Community Pedaling for Pennies inspires namesake plunge

Community Pedaling for Pennies inspires namesake plunge
article printed in the Star News and Town & Country (February 14th, 2015)

by Debbie Griffin Contributing Writer


John Rice of Princeton was one of many jumpers to make a big splash at Plunging for Pennies 2014. Submitted photo

The second annual Plunging for Pennies jumps into action at noon Feb. 21 on Little Elk Lake and makes an extra-big splash as Zimmerman native Jim Rienstra returns from a 15,000-mile fundraising bicycle ride just in time to be the first jumper of the day.

Event organizer Tammy Luukkonen, who worked with Rienstra on the Minnesota to Alaska fundraiser and knows him well, said everyone is excited to have him attend the local plunge that his story inspired. Rienstra’s father, a local man and military veteran, died at age 59 from pancreatic cancer. To honor him, his son set the goal of riding a bike to raise money for cancer research – that was about nine years and more than 18,000 miles ago.

The former pro-BMX biker first tackled a 3,000-mile course from Minnesota to Alaska and realized, after exceeding his goal of $10,000, that he could ride farther and achieve more.

Soon he embarked on a journey through 12 countries aboard a bike nicknamed the Mother Trucker. The fundraiser name Pedaling for Pennies worked well for the long trip, since a $150 donation equals sponsorship of a penny per mile.

He finishes the 18-month journey in Ushuiua, Argentina, just a few days before the second Plunging for Pennies event. Luukkonen said he will travel for 24 hours then have a “very busy few days” before jumping into the frigid waters of Little Elk Lake.

Rienstra blogs about each leg of his travels and posts it to the Pennies website. Luukkonen said some people will be bringing money to the plunge that they’ve been saving mile-by-mile as they read Rienstra’s blog.

Nobody was sure how the inaugural Plunging for Pennies would go in 2014, and organizers were nervous about attendance until registrations and donations poured in during the last week. They set a goal to raise $1,500, so everyone was ecstatic when the event raised more than $6,500 and hosted not only 65 jumpers but also a crowd of about 300 supporters and spectators.

The full proceeds from Plunging for Pennies and Pedaling for Pennies are donated to the Twin Cities-based Randy Shaver Community Cancer Foundation. Rienstra set a goal to raise a total of $100,000 for the charity, and Luukkonen said cancer-survivor Randy Shaver plans to attend the plunge, too.

Registration costs $50 and can be done before the event online or on event day beginning at 10:30 a.m. Rienstra and the other jumpers begin at noon near the Ridgewood Bay Resort, 14255 288th Ave., Zimmerman. To sign up for the plunge ahead of time or to donate, go to

Luukkonen said jumpers pay only the registration fee. “It is encouraged that people raise more, but it’s not a requirement,” she said.

Donations fuel the whole event, from the people who volunteer to cut a hole through the ice and provide standby medical-rescue service to Sound Spark Entertainment announcing names and everyone donating money, labor and materials. Ridgewood Bay Resort offers food and drink specials for plunge day and donates a portion of the proceeds to the cause.

“It’s amazing the support we’ve gotten from local businesses in Zimmerman,” said Luukkonen, adding that everyone knows Rienstra and wants to support his cause. She said people have been generous not only for the plunge but also to Rienstra. Complete strangers throughout the trip have openly given things like camp sites or other accommodations, water, food and various forms of encouragement.

Luukkonen and her fellow organizers found that a broad community of people gave openly to make Plunging for Pennies happen. The local event seems to have started a new, fun, community tradition.

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Day 531- Another long day

Day 531 / Esperaza – Rio Gallegos, Argentina / 90 miles (Total 14,635)


All packed up and ready


Since there wasn’t much around to take photos of, I was looking for something new. Well, this worked out great. I took a random photo of a small drainage tunnel and if you look close you will see two glowing eyes. At the end of the tunnel was a baby fox. Think he scared me more than I scared him.


This is about the only view around here


Well, at least I have these guys to keep me company



The sign sums it up. So glad I had a decent cross/tailwind all day. What I didn’t know was this would be the last day the wind would be in my favor for a while


Good thing I am easily entertained, or this road might have drove me to insanity


These ostriches made me work for this photo. They would not sit still for a second.


