Riding home

Posted July 3, 2013 at 7:59 pm


HULL – Scott DeLeeuw always envisioned riding his bicycle from Sioux Falls back to his hometown in time for Sunday dinner when he was living there.

As that vision passed into a missed opportunity, the 1990 Boyden-Hull graduate began looking for another one.

Instead of making the relatively short trek from South Dakota’s largest city, he embarked on a much lengthier one: all the way from the front range of the Rocky Mountains to the plains of his native land.

He completed an 11-day, nearly 740-mile ride from his home in Denver, Colo., to his hometown last Wednesday.

DeLeeuw had given the trip a name: From Home to Hometown.

“When I lived in Sioux Falls, I always wanted to ride home for Sunday dinner, but I never did,” DeLeeuw said. “I always regretted that, so I was like ‘I’m going to ride from Denver to my home town.’”

DeLeeuw started training for his quest by riding from his south Denver house to his office in Denver’s Tech Center office park where he works in information technology.

The ride was 12 miles one way — a good start to the trip, but nothing like days where DeLeeuw and others with him rode as many as 95 in a day.

“I felt I was prepared,” DeLeeuw said, “but when you’re only riding 12 miles at a time, it’s a little different than when you’re riding 86 miles a day.”

A couple of the longer days came in the sandhills region of western and north central Nebraska.

“The first couple of days, it was kind of challenging, but your body gets used to it.”

DeLeeuw has experience with longer rides, having participated in the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) a handful of times before.

This trip, however, had a number of major differences. Instead of several thousand fellow cyclists, there was only Scott and one to two others a majority of the time. There was no support wagon to help out with such things as a flat tire. And the route was entirely up to one DeLeeuw put together instead of being organized by RAGBRAI officials.

“The dynamics are so much different,” DeLeeuw said. “On RAGBRAI, your day is pretty much planned out for you. Here your day isn’t planned out for you.”

 The Northwestern College graduate was joined by old friend, Jason Smits, for the first eight days. Smits, who now lives in Colorado Springs, peeled off on day eight and finished his ride in Sloan, Iowa.

While Smits was along for the ride, he had to be in Sloan by a certain point. Accordingly, the two had to keep pace every day, no matter how good or poor the conditions were.

“We had to stick to this really strict schedule which, some days when we had some weather stuff come up, made it next to impossible,” DeLeeuw said.

It also forced them to put in a couple of lengthy days to keep pace.

“We put in a 103-mile day one day and a 96-mile day another,” De Leeuw recalled.

Each of the 11 days featured quality riding conditions with plenty of sunshine for the most part.

“The weather was very favorable for the most part,” DeLeeuw said. “Some days when went straight into head winds, but for the most part it was nice and sunny.”

Evenings, however, were markedly different as Mother Nature put on a show for them several nights while in eastern Colorado and Nebraska.

One experience came near the northeastern Colorado town of Sterling where they were caught in a tornado warning.

“We were on the edge of a storm watching it outside of town,” DeLeeuw said. “We had to dive into some guy’s barn.”

Nights turned into adventures, particularly in Nebraska. One night, a tree branch nearly flattened DeLeeuw’s tent while another night, Smits’ tent became filled with water.

“We ran into more tornado warnings than I want to ever see again,” DeLeeuw said. “The nights were terrible as soon as we got into Nebraska. We grew weary of that after awhile.”

Each morning DeLeeuw and Smits had a goal — find a town and a convenience store to purchase a Twin Bing Candy Bar.

The candy, made by the Palmer Candy Co., in Sioux City, gave them motivation to not only keep riding, but also to enjoy a sweet treat.

“We made it a goal to stop for one Twin Bing bar every single day in the morning,” DeLeeuw said.

Some mornings took them longer than others as they had to ride considerable distances between towns in the vast expanse of western and north central Nebraska.

“In the middle of Nebraska, there were stretches where we would ride 45 miles at a time without seeing a town or anything.”

While the towns were few and far between, the hearts of Nebraskans warmed their out-of-state guests — just like Hull residents might be to fellow travelers.

“We had some really cool towns where the people were so nice and genuine,” DeLeeuw said. “It remind me of being (in Hull).”

One example came on a day when DeLeeuw’s bicycle had a flat tire near the west central Nebraska town of Arnold.

“Somebody in a tire truck came by. He slammed on the brakes, whipped around and was like, ‘hey I have a compressor do you want me to turn it on?’ I was like, ‘sure’,” De Leeuw said. “He filled up my tire so didn’t have to pump it by hand.”

Witnessing the kindness and hospitality invigorated DeLeeuw.

“It restores your faith in humanity,” DeLeeuw said. “Living in Denver, sometimes you get the harsh life. Sometimes people are nice but they’re not as personable. Especially out in Arnold, Neb., sitting out a storm out, we were sitting in a Mighty Mart. People would just come up with ice cream, sit by us, and say ‘hey what are you guys doing?’ and talk to us.”

“It was cool just to see that there are nice and genuine people still out there.”

Scott had company the final two and a half days in the form of his wife, Melissa. The two connected in the northeast Nebraska town of Osmond and rode the rest of the way together to Hull.

“Riding with him was a lot of fun,” Melissa said.

At first, Melissa wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about spending a couple of days on the bicycle.

“I kind of hinted to her like, ‘oh it’d be cool if somehow you could join me,’” Scott said. “The next thing you know, she’s out there with me for the last two and a half days.”

For the couple, it was a rare opportunity to spend quality time together just the two of them, without their three children Ayshia, Amelia and Charlotte.

“We don’t get a lot of quiet time, just the two of us,” she said.

The two rode together from Nebraska, through South Dakota and eventually into Iowa.

Riding from Nebraska into South Dakota just south of Vermillion, was a highlight for Melissa.

“That was a lot of fun, especially crossing the Missouri,” Melissa said. “That was a pretty cool experience.”

For Melissa, she’d spent the first eight-plus days of Scott’s ride with the children.

Scott appreciated what his wife went through in order for him to ride his bicycle “home.”

And on the final day, Ayshia was able to join them, riding with Scott and Melissa over the final 10 miles from Sioux Center to Hull.

“It was cool to be able to do that together with her, especially after the big sacrifice she made to allow me to do that.”

His trip was capped off with a closing meal at a place where he held one of his first jobs: the Pizza Ranch in downtown Hull.

“It was from home, to my hometown,” DeLeeuw said, a big smile coming on his face knowing his mission had been accomplished.