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Bicyclists Benefit Pedaling Paths To Independence
Riding a tandem bicycle on Saturday, Feb 22 were Tim Elder, left, President of the National Federation of the Blind of California and lead bicyclist Dave Hellyer of Valley Springs. Marg Jackson/The Times

The fresh and cool early spring air provided the perfect backdrop for an estimated 300 bicyclists to hit the country roads in rural San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties on Saturday, Feb. 22.

Hosted by the Community Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Stockton, the benefit ride featured two options, one an ‘out and back’ style ride of 25.8 miles between Linden and Farmington and the longer 65.4 mile ride that also started and ended in Linden but included riding through Farmington, on in to rural Stanislaus County, making a stop in Milton for lunch and returning to De Vinci’s Delicatessen and Catering in Linden. The first rest stop for the riders was at the Farmington Fire Station, corner of Highway 4 and Escalon-Bellota Road, with the station offering up refreshments and the chance to mix and mingle before continuing the ride.

“Nothing is exact yet, but we had about 300 registered riders and the best I can tell, we raised about $17,500,” said Joni Bauer, ride coordinator and an Orientation and Mobility Specialist with the Community Center for the Blind.

After expenses, she anticipates about $14,000 will go directly to the coffers of the Stockton center to continue its programs and services.

“It definitely is a collective effort, it takes a village to put this together,” Bauer said, noting special thanks to Farmington Fire Chief Conni Bailey and her crew for assisting, along with donations from the Farmington Circle K.

“Chief Conni has been there for us for 12 consecutive years and the Sanguinetti’s at Circle K, every year they donate 10 cases of Gatorade for our lunch,” Bauer said.

The riders taking part in the event came from a number of communities, some involved with cycling clubs, others just coming with friends or participating as individuals for the cause.

Sarah McClellan of Elk Grove is involved with the Women on Wheels group and was among those pedaling the route Saturday.

“We’re a very casual recreational club, we like to get out on Saturdays and Sundays, we’ve done rides in Tahoe, the Bay Area, we mainly ride for these kinds of things, we like to support causes,” McClellan said.

Laura Milner of San Francisco was taking part in the benefit ride for the first time.

“Other people had said great things about it,” she noted.

On hand at the Farmington firehouse to help make sure riders got plenty of snacks and stayed hydrated before going back on the route was Doug Beisner, who met Bauer 15 years ago when they were on the same organized bike ride.

“The Community Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired serves all of San Joaquin County,” Beisner pointed out.

He added that Bauer, through her work as an Orientation and Mobility instructor, gets the blind and visually impaired comfortable with “getting from Point A to Point B” and also has helped place some in the workforce, including one that now works for Apple.

“This is incredible weather,” Beisner said of the spring sunshine. “Two years ago, we had a propane heater in here, it was so cold.”

The ride on Saturday was also an enjoyable outing for Tim Elder of Fremont, who is President of the National Federation of the Blind of California. He was riding tandem with Valley Springs resident Dave Hellyer, a member of the Stockton Bicycle Club.

Hellyer said he has taken part in the benefit ride for about 10 years and Elder said he was glad to participate this year as well.

“We’re here getting to know the local agency (Community Center for the Blind) and it’s been good,” Elder said. “My son is getting into cycling but we left him in the dust.”

Bauer said she was extremely pleased with how well the Saturday event went off and said other stops along the route, aside from the Farmington firehouse, were at the Stockton East Water District Bellota Intake Facility and the Free and Accepted Masons Calaveras Lodge, hosting the luncheon stop at the Milton Masonic Cemetery.

Taking advantage of the nice spring weather and the chance to benefit a good cause, bicyclists Dilhan Kellenberger of Sausalito, Becky Hoffmann of Hayward, Laura Milner of San Francisco, Carrie Payne of Fremont and Vince Hoffmann of Hayward were riding together in the Pedaling Paths to Independence ride on Feb. 22. Marg Jackson/The Times