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Olivet native Rames pedals 1,160 miles on the road home

Hutchinson Herald of Menno, South Dakota

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The end of the road was in sight for Marlowe Rames.

The Olivet native pedaled his touring bicycle into Menno on a warm June evening last week, stopping briefly at the intersection of Highway 18 and Fifth Street before coasting to a stop in the parking lot at Menno State Bank, where a contingent of friends and well-wishers were ready. Rames stopped, got off his bicycle, and knelt down to kiss the ground.

He had just completed a 22-day, 1,160-mile bicycle trip that took him from his home in Great Falls, Mont.

It was a journey filled with a lot of pedaling, majestic views, solitude, friendly people and a desire to accomplish a goal. One that took him from exhilarated to exhausted in less than a month, but one that has given him a lifetime of stories to share with his friends and family.

And it all started on the way to the hospital.

Road riders

Rames, 64, grew up in Olivet and graduated from Menno High School in 1969. He married Michelle Pfeifle, another native of Olivet, and eventually settled in Great Falls, Mont., where he worked at the television station KRTV, a CBS affiliate, as its chief engineer. Having played a major role in the growth of the station over the years, Rames enjoyed and took pride in his work.

But it wasn't until he experienced a health care later in life that the seeds of a long journey would be planted.

"I'm not a long-distance bicycle rider by any means," Rames told the Hutchinson Herald in an interview last week.

Five years ago, Rames was diagnosed with a brain tumor. As he traveled to various medical centers for treatment, he would often see bicyclists traveling the road on their way to unknown destinations. The thought of the physical challenge and freedom that comes with traveling by bicycle appealed to him, and he decided he would eventually pursue it if possible.

"If I get through this, this is something I really want to do," Rames said.

He did make it through. The surgery to remove the benign tumor was successful, and his recovery was a smooth one. He now turned his thoughts to pursuing his newfound interest in bicycling. He purchased a bike and began riding a 15-mile round trip to work. It was a good workout, and one he says benefited him in regards to his health.

"It's a pretty good way for a fellow to stay in shape and lose weight," Rames said.

He soon upgraded to a more advanced bicycle — a Surly Disc Trucker — that he assembled and modified himself. He continued to ride when the thought of riding from Great Falls to Menno to attend the 2015 Menno-Olivet All-School Reunion crossed his mind. It seemed like a great way to experience a true road trip while returning home to visit family and friends.

"There was never a goal, like I now have a touring bike and I need to take a tour, it was not like that," Rames said. "I thought the high school reunion is coming up, I can ride back to that."

He made some final preparations to his ride. He added puncture-proof tires from Germany and customized the handlebars to his preference. By the time his was finished, the bicycle alone weighed 75 pounds, but it rode smooth and appeared ready to take on the road to Menno.

And so did Rames.

The journey

Rames departed Great Falls on Monday, June 1. The trip would start with decent weather, something that would follow him, for the most part, all the way to his destination. Fully-packed with a tent and sleeping bag for those nights when accommodations on the prairie are hard to find, he began his ride east.

For Rames, who had planned to travel 50 to 70 miles per day, the longest part of the trip was the first several days.

"The hardest part was getting out of Montana. I never thought I'd make it out of that state," Rames said.

He spent 12 days pedaling through Montana, spending most of those nights camping in his tent. City parks and campgrounds were often his evening home during the journey, he said.

"At least half of those days in Montana I tented it," Rames said.

His travels took him east across Montana into North Dakota before turning south and crossing into South Dakota near Lemmon. Along the way he took advantage of the generosity of people he met or sought out along the way. He stayed with members of www.warmshowers.com, a free worldwide hospitality exchange for touring cyclists and even stayed overnight with a friend of a friend, whom he had never met before.

That newfound friend, Andy, called Rames at least three times during his journey just to check up on him.

"You meet people like that on the, road," Rames said "When you pull into a small town, people open their arms, hearts and homes to you. I never had a bad moment with people at all."

He also noted that the road traffic wasn't as bad as he had feared. Most drivers were more than courteous to him, even if the roads themselves, especially in South Dakota, didn't cater greatly to cyclists.

"The roads at times sucked. What I noticed when I hit South Dakota was the seams. Those jolts go right up your spine. And like most states in this part of the country, none of the highway departments cater to cyclists at all. The white line was the shoulder," Rames said.

As the weeks and miles passed by him, he began to notice a growing familiarity about his surroundings. Despite the relative newness to some of the northern portions of South Dakota — his trip included his first-ever visit to Aberdeen — names of towns and geography began to come into focus as he approached his destination.

"It got to the point where I started noting things I had seen before in my life," Rames said. "Like Huron. We used to go there when we were kids."

He pedaled his way into Mitchell on Tuesday, June 23. It would be the final stop before making the final push into Menno, about 50 miles to the southeast.

Last ride

Rames awoke Wednesday, June 24 ready to make his final ride into Menno. Unfortunately, the good luck he had experienced with the weather finally ran out. A strong thunderstorm delayed his departure from Mitchell. When he was finally able to leave Mitchell, he had to fight through a headwind.

Traffic on Highway 37 was heavier than he had expected. It also had a stretch of 16 miles construction that made riding that stretch of highway miserable.

"The last 50 miles was the hardest 50 miles I did," Rames said. "There was 16 miles of road construction and it was rumble strips the whole trip."

He eventually reached 431st Avenue, which passed directly through Menno as Fifth Street. He had 11 miles left to go, and Rames began to experience something he had not yet felt on his trip: nervousness. He compared it to the excitement of visiting Wall Drug for the first time as a youngster.

He finished those last 11 miles and cruised into Menno just after 6 p.m. and received a warm welcome from a dozen members of his family and friends at Menno State Bank. Rames had chronicled his journey on a travel blog at www.mrames.com, where people in Montana and South Dakota followed his progress, and he had kept in touch through cell phone contact.

Rames arrived slightly ahead of schedule, so now has some extra time to spend in the area while he waits for his wife to arrive and they attend the all-school reunion and partake in the July 4 celebrations. He is sure to share some stories of his journey as he reunites with old schoolmates, but until then he's hoping to enjoy some home cooking while he stays with his mother-in-law Kathleen Pfeifle in Olivet.

Rames plans to maintain his connection to cycling upon his return to Montana. He hopes to open a bicycle repair business — something he studied for and is now certified in. He plans to do repairs by appointment only, which should allow him to maintain a flexible schedule so he can enjoy his other pursuits.

Despite the success of the trip and his enjoyment of it, Rames said he won't be riding his bicycle back to Montana. That was never in the plan. And even though his latest adventure is over, he said he will cherish the experience and encourages others to seek out those kinds of challenges in their Own lives.

"It was a fun thing to do. I'm 64, how many chances do you have?" Rames asked.



Copyright 2015 Hutchinson Herald, Menno, South Dakota. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: July 2, 2015



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