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Ride for Red Lake: Coast-to-coast cyclist supports nation's archive, youth

RED LAKE -- During the last decade, Mick Humbert of Hastings, Minn., has maintained close ties with the people of the Red Lake Nation through youth and historical programs.

A deacon at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, Humbert responded to the Rev. Bill Mehrkens' request for a sister parish to St. Mary's Mission in Red Lake for financial aid and exchange of ideas and cultures. At the time, Humbert said he was working with youth at his church. They were studying where in the world they would like to develop sister church relationships at the time, and Mehrkens' letter tipped the scales.

"This is kind of a place of rest, a place of engagement for me," Humbert said of Red Lake.

He has escorted youngsters from his home parish and Cretin-Durham High School to Red Lake for cultural exchanges. And he rode with his daughter on a tandem recumbent bicycle around the treaty boundaries of the reservation to raise awareness of the territory the Red Lake Nation has lost.

This summer, Humbert took on the serious cyclist challenge of a coast-to-coast ride to raise funds for the Red Lake Nation Archives and Red Lake youth. He said he began planning the ride in February 2005.

"I didn't ask to pledge per mile or for the ride because it isn't about the ride -- it's about the people of Red Lake," Humbert said during a rest day Tuesday at St. Mary's Mission rectory.

Humbert said he networked through his church, friends and others interested in the project. The funds for the archives will be managed by the Northwest Minnesota Foundation and the youth funding will be managed through St. Mary's Mission. He said the Rev. Pat Sullivan of St. Mary's Mission and Jody Beaulieu, Red Lake archivist, came to his church and spoke during the Masses.

Humbert, a dentist who had to give up his practice because of physical disabilities, can pedal a recumbent bicycle. He mailed his bike to Burlington, Wash., put it together and took a 70-mile test run to the Pacific Ocean for the traditional rear-wheel dip.

Accompanied by his support van driver and sometimes cycling companion, Terry Hartman, Humbert crossed the east-west Continental Divide at Glacier National Park. On Wednesday, he crossed the north-south Continental Divide on Beltrami County Road 15. Sullivan suggested Humbert dip his rear tire in Red Lake and front wheel in Lake Bemidji to repeat the Pacific-Atlantic symbolism.

He stays at various churches on his way, or else he camps each night. But his day isn't finished until he logs his days' experiences on his Web site:

A notable occasion was the $85 traffic ticket laid on him by the Montana Highway Patrol for riding in the road. He has lodged a protest, but can't be there in person, as required, to make his appeal. "I'm a fugitive from justice," Humbert said with a smile.

He has allotted six weeks for the trip across the country and was ahead of schedule this week when he stopped at Red Lake.

"I have to average 80-85 miles per day to do the trip in the six weeks," he said.

Humbert said the ride has raised about $20,000, but the people at home are keeping track of the money so he can concentrate on riding.

Meanwhile, he said he enjoys the people he meets along the road, although some people seem more interested in his recumbent bicycle than in his mission.

"It's sort of like having a baby," he said. "People don't want to see the parents; they want to see the baby. People want to see the bike."