Heidi Soliday Benson was the first female sports director in local television in the country. She’s always been very physically active and encouraged others to take part in healthy lifestyles and active transportation, which shows in her decision to join Climate Ride Northern Michigan. Heidi has lived in Iowa her entire life and can see the changes in the climate as each year passes, “Seasons are so different. The summers are hotter. The insects are different. As I answer these questions, I just have to think about last night in which certain pockets of the greater Des Moines Metro area received as much as 10 inches of rain in two hours. Extremes in the weather seem to be commonplace anymore and it does make one question what we as humans are doing to the climate and, in turn, what we can do to help stem the tide of negative change.”
She’s also seen how climate change is affecting agroindustry, making precariousness our ability to feed people. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources backs up those observations. According to a 2010 report on the impacts of climate change on Iowa, extreme precipitation has increased leading to more instances of flooding. Infectious diseases are also increasing from insects that thrive in warmer, wetter climates. Soil erosion and water runoff caused by climate change have created issues for agriculture in Iowa, and conditions are becoming more favorable for pests and pathogens that threaten crop production.
Faced with this immense challenge, Heidi wondered how a 65-year old woman from Iowa might help.
To take a positive step against that tide, she decided to ride in Climate Ride Northern Michigan. She was so impressed and invigorated by her experience on Climate Ride Pacific Northwest 2017 because “the CR staff/workers AND my fellow riders so inspired me with their earnestness and passion and attention to detail. I knew I would ride again. It seemed everyone had such a great story to tell. While I had the excitement of a rookie, I felt as comfortable as a veteran during the ride.”
Tim Frick, a former Climate Ride board president, told her about the organization back in 2015 and encouraged her to try it. This year, Tim invited her to ride as a member of his Team Alliance for the Great Lakes. Like Tim, Heidi lived in the Midwest and felt strongly that participating in this area of the country would provide a more powerful message to anyone she might approach for support of her Climate Ride effort. She likes to call the Great Lakes “the oceans” of the middle United States.” They are so important geographically, economically, socially, recreationally; and are far more important than just what their scenic images may conjure.” With Tim, Heidi will support the Alliance for the Great Lakes because, like the Great Lakes, there are many lakes in Iowa which are facing pollution issues which endanger the quality of the lakes for both economic and recreational use. She’s also supporting the Iowa Bicycle Coalition because IBC is one of the most important advocates for bicycle legislation, regulation, and education in the state.
Though Heidi would downplay it, training for this year’s Climate Ride hasn’t been without challenges. The increase in heavy downpours in the late spring and early summer has meant wet training rides. Additionally, ahead of the ride last year, she broke a bone in her right foot. Having it treated would have meant wearing a cast that would keep her from training for six weeks, so she opted for training with a broken bone. A year on, her foot is still broken and she is still biking!
Her slogan is “move it or lose it!” and she’s gunning for Climate Ride to adopt it as well.
In addition to training, she’s taken this ride as an opportunity to talk about Climate Ride with several local groups. In fact, according to Heidi “it’s possible that folks around here are a little fatigued at hearing me talk about CR!” But all that talking managed to help her recruit one of her biggest donors from a year ago to join her on Climate Ride Northern Michigan this year. Recruitment is a great way for any Climate Rider to make a bigger impact! Climate Rides help people see what they are capable of, and with enough of us pedaling, the tide will turn on climate.