The 4th Annual Pedal the Petrified Bike Tour held on Sept. 17 raised $40,500 for Northland Pioneer College student scholarships—a substantial increase from the $23,289 raised in 2015.
To launch the Metric Century and Half Century rides, veterans carried the American flag between rows of applauding riders. Produced by NPC Friends and Family, the non-profit alliance that supports NPC students and programs, Pedal the Petrified enjoyed the support of numerous sponsors and volunteers. Summit Healthcare and its High Desert Health Clinic was a major corporate sponsor, and also provided their mobile first aid station. Winslow’s historic La Posada Hotel and Landis Cycling also provided principal sponsorships. White Mountain Purified Water and Ice provided water, coolers and ice for the riders.
Fourteen community members, six students and 21 college employees were instrumental in making the event such a huge success, noted Ride Director Lisa Jayne. Executive Director of NPC Friends and Family, Betsyann Wilson echoed Jayne’s sentiment. “We cannot thank our volunteers enough. It takes great dedication to get out of bed in the pre-dawn hours, on a Saturday, and work all day for a cause,” she stated.
The ride participants shared Wilson’s appreciation for the volunteers through their unanimously positive feedback surveys. “This is the friendliest ride I have ever been on. Everyone’s enthusiastic greetings and welcomes truly set this ride apart from others. I love it!” wrote one rider on a follow-up survey. “78% of respondents rated the ride as ‘excellent,’ and 22% rated it as ‘very good.’ Two separate respondents told us it was the best organized ride in Arizona,” added Wilson.
At the Rainbow Forest Visitor Center, the end of the half century course, another rider asked volunteer Jerri Qualls if a priest and holy water were available. “Are you dying?” asked Qualls. “No,” replied the rider, “but you’ve obviously thought of everything else!”
This year’s event illustrates huge growth in the popularity of the ride. Registration capacity of 250 riders was reached on May 15, with over 30 more on a waiting list. Started in 2013 as part of the college’s 40th Anniversary celebration, the first Pedal the Petrified hosted 45 riders, while 81 took part in 2014 and 186 rode in 2015. Riders ranged in age from 15 to 81. Of the two tour options, two-thirds rode the Metric Century, or 63.36 miles. Over 59% hailed from locations across the Phoenix metro and Tucson areas, and another 25% were Arizonans from outside Navajo and Apache counties. Riders came from as far away as Alaska, Colorado, New Mexico, and the Republic of South Korea!
“I really want to make this into a destination event,” Wilson remarked. “For it to be as much about scholarships as it is about promoting our beautiful region and getting people to come back and spend their vacation time here.” Copies of the Maverick Magazine and 202 Things to Do (in Navajo and Apache Counties) plus other promotional brochures were included in the rider’s swag bags to encourage them to visit other attractions in the area.
She gratefully acknowledges the help of a particular volunteer. “Bill Waters, a gentleman from Flagstaff who rode with us in 2014, kind of adopted us and our cause,” Wilson laughs. “Bill and his wife Camille were literally our foot soldiers, visiting just about every bike shop in Flagstaff, Sedona, the West Valley and Tucson. This direct approach really paid off!”
Wilson and Jayne also acknowledged the partnership of the Petrified Forest National Park. “This is an annual event for us now,” Jayne noted, adding that the park has already agreed to Sept. 16, 2017 for next year’s Pedal the Petrified. Wilson reports that she will be announcing some exciting options for riders in 2017, with registration for this year’s participants opening shortly after the first of the year, followed by open registration.
“The most important part of this year’s ride, other than everyone having a fun and safe trip, was the scholarships raised,” Wilson stated. “I tell everyone our NPC students are the finest and bravest you will ever meet. They have a powerful desire to improve their lives through education. They are not constrained by lack of talent or ability, but financial barriers are a tremendous challenge. Events like Pedal the Petrified allow us to help them in ways that are truly life-changing.”
To learn more about NPC Friends and Family, please visit www.npcfriendsfamily.org. Donations to this nonprofit organization are tax-deductible.