Cyclist Charlie Preston-Townsend, back, and Spela Bertoncelj are peddling their bikes cross-country to raise awareness of locally grown and produced food and alternative modes of transportation. Another cyclist, Andy Boslett, also is making the ride but is not pictured.

Photo by John F. Russell

Cyclist Charlie Preston-Townsend, back, and Spela Bertoncelj are peddling their bikes cross-country to raise awareness of locally grown and produced food and alternative modes of transportation. Another cyclist, Andy Boslett, also is making the ride but is not pictured.

Riders coming through Steamboat aim to raise awareness

Cyclists try to promote local food, alternative transportation

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To learn more about the group’s ride to raise awareness about locally grown food and alternative modes of transportation or to follow its blog, go to www.bikingforfood.com.

Charlie Preston-Townsend joked that after 600 miles on a bike, he has a see-food diet.

“You see food, you eat it,” he said. “We can eat anything.”

Preston-Townsend, a 2002 graduate of Steamboat Springs High School, rode into town Sunday afternoon with Spela Bertoncelj and Andy Boslett. The group left June 22 from Bozeman, Mont., on a 3,500-mile journey to Washington, D.C.

The goal of the trip is to eat as much locally grown and produced food as they can and explore alternative modes of transportation, while promoting awareness for both.

“I have recognized there is a deficiency in our food system and transportation system,” he said. “The two correlate in more ways than a lot of people recognize and acknowledge. The average meal travels 1,500 miles before it reaches its end consumer, before it reaches the dinner table.”

He added that keeping food local could help cut down on energy consumption while providing healthy alternatives.

Preston-Townsend and Ber­­­toncelj concocted the trip at Montana State University, where they met as undergraduates through mutual friends. Preston-Townsend graduated in December, and Bertoncelj, a 2008 graduate recruited to the school from Slovenia as an Alpine skier, is pursuing her master’s degree in education.

Preston-Townsend was connected with Boslett through their mothers, who work together at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

Bertoncelj said the original idea was to ride just to Steamboat, but Preston-Town­send had bigger ideas. It worked for Bertoncelj.

“This is the only time in our lives we’ll be able to take this much time off,” Bertoncelj said. “… I think it’s a great, great way to see the world instead of with the A/C blowing on full in your face through Yellowstone National Park.”

The group has encountered mental and physical challenges — saddle soreness and sore knees from the repetitive pedaling motion — but didn’t expect to have as much trouble finding local food.

Preston-Townsend said the later growing season along their route has forced the group to eat a lot of jerky, deer, elk and buffalo, but the riders are pretty burnt-out on meat. He’s optimistic that more produce will be available further into the growing season on the rest of the trip.

There also have been advantages to the journey. Bertoncelj said she feels healthier, after less than two weeks into it. Preston-Townsend said he’s been amazed by the kindness of strangers, who have given the group food and water and places to stay and shower.

The group will head over Rabbit Ears Pass today or Wednesday and through Rocky Mountain National Park along its journey, which will take the riders through Kansas, Miss­ouri, southern Illinois, West Virginia and Virginia before they reach Washington.

Preston-Townsend said he’s not sure what will happen when they get there, but he hopes the awareness that he, Bertoncelj and Boslett raise along the way will be a step toward change. He said first lady Michelle Obama’s White House garden and businesses such as Sweet Pea Market in Steamboat are encouraging.

“Our political system is set up such that things don’t happen quickly,” he said. “Every step in the right direction is building toward an end.”

The group welcomes any support or participation.

The riders can be contacted through www.bikingforfood.com.

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