It may be empty, but still some amazing views


My road ahead


What can I say, I have some stylish hair days on tour

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Day 530 – Triple digit day

Day 530 / El Chalten – Esperaza, Argentina / 100 miles (Total 14,545)


Lago Argentino slowly disappearing

Not a good night sleep thanks to my noisy neighbors. I wanted to get a jump-start on the morning, but didn’t get out of bed till 8:30 and out the door by 9:00. Last night, I made a last-minute decision on my up coming route. I was pondering 3 different ideas. One was to take a bus from Calafate to Puerto Natales, which would bring me back over to the west side of Chile. That included an expensive bus ticket and a very chaotic border crossing. The second, was to take my chances and ride the route. This road can be very desolate in spots, some dirt roads, and heading into some stiff headwinds. I have heard from others of a full days ride with only 20 miles to show, or not even getting anywhere. The third option is one that many bikers do not do, and I really don’t know why. I would jump on Route 40 which heads southeast to Rio Gallegos on the eastern side of Argentina. This route is paved and I should get some decent tailwinds with the predominate winds blowing from the north-east. At the last-minute, I decided with the third option. But this means I will not be able to see Marko and Anja one last time. Kinda bummed I will not be able to say goodbye to my German friends.


.Guanacos, they are everywhere and will run right out in front of you. They sound like horses on helium.


Desolate and barren.


A short break before the long push


Rio Gallegos, here I come

Right out-of-town the wind was blowing in my face and I wondered to myself if this would be the story to come. I jumped on Route 40 and a hill climb was a head of me. Nothing steep, but I knew it would be around an 1,800 ft climb. Soon as I started the ascent the winds did a 180 and was now at my back. The higher I climbed, the stronger the tailwind pushed me. ¾ up the hill and the ride was effortless. I was averaging 10-12 mph and was loving the Patagonia winds today. Once I made it to the top, I knew it would be a flat ride for the rest of the 170 miles to Rio Gallegos. After the pass I had crosswind coming from my right, with a hint of tailwinds to help the ride.


Then the mountain range was just a memory behind me


Now my views are nothing but wide open plains

I was still riding faster than normal with speeds around 18-20 mph, and when the road turned to the west, the ride was full throttle. I ran out of gears with me pushing 30 mph on the flats with no effort. The road twisted from south to west throughout the day making for an interesting ride with a crosswind and tailwind. My plan was to stop in El Cerrito and ask a local business man if I could spend the night, and he usually opens up a building for passing bikers. I made it there by 3 pm and was still fun of energy.


No dogs around for company, so I guess the birds will do. I was having lunch at the summit of the climb and this little guy came by for a visit. Fearless and eating out of my hand.


A shrine with tributes of alcohol, water and cigs.

I had to make a decision at this point to stay, or commit to getting to Esperanza. That would be another 40 miles to the small town. What I mean by commit is, I would have to make the 40 miles no matter what. There is absolutely nothing here between towns, and you don’t want to set a tent up in this part of Patagonia. There is no shelter, no trees, no ditches, nothing to get out of the wind. The winds here are so unpredictable. One minute it can be calm, then the winds could reach 80 mph in any direction. Not really keen on having my tent shredded from the winds.


Like I said, not much around. This photo doesn’t show it, but there was plenty of traffic today, and a really good story to go with this part of the road. But, this blog is PG-13. Next time you see me, ask about the roadside incident. Pretty damn funny.

I pushed on after a small lunch and found my groove right away. I was speeding a long with music playing out loud and enjoying the physical push of the day. It was 6:30 by the time I made it to the town  and I was ready to get out of the winds. Found a not so cheap hotel, but it was the only thing in town. It was a good feeling putting in a long day. After the last two weeks of riding a rubbish dirt road, I guess I was a little gung-ho to feel a little speed under me. Shower, ate, cleaned some gear and the bed felt great. 10 o’clock came by and I was out cold from the long day


Think this is the first day over a 100 miles on this trip. The old man still has it.

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