Ride for Reading Epic, Part Two

Why do you ride?  For fitness?  For fun?  For friendship?  If you join us for Ride for Reading you’ll be riding for good and riding for memories.

Ride for Reading is a Nashville, Tennessee based not-for-profit that recruits bike riders who deliver books via bicycle to students in Title I schools.  The kids get to take these books home, often to houses without any children’s books before the delivery.  The riders help to spread a message of literacy and physical fitness and have some fun along the way.

A wide assortment of donated books are given away at Ride for Reading events. Photo: Devon Balet.

Since 2014 riders in El Paso have been throwing on backpacks loaded with books and riding to schools all over the city.  In 2016 a group of riders went on an even bigger adventure by riding over sixty miles of dirt roads in a two day adventure to take books to the students at the Dell City, Texas K-12 public school. Those ten riders laughed, suffered, cried and garnered memories that will last for a lifetime.  Now it’s time for another epic Ride for Reading adventure – El Paso-style.

On Sunday, May 20, 2018 a group of riders will leave from somewhere on the west side of El Paso and ride 60+ miles of pavement on New Mexico Highway 9 to the small border community of Columbus, New Mexico.  The town has fewer than 2,000 residents and an elementary school with a very unique mission and story.

The plan is for riders to carry two to three books per student on their bikes. That means 1,300 -2,000 books.  Each rider will be expected to carry 15+ pounds of books in racks and bags on their bikes or in backpacks.   Support vehicles will come along and carry camping gear and one small bag with extra clothes, etc. for each rider.

Over half of the students at the school are U.S. citizens who live across the border in Palomas, Chihuahua.  Each day they pass through a U.S. Customs and Immigration checkpoint, board school busses and make the three mile journey to Columbus Elementary.  Some may ask why these children are entitled to an education in the U.S.  First, they are citizens of the United States.   Second, the New Mexico state constitution states that any citizen of this country is entitled to a public school education.  The principal at Columbus Elementary, Armando Chavez, says their mission is to “make good citizens out of these kids”.

Highway 9 has big views and little traffic.

Highway 9 has views that go on forever. Desert mountains can be seen in the distance along the entire route – the Potrillos, the Floridas, the Hatchets and more. What’s rarely seen are people.  There are no houses or other buildings for over 55 miles of the route we will take. Vehicle traffic is light as well.  Although mountains can be seen along the route the road is actually quite flat.

Once the group arrives in Columbus we’ll camp at Pancho Villa State Park and enjoy a group cookout under the stars.  From Coote’s Hill in the center of the park campers can see miles in each direction including toward the border, just two miles to the south.  Expect good food and drinks plus lots of laughs before everyone falls asleep under the stars.

Ride for Reading epic trips call for epic cookouts. Photo: Devon Balet.

The next morning, Monday, May 21 we’ll ride to Columbus Elementary for a presentation to the students and to help them pick out the books they want to take home.  Arriving on bikes at the schools is like riding in a parade – the students and teachers are cheering as the riders wheel past, smiling and waving.  The riders also have the opportunity to meet the students as they choose their books.

Columbus Elementary is the largest building in town and fulfills an even bigger mission.

Of course we’ll be hungry once the delivery is completed.  After a few hours at the school we’ll ride south and cross the border into Palomas for lunch, maybe a margarita and a little shopping at the world famous Pink Store.  The food is awesome, there’s live music and more laughs are expected.

All that will be left is to get back home. Shuttle arrangements will be made to return all the riders and bikes to our starting location.  It is possible that a few of the more adventurous and free-spirited riders may choose to ride their bikes back to Texas.  Why end a good thing any sooner than necessary?


• The event is a joint effort by Velo Paso, El Paso’s bicycling and pedestrian coalition and GeoBetty Tours (who is handling the logistics).

• Riders must have a gravel grinder/touring bike or equivalent, be fit and capable of riding 60+ miles while carrying at least fifteen pounds of books plus water and personal snacks on their bikes.

• We’re looking for approximately thirty riders to participate. The cost will be $100 per rider to cover the expenses for meals, cargo vehicles and return shuttle service.  (Discounts available for students and for those who the fee is a hardship – just ask.)

• Each rider can place a small tent, sleeping bag and pad plus one small bag for clothes in the shuttle vehicles.

• For more details or to reserve your space, contact Don Baumgardt at 915-526-1091 or don@GeoBetty.com



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