Jasper teen cycles 2,000 miles over summer break

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

JASPER — With school back in session across the county today, kids will undoubtedly share what they did during summer vacation.

Photos provided
Mia Ahner of Jasper, 14, rode her bicycle from Los Angeles to Bloomington in less than a month this summer.

Beaches, cruises and trips to Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari might dominate most of the conversation, but 14-year-old Mia Ahner will probably drop a few jaws and steal the spotlight with the coolest story. She rode her road bicycle from Los Angeles to Bloomington in less than a month.

“Traveling in a car, you kind of go too fast to take everything in,” said the Jasper High School freshman. “But on a bike it’s nice because you can see it more and get a better view.”

No big deal.

Mia and about 40 other cyclists between the ages of 13 and 24 made the wheeled trek as part of deCycles’ Ride Across America event, which spanned over 2,000 miles between June 22 and July 16. Participants would normally ride between 80 and 100 miles a day, with the biggest haul stretching a whopping 230 miles from Colorado to Kansas. The cyclists — who had experience levels ranging from beginner to veteran — started in Santa Monica, California and zipped through the Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountains and Great Plains during the 25-day excursion.

According to the deCycle’s Facebook page, participating cyclists rode in groups of six on roads chosen for the best combination of riding surface, safety, facilities, and scenery. Vans lagged behind the riders to monitor and support them throughout the day, and a cargo truck transported all of their luggage, equipment, and supplies during the journey. Rest stops with food, juice and water were planned every 20 to 25 miles.

Overnight accommodations provided by churches and school gyms were arranged prior to the trip.

DeCycles is a nonprofit, ecumenical youth leadership program that organizes and leads summer bicycle trips for teenagers and young adults. The program dates back to 1968, and over 1,800 riders have pedaled five million rider miles since its inception.

Mia’s adopted mother, Linda, is proud of her daughter. Mom admits she could not make the trip, and thinks its benefits extend beyond conquering the challenge.

“I’m impressed as heck,” Linda said. “I think it’s good that the kids do these things because if they stayed home during the summer and just went to Holiday World and just babysat, they would never see the United States. This is giving her the opportunity at a young age. Most adults haven’t seen what she’s seen in three months out of the two years that she’s done (deCycles rides).”

Mia loved the scenery of both trips, saying the highlights were the Oregon coastline and the rock formations in Sedona, Arizona.

Mia and her father, Andy, also participated in last year’s deCycles event, a trip on the Pacific Coast from Seattle to LA. She said she bonded with him on that trip and also made fast friends with her fellow riders this time around.

“When you spend (three)-and-a-half weeks with somebody, you get pretty close,” Mia said and laughed. Cyclists congregated from Indiana, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas and other states to make the trip.

Linda added: “I think what is the benefit of that is that No. 1 it teaches social skills, and they’re all working together. They’re all riding together and learning from each other.”

Mia loved the scenery of both trips, saying the highlights were the Oregon coastline and the rock formations in Sedona, Arizona. The views have only made her want to travel more.

Mia and her father, Andy, also participated in last year’s deCycles event, a trip on the Pacific Coast from Seattle to LA.

She’s already looking forward to next summer’s ride.

Linda said her daughter has been “pretty much riding in her dad’s hip pocket ever since she was like 6 years old.” She rides her road bike anywhere between 18 and 30 miles, four or five times a week.

Mia lives with Linda and Andy in Jasper. Andy also has a son, Linda’s stepson, Ian (Drew) Ahner. In addition to biking, Mia plays on the junior varsity soccer team at the high school and swam and ran on the Jasper Middle School swimming and track and field teams. She’s also completed four youth triathlons.




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