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Grandmother-grandson duo bikes 160 miles for hunger

Sherry Thompson and her grandson, Joe Heinlein, biked 160 miles over three days in the Nebraska United Methodist Bike Ride for Hunger.

Last year, eight-year-old Joe Heinlein and his grandmother, Sherry Thompson, biked a total of 226 miles through Iowa as part of the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa held every August.

This year, they participated in yet another marathon bike trek, the Nebraska United Methodist Bike Ride for Hunger, also known as the NUMB Ride for Hunger.

In a three-day period, the Detroit Lakes duo biked a total of 160 miles -- an average of 53 miles per day.

"Last year, we went about 35 miles a day, over seven days," Thompson said. "This year, we went more miles per day, but for less days."

Thompson was originally inspired to take part in the Nebraska ride by her sister, who had intended to make the trip with her.

"My sister talked me into it, but then she couldn't come," said Thompson. "She lives in Sioux City, Iowa, and she felt that because of the flooding there, she couldn't get away.

"She works for an insurance company, and they've been extremely busy (with claims caused by the flooding)," Thompson explained.

"Joe and I were already signed up, and we had a lot of sponsors, so we didn't feel like we could back out," she added.

It was a difficult trek, Thompson noted. During the 61-mile trip from Hemmingford to Scottsbluff, N.E., "I figure it was about three-fourths up hill," she said. "A lot of them were rolling hills, but there were some big ones too."

A highlight of the trip for Heinlein was when the traffic on the highway where they were riding was temporarily stopped to allow for a cattle drive to cross.

After the cattle drive had crossed, the duo was faced with their biggest uphill obstacle of the trip.

"I made it up just fine, but she (Thompson) didn't," Heinlein said with a smile. "Sometimes grandma had to walk up a few of the really big hills."

"Joe did pretty well," Thompson added. "He's got a little more 'pedal power' than Grandma."

To what does Thompson attribute her grandson's stamina?

"He races BMX, that's why he's so strong -- and he's nine," she said, noting that his youthful energy came in quite handy during a long day of biking.

Besides the cattle drive, other highlights of the trip for Heinlein included seeing the windmills, and the horses and cows that would come toward them while they were riding.

"He (Heinlein) would moo or whinny at them, and they would come toward us," Thompson said. "That was kind of fun."

After they finished riding, Thompson and Heinlein extended their vacation by driving back through the Black Hills in South Dakota, where they had a chance to go horseback riding, visit Custer National Park and the Rushmore Caves, and tour Keystone.

One particularly memorable moment, Heinlein noted, was when they were driving down the highway and traffic was delayed by a giant buffalo walking down the road.

"I liked seeing that big buffalo just walking down the road," Heinlein said.

"It was a big grandpa buffalo," Thompson added. "He was huge." He was just lumbering down the road as though he owned it, and the traffic was backed up behind him for miles."

In all, the NUMB Ride for Hunger raised $53,000 this year. "Joe and I raised $1,355 from our sponsors," Thompson added.

There were 135 riders participating in this year's event, which was the 16th annual ride. "They've raised over half a million dollars in those 16 years," Thompson said.

Funds raised by the NUMB Ride for Hunger go toward four existing hunger mission projects: Heifer Project International, UMCOR Nigerian Hunger Project, Nebraska Food Banks and Bread for the World.

For more information, visit the website,,

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454