Mississippi River Riders
by Melissa Regennitter
(Muscatine Journal, Iowa)
Kari, Betsy, Alisa, Sarah, Rambo, Mark
MUSCATINE, Iowa -- Three women have pedaled their way to Muscatine from the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Minnesota and are exploring communities and learning about the river as they travel to New Orleans.
Sarah Pesola, Betsy Popelka and Alisa Hoven, all age 23, met as freshmen at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minn. The women have remained friends and share a love of nature, travel and organic, healthy living. They don?t own automobiles ? each rides a bicycle in the city they call home: Pesola in Berkeley, Calif., Popelka in Seattle, Wash., and Hoven in Minneapolis.
They have dubbed themselves the ?Revolutionary River Riders? for this trip.
They have met strangers, family members and friends of friends along the way who provide showers and a place to stay. They have also done some camping.
The ladies are on a mission to find out what the river means to people in the communities that surround it. They also plan to stay with three organic farmers, one here in Muscatine at the Mark Anderson family farm, and two others in Missouri and Louisiana.
In April, they planned their trip by doing Internet research and found Mark and Kari Anderson at www.localharvest.org. The Muscatine couple raises grass-fed sheep and lives a simple, nature-friendly lifestyle on their farm. They mailed the couple a letter asking if they?d be interested in meeting, boarding and sharing their farm life with three strangers who are out to explore the world.
?Well, we passed it (the letter) around the family and everyone seemed to think it would be a good idea. Also, we like to have company,? said Kari Anderson, who home schooled her seven children who are now ages 16-30.
The Andersons who have been sheep farmers since 1994, keep about 80-100 sheep. The meat and pelts are sold here commercially and the meat is also served on their dinner table. They also have a garden for vegetables, a grass roof atop one of the shelters on their property, and they heat their home
The women arrived on Sept. 11 and were scheduled to leave at 7 a.m. today. As of Wednesday, they felt as though they had made friends for a lifetime and have taken on a lasting experience. They?ve been stacking wood, shoveling manure and learning the benefits of eating lean sheep meat.
?I?ve tried lamb before but here it was different. We know where it was coming from and watched it being prepared,? Hoven said. ?It tasted much better.?
The women helped the Andersons make signs that will be posted along U.S. Highway 61 near their Underwood Avenue home. The one the family liked best for its creativity reads in four parts: ?Grassfed Lamb ? Is Super Tasty ? Keeps You Slim ? In Your Waistie.?
?They are creative and artists. We had the project prepared for them so they?d have something to do and we are pleased with the results,? Mark Anderson said.
Mark Anderson is also a pastor at Church of the Living Water, which the women happily attended Sunday.
The women have enjoyed hearing stories from the family and the Andersons have enjoyed the company and the new experience.
?They are very adventurous and have traveled lots of places. Though they are world travelers they appreciate the U.S.A. and are willing to explore the river,? Kari Anderson said.
The trio?s journey will lead them to the Illinois side of the Mississippi River today as they head to the next organic farm, Family Friendly Farms, in Cape Girardeau, Mo. They average about 60 miles per day, in eight hours time.
They hope to fulfill their mission of learning and exploring the earth, their bodies and their minds as well as showing how bicycling can provide a viable alternative to owning or driving a car.
So far, Pesola said, the women gained something they hadn?t expected along the journey.
?We?ve been been reminded the importance of family staying connected. All of their kids are close-knit,? she said.
Reporter contact information
Melissa Regennitter 563-262-0526
For more information visit: RevRiverRiders.Wordpress.com