Tram pedals through Austin

Published 4:55 am Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Members of the Weiss family from Austin pedal south on County Road 25 toward Lansing as they take part in TRAM. Pictured are Jim and Jan Weiss and their daughter Emily. Jim and Jan's son Brad also took part in the ride. -- Eric Johnson/

AUSTIN — They were in Austin, and now they are gone — 1,000 people biking, volunteering or cheering on The Ride Across Minnesota.

Tuesday morning the bikers started trickling into town, and by afternoon they were arriving in hoards. About 850 bikers participated in the 22nd annual TRAM and filled Todd Park by Tuesday evening. Their $50 entry fees and $300 minimum pledges will fund more research for the debilitating disease multiple sclerosis.

And though the event takes a slew of volunteers to haul tents, watch backpacks, guard bikes, serve refreshments and offer information, TRAM is one of the more efficient bike events, according to one rider.

Email newsletter signup

Jim Erickson, an 18-time TRAMmer from Corcoran, was one of the first riders to arrive in Austin Tuesday morning. He’s been on plenty of fundraising bike rides and said TRAM is a ride that uses a very low percentage of its raised funds to operate itself — roughly 12 percent compared to as much as 60 percent with others.

A TRAM cyclist rides south on County Road 61 toward Austin under the Tuesday morning sun.

“The MS organization probably runs their bike ride better than any one I’ve ever been on,” Erickson said.

Erickson entered TRAM because one of his wife’s bridesmaids got MS, and now their passion for biking and fighting the disease can be coupled into one effort.

“The two go together so well,” Erickson said about the bike ride and fundraiser. “It’s just a good fit.”

For others, the event is hard work each morning followed by fun in the evening.

“The first couple hours were a lot of work,” said Cheryl Corey, executive director of the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We were unloading everybody’s cars and getting everything set up.”

However, she added meeting 1,000 new people and showing them hospitality was the fun part. Riders received complimentary water, fruit, banana bread and towels for their efforts on the bikes and the fight against MS. Corey was happy more than 150 support staff kept things going smoothly throughout the day.

“They did a great job,” she said. “It’s gone absolutely perfect.”

At 3 p.m. Tuesday, TRAM coordinators held music and a ribbon cutting ceremony for the MS Society with music and city officials.

“It’s pretty incredible,” said Jeff Baldus, an Austin Chamber of Commerce representative.

The ride is good for each city it stops in, too, as Corey predicted each city would receive nearly a $50,000 economic boost.

“But most important is the awareness of MS and the research that will be able to happen because of the efforts of all of these people,” Corey said.

Friday, the riders left Austin and went to Lanesboro. From there, they will go to Winona for one day and back to Rochester on Friday.