Today’s article is the second in a short series that will profile the local, annual bicycle ride, Tour de Tonka. Be sure to check back in the coming weeks for an interview with Minnetonka Pubic Schools’ Executive Director of Community Education and Tour de Tonka creator, Tim Litfin, and catch up with Part 1 in the meantime.
If you happened to drive along the scenic stretch of State Highway 25 from Watertown to Young America, Minnesota, during the first week of August, you may have seen the letters “TdT” accompanied by a directional arrow sprayed yellow chalk garnishing the gravel speckled pavement every few miles along the shoulder. Chances are I jumped out of my dad’s Durango bedecked with orange and blue Tour de Tonka flags and tagged the highway while he hammered a signage adorned stake into the shoulder’s craggy soil.
For the last eight years my dad has been on the Tour de Tonka board, organizing and leading volunteer activity before and after the ride; my family has been involved in Tour de Tonka ever since. For the first several years my exposure to Tour de Tonka was minimal. Once a summer I helped my dad spray yellow chalk along the read demarcating the route; I did not have any direct interest with Tour de Tonka and saw the opportunity as a way to spend a few hours with my dad as I helped him while enjoying scenic views of bucolic Minnesota farmland situated remarkably near the state’s largest metropolitan area.
Since my first casual and erstwhile occasional volunteership, my dad and I have marked the stretch of Highway 25 between Watertown and Young America for the 100 mile route. This year, however, was the first time that I have been able to volunteer for ride day.
Immediately I noticed the importance of Tour de Tonka to the local cycling community. Driving past Minnetonka High School on the way to our stakeout near Watertown on ride day, I was stunned by the sight of thousands of cyclists already lined up for the event to begin; while I knew there would be thousands of participants, the community impact of Tour de Tonka did not manifest in my mind until I could visualize it in the eager crowd.
As I nursed my coffee in a vain effort to shake the morning brain fog, my dad and I neared Watertown and he briefed me on my role as photographer for the day. We made our way along our designated stretch of the 100 mile route to set up a few last event day signs and briefly coach small cohorts of volunteers whom he was overseeing. I noted that most already had knowledge of their expectations and were glad to have the opportunity to volunteer; though their job was only to stay in one place to direct riders in the proper direction near potentially confounding intersections in the route until all riders were confirmed passed, the general sense of positivity exuding from each volunteer made apparent their enthusiasm for Tour de Tonka.
Our job then was to relay communication back and forth between stakeouts as I took opportunistic photos of the riders and volunteers. Though volunteering for ride day turned out to be an enjoyable opportunity to spend time with my dad while enjoying the quiet beauty of a country morning, the gratification of having volunteered took shape in the face of each rider I saw pass. Without a doubt the most rewarding part of volunteering for Tour de Tonka was the tangible feeling that the hundreds of riders that I cycled past me, whether a highly experienced athlete or an enthusiast looking for a serious trial, all were having a great time challenging their fitness and had a genuine air of appreciation for the opportunity to participate and the volunteers that allowed it to happen.
Check back with Minnesota Connected soon for an exclusive interview with Minnetonka Pubic Schools’ Executive Director of Community Education and Tour de Tonka creator, Tim Litfin.
Photos via: Tour de Tonka Facebook Page