The eighth-annual Pedal the Petrified, a non-competitive bicycle tour of Petrified Forest National Park hosted by NPC Friends and Family, was scheduled for Saturday, September 19, 2020. Each year, registration for this event brings 200-250 bicycle riders from all over the nation to the Petrified Forest National Park and raises scholarships for the students of Northland Pioneer College. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the national park made the difficult decision not to host the in-person Pedal the Petrified this year.
As such, NPC Friends and Family, the nonprofit foundation that supports Northland Pioneer College, turned this year’s ride into “Pedal the Petrified 2020-The Virtual Tour!” Riders chose the distance, the location, the date – any time between August 15 and September 19 – and their companions. Some who were self-isolating even opted to ride indoors on a stationary bike. All virtual riders were invited to share their fun photos, videos and stories on Facebook.
“The virtual tour succeeded beyond all expectations!” says executive director Betsyann Wilson. In a break from precedent for this fund-raising event, Wilson offered to refund rider fees. “We knew there would be folks who had lost income, due to the pandemic,” she noted, “so we were prepared to support their requests.” Wilson was astonished to find that of the 183 riders who were registered at the time the pandemic broke out, only 24 requested refunds. “While many told us to keep their registration fees for scholarships, 77 riders took the virtual option. We even had fifteen additional registrants for Pedal the Petrified 2020 – The Virtual Tour,” she reports.
“The creativity of virtual riders was great to see,” Wilson says. One rider who lives in Illinois hung a map of the United States in his garage and pledged to ride from his home to Sedona, AZ on his stationary bike. After each day’s ride, he added a new pin to the map to show the progress he had made toward his goal. “When he got to the Petrified Forest, he noted that he was riding Pedal the Petrified,” Wilson laughs. He did finally make it to Sedona. Others completed actual rides in beautiful settings around the country, including Yosemite and Grand Canyon National Park, rural Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and even Connecticut. A Tucson rider posted photos of her bike in front of colorful, imaginative urban art, including murals and sculptures found all over the city.
Wilson created her own virtual tour, pedaling over 100 miles around Navajo County to showcase Northland Pioneer College’s four campuses and the communities they serve. She was joined on the last leg of her ride by Steve Buck of Concho, who has ridden every Pedal the Petrified since the event began in 2013. Wilson and Buck rode in honor of their friend Dr. Jon Graff of San Jose, California, a perennial participant in and sponsor of the event, who is in the final stages of cancer. “I reported to Jon regularly on the progress of the virtual event, and he was delighted by the support and participation,” Wilson says. Graff has helped literally hundreds of NPC students through his support of Pedal the Petrified and his 2016 establishment of the Jon Graff, PhD Scholarship Fund. Best of all, Pedal the Petrified 2020-The Virtual Tour has netted over $34,000.00 for student scholarships, making it the second-best Pedal the Petrified ever. “I am so grateful to everyone who took this crummy situation with the pandemic and turned it into such a huge positive for NPC students, and for everyone else who took part!” exclaims Wilson. “It was so much fun seeing riders’ posts and learning what they were doing for their own rides. It reminds me of just how many wonderful friends our students have!”
You too can check out Pedal the Petrified 2020-The Virtual Tour! Just visit the Pedal the Petrified page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Pedal-the-Petrified-Bike-Tour-643037215731113. To donate to student scholarships or learn more about NPC Friends and Family, please go to www.npcfriendsfamily.org or email Executive Director Betsy Wilson, at email@example.com.