Marking the Saturday before Mother’s Day with a bike ride along the Columbia River or near vineyards, wheat fields and orchards has become a Tri-City tradition.
Each year 300 to 400 riders sign up for the Group Health Inland Empire Century, an event started by the Tri-City Bicycle Club in 1981.
The century refers to a 100-mile ride. But part of what makes the event popular is that riders can choose from a 25-mile ride or more challenging 50-, 75- or 100-mile rides.
Money raised goes for good causes. When the race outgrew the bicycle club’s resources, the Kiwanis Club of the Columbia and the Kiwanis Club of Tri-Cities Industry took it over.
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Most of the riders come from the Mid-Columbia, but it also draws riders from Seattle, Portland, Spokane and even British Columbia as one of the first 100-mile rides of the season.
The ride has a reputation of having more reliable weather than events on the west side of the state, said Mitch Cunningham, event chairman. It’s only rained a few times on the event and one year, it was unpleasantly hot.
The event also has the advantage of a variety of scenery in a single ride, with rivers, hills and agricultural land for those who pick the longer rides.
The 25-mile ride makes a family friendly, off-road loop around the Columbia River. Riders go east to cross at the cable bridge, continue along the river in Pasco and then take the bike and pedestrian path to cross the river again at the interstate bridge.
The 50-mile ride goes to Benton City and back, and the 75- and 100-mile rides continue from there to climb Webber Canyon Road to the green wheat fields of the Horse Heaven Hills and views of the Lower Yakima Valley.
The route drops back to Prosser and takes the Old Inland Empire Highway toward Benton City past vineyards, hop fields and orchards. The longest ride also includes the Columbia River loop to bring it to 100 miles total.
Rest stops with snacks will be available along the Columbia River, in Benton City, the Horse Heaven Hills and in Prosser. Support cars will offer help for the tired or those with mechanical problems.
Money raised supports Kiwanis community service projects, including high school Key Clubs, The Reading Foundation, scholarships, school supplies and holiday help for needy families.
It also supports the Bicycle Alliance of Washington and League of American Bicyclists. They support bicycle-friendly communities and the health and environmental benefits of bicycling.
Cost for registration is $10 for ages 13 to 17 for any length ride; $25 for adults for 25 miles and $50 for adults for longer rides. It is free for children under 13 accompanied by a registered rider. Registration rates for adults increase by $5 after April 11.
Riders must wear a helmet. Carrying a patch kit and tire pump and being prepared for hot or cool weather is advised.
All rides start at the Camp Kiwanis building in Columbia park between North Columbia Center Boulevard and Edison Street on the Columbia Park Trail in Kennewick.