by Mike Knaak
Gene Boysen is getting ready to roll…and roll and roll and roll.
Boysen takes off Sunday, July 15, for the 500-mile Habitat 500 Bike Ride.
The 54-year-old St. Joseph veterinarian hopes to raise as much as $2,000 through pledges for Habitat for Humanity. The nonprofit organization helps families build and improve affordable housing.
“I’ve wanted to do it for a long time, but I’ve never made the time to do it,” Boysen said. “It’s always been a work issue. This year I decided to do it. So we set aside the time.”
One of Boysen’s friends, Jim Parsons, told him about the event.
“I went to an informational meeting and sat around and talked to people from around central Minnesota who have done it for a number of years,” he said. “They talked about meeting some of the people that this benefits and what kind of experience they had with them and how appreciative those people were. These people aren’t just handed the house. The organization makes possible for them what wouldn’t be because they are not in a position for good housing. It just changes their life.”
Boysen said he’s ridden a little more than 1,600 miles this year training. He regularly rides with the Scheels group that meets once a week.
“I pick the level of ride,” Boysen said. “I try to hold on to the fast guys. They push me and that’s fun.”
The Habitat ride starts and ends in Becker. Starting with breakfast around 6:30 or 7 a.m., the riders cover about 71 miles a day in seven or eight hours. The route takes them to Royalton, Alexandria, Staples and Pierz before returning to Becker.
Ride organizers provide food and a place to sleep, usually a community center or gym floor.
Boysen is taking an inflatable bed, a phone charger and laundry detergent.
Gene and his wife Terri have two adult children. They met while they were students at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, S.D., where Gene was on the wrestling team in the early 1980s.
“I’m not gifted sports-wise but I certainly benefited from playing in high school and college,” Boysen said.
He said he was inspired by other participants who had met people for whom Habitat for Humanity’s help was a “life-changing” event.
“We take a lot of that stuff for granted and there are so many people who not in a position to have that luxury,” Boysen said.
While on the ride, Boysen will have plenty of time to think.
“Having that much time to pedal and know you’re doing something positive is kind of fun. I’m amazed that there are over 2,500 houses in Minnesota built by Habitat.”