LEHMAN TWP. — There are few places where folks in one accord will stalk around on their heels wearing form-fitting trousers and shirts with pockets on the back.
Weird visual, right?
The heel-stalking was due to shoes with bike pedal toe clips on the feet of roughly 200 cyclists who gathered Sunday morning for a 33-mile bike ride through the scenic Back Mountain.
It was the sixth annual Spencer Martin Memorial Bike Ride for Habitat, a fundraiser for the Wyoming Valley Habitat for Humanity that commenced on the Penn State Wilkes-Barre campus, weaved through the winding roads into Jackson Township and then up through Noxen Township.
A little rain sprinkled down on the cyclists as they stretched, munched on bananas and took a few laps around the parking lot before the ride in the chilly morning air.
Karen Evans Kaufer, the local Habitat’s executive director, said the bike ride has grown to become the group’s largest single fundraising effort each year. It brings in about $7,000 from the cyclists in addition to other corporate donations.
One cyclist, Valerie Fusco, waited near the starting line with her friend Sarah Lacey Gensel. They are both from the Back Mountain area.
“For me, it’s just a stress-relief,” Fusco said of cycling. “Because, when you’re out there, you can’t really think about anything else.”
“You can turn your brain off for a little while,” Lacey Gensel said.
Habitat board member and chairman for the ride Bob Borwick warned the riders that the harsh winter left some of the roads more hazardous with potholes than in previous years.
Fusco confirmed: This year the roads were treacherous, but she had resigned to deal with potholes as they came.
“Not thinking about it right now, but when you’re on top of them, yes,” Fusco said.
Kim Martin Koehl, daughter of the late Habitat board member Spencer Martin, whom the ride memorializes, said she planned to complete the ride on a stationary bike on campus. Stationary bikes were added this year for those who feel less-inclined to tackle the route’s steep inclines.
“This bike (ride) is in memory, in honor of my dad, Spencer Martin,” Martin Koehl said. “He was a real supporter of Habitat, loved the mission, loved what it does for the community.”
Habitat builds one to two homes each year and sells them to families for $65,000 with a no-interest, 20-year mortgage, Evans Kaufer said. Families also must work for 300 hours on the home they are to buy to build up a little “sweat equity,” she said.
“This allows us to build simple, decent homes to sell to families in the community who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford home ownership,” Evans Kaufer said of the bike ride.
Next week, Habitat will close the sale for its most recent project, a house in Wilkes-Barre for a single mother and her two children. Meanwhile, the next project, a home in Edwardsville, is on deck, Evans Kaufer said.
All money raised goes directly to fund projects in the greater Wyoming Valley area, Borwick said.