By Sue Botos
When Rocky River native Mark Oldenburg decided to come home for a visit with his parents this week, the Chicago-area resident knew getting there was going to be half the fun.
Planes, trains or automobiles would not do for Oldenburg, who will be riding his bicycle, beginning tomorrow, for the 375-mile, three-day journey, between Lakeshore Drive in the Windy City to the home of his parents, Alfred and Josette, on Lake Road in Rocky River.
But he’s not cycling strictly for fuel economy. The 1976 graduate of Rocky River High School and Miami University is raising money for the Open Arms Home for Children in South Africa.
The former runner said that he changed to cycling as a fitness regimen. “I figured cycling was a good alternative to replace my passion for running,” Oldenburg said in a phone interview from Chicago, where he heads his company, Great Lakes Incentive Group, which provides incentive products and marketing strategies to businesses.
Oldenburg said it was the reflective nature of cycling plus encouragement from a friend that steered him toward his long-distance trek. “When you’re sitting on the bike for a long time, whether it’s on a trainer in the garage or riding the roads, you kind of get bored and you have a lot of time to think about stuff. So, I thought I should be doing this for a reason other than to get in shape,” he recalled.
Then, at a golf outing, Oldenburg said a friend introduced him to the Open Arms Home, which provides housing and education for orphaned South African children. “They (the children) literally have nothing when they get there. (The home) can sustain a child with food and an education for $1,200 a year. Your dollar goes a long way, so it was inspiring in that respect,” Oldenburg noted.
His desire to help, coupled with his love of cycling, added up to Oldenburg’s journey, “Open Road for Open Arms.”
“We drive back and forth to Ohio quite often, so I figured I can ride my bike (that far),” the father of four daughters noted.
This will be the first distance ride for Oldenburg, who said he has been training for a year, putting 100 to 160 miles per week on his bike. He has gradually been working his daily mileage to between 45 and 60 miles and trains with weights on days when he can’t ride.
Oldenburg hopes to maintain a 125-mile-a-day pace during the ride, and will make most of the journey by himself, with a back-up crew. A group of local Chicago area riders will accompany him to the Indiana border the first day, then his parents will be the support team the second day, with his wife and two youngest daughters spotting him on the home stretch.
Oldenburg’s goal is to raise a minimum of $7,500 for Open Arms, which is about the cost of providing a private education for two children for a year. So far he has raised about $2,800. He said his progress can be tracked at www.gofundme.com/3703kw, as well as on Facebook under Open Road for Open Arms.
Hoping for dry weather and a tail wind, Oldenburg says he plans to have fun on his journey. “I’m not so sure sitting on a bicycle seat for eight hours a day would be a lot of people’s idea of fun, but we’ll make it work,” he said, adding, “I’m a glass-half-full guy. No matter what happens, I’ll be able to have some fun and enjoy it.”
SIDEBAR: Anyone wishing to support Open Road for Open Arms can go to www.gofundme.com/370kw to contribute and to track Mark Oldenburg’s progress.