on June 17 and are aiming for Washington State by Sept. 1.

They chose to support World Bicycle Relief on their ride. “We knew we wanted to ride for something,” stated Thompson.

Since 2005, World Bicycle Relief has provided over 125,000 specially designed, locally assembled, rugged bicycles to students, healthcare workers and entrepreneurs in developing countries.

Many children have to walk long distances in rural African areas to school and to access water. “With a bicycle, families in Africa have better access to healthcare and basic services for a sustainable life,” said Thompson.

The cause was a perfect fit for Thompson who recently received his degree in environmental studies with a concentration in sustainable development and poverty alleviation. He believes moving by bicycle is one of the most efficient means of local transportation and a culturally enriching livelihood. Robeson agrees. He wants to raise awareness of the importance of bikes, both in support of a healthy life style as well as the sustainability of the environment.

Unbeknownst to Thompson and Robeson, they were not the only cyclists riding on Route 251 that morning. While the men were eating their breakfasts, up rode Jack Haar and Howard Smith.

As they walked through the door, camaraderie ensued as the four men introduced themselves to each other and shared their story and cause.

And Lutfije Aliu, once again, cheerfully brought a complimentary meal to another set of cyclists with a cause.

On June 1, Jack Haar and Howard Smith, flew from their hometown of Richmond, Va. to Seattle, Wash. to begin their two month Trans America Ride

Haar created RideForJim in memory of good friend, Jim Popp who died of cancer in 2007. Since 2008, dedicated riders have completed the Trans America Ride and local rides in support of RideForJim. Haar’s Trans America Ride For Jim in 2008 inspired his friend and neighbor, Smith, to complete the ride with three companions in 2010 following the Adventure Cycling Route 76. The two men encouraged each other to do another Trans America Ride For Jim this summer using the Adventure Cycling Northern Tier route.

The purpose of their ride is to raise funds for the James D. Popp Summer Research Fellowship and to highlight the need for increased funding to support cancer research. “We’ve both had a friend die from cancer,” stated Haar.

Haar, a retired Professor of Anatomy at VCU hopes to persuade medical students toward a specialty in oncology incorporating cancer research with patient care.

Although both sets of cyclists are touring the Northern Tier bike route, the Mendota stop was not on the main mapped route. Their meeting was by chance, but their causes are both purposeful.

Follow Thompson and Robeson across country on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WillNateCycleAmerica, or support their cause at http://action.worldbicyclerelief.org/page/outreach/view/individual/willflowthompson.

To support and follow Haar and Smith’s journey, check out www.rideforjim.org.











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