Can a vacation escape be truly altruistic? If you have motivation, a bike and a little bit of courage, it can.
Meet the JDRF Ride To Cure Diabetes Experience. While charity bike rides are nothing new (there are excellent rides for MS, Leukemia, to fight hunger and homelessness and of course, the Pan Mass Challenge).
The JDRF ride isn’t just a bike ride, it’s a four-day experience, that, once you reach your fundraising goal, includes your travel, meals, seminars, parties, the ride itself and more. Should doing good for the world be fun? Why not?
JDRF chooses locations annually, with a few classic repeats. Each is in a location you’d love to visit anyway. With the Ride, you’ll not just visit, you’ll take on a fun challenge and see the destination via bike – which gives you a slower and more captivating view.
They’re also semi-intimate for a charity ride. Expect from 200 to 600 riders at most, and be ready for “white ride glove” service: A dedicated team of volunteers and coaches have your back from the day you register (coaching tips, in person training rides where available, fundraising support) to ride day (a bike room team that makes sure your wheels are just right; volunteer-led break points with amazing food and medical folks watching you and coaches who will literally push you up a hill should you feel the need).
This year’s locations range from cityscape to desert heat. Here’s the 2023 line up:
Burlington, Vermont, July 27-30:
Read a list of top mountain cityscapes and Burlington is always there. The JDRF Ride returns there this year after a multi-year hiatus. You’ll stay in a hotel nestled up against beautiful Lake Champlain and have time to savor the local food, music and craft brew scene.
The ride itself leaves from the city and winds out into the green and lush mountain towns around it, with views of the lake, peaks (and more than a few cows). The city itself is walkable, with famed Church Street right at your doorstep.
La Crosse, Wisconsin, Aug. 10-13:
As someone who has done most of the JDRF rides, this long-time classic gets one of their biggest crowds for a reason. La Crosse is a quaint and fun college town that empties out for the summer. Ride weekend, it’s like every shop, ice cream stand and bar is filled with fellow riders.
The ride itself – and out and back like most JDRF rides – gives you unique bragging rights: you’ll pedal through three states – Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa – all in one day. The first turn on the ride takes you over a massive bridge and then you meander along the Mississippi River, crossing through farm towns and sometimes pedaling beside classic trains. It’s a flatter ride and usually temperate.
Grand Rapids, Michigan, Sept. 7-10:
New to the JDRF ride line up in 2022, Grand Rapids gives riders a city location with a ride that feels rural.
Grand Rapids is a surprisingly “everything” city. Lodging is in the famed Amway Grand Plaza, right on the banks of the beautiful Grand River that cuts through the city.
You’ll find museums (including the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum), countless breweries, an amazing food and art scene and more.
The ride itself takes you out to the banks of Lake Michigan and back – there’s even a chance to take a mid ride selfie on a beautiful beach.
Death Valley, California, Oct. 12-15:
Now JDRF’s longest continuously running location, Death Valley is a life experience. You’ll fly into Las Vegas and take the cool three-hour drive out to the Furnace Creek Ranch, your home base for the ride weekend.
The ride takes over just about the entire resort that weekend with all kinds of unique experiences at your feet. Head up to the nearby hills in the night and see the galaxy like you’ve never before (thanks to the lack of light pollution). Visit spots like the Devil’s Golf Course, or just lounge by the resort’s pool.
The ride is a challenge: It will be hot. But it’s also breathtakingly beautiful, with mountains and wildlife (it’s not unusual to spot a coyote). It’s quite a thing to say “I rode through Death Valley on a bike,” and you can tack on a post ride Vegas escape since you’ll head back there to fly home.
Amelia Island, Florida, Nov. 30-Dec. 3:
This the most “resort experience” based ride of them all this year. Riders all stay and play at the sprawling and posh Amelia Island Planation, where you can body surf in the beach waves, walk to find shells and seaglass, book spa appointments, hang out at the many pools overlooking the ocean, and at night, the many fire pits with bar service.
The ride loops out of the resort in a few directions, meaning you can make a decision to cut your ride shorter or make it longer on a whim. You’ll pedal through the quaint town of Fernandina Beach (home of the Pippi Longstocking house), along the coast, up and over three big bridges, past marshlands and under a long canopy of moss trees. It’s flat, doable and lovely.
Registration for each ride opens at noon on Jan. 18. Death Valley often sells out on day one. You can learn more at www.jdrf.org
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