Anyone who tells you something is as easy as just riding a bike never met Jerry Schemmel.
Oh, the Washburn graduate makes it look easy. Even during long summers broadcasting Colorado Rockies baseball games as part of their radio crew.
Two years ago, Schemmel took a few days off from that job to pedal cross-country as part of a two-man team that raised more than $100,000 for an orphanage in Haiti.
Now, Schemmel has found a different cause. And he’s riding alone.
Beginning at 4 a.m. on Aug. 31, the former Topekan will be at the Utah border to begin a continuous trek across Colorado. The 468-mile ride along U.S.-50 is designed to raise money for Paws for Purple Hearts, a charity that helps pair veterans with service dogs.
“I wanted to do this race, but I wanted to do it for a veterans cause,’’ Schemmel said.
In large part to honor military veterans from his own family.
Schemmel’s father, Bill, served in World War II. His late father-in-law, Carl Frederick of Topeka, served in the Korean War. A late brother, Beau, was an Air Force pilot in Vietnam and later died as a result of exposure to Agent Orange. His sister, Heidi, also served in the Air Force.
Service dogs are specially trained through the Paws for Purple Hearts program to observe, intervene and assist their owners who are military veterans. The dogs, mostly Labradors, help veterans cope with symptoms related to post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and physical limitations, while improving quality of life.
A colleague at 850-AM KOA in Denver, Steffan Tubbs, recommended the charity to Schemmel, whose trek up, across and down the Rockies — a 7,400-foot elevation gain once he reaches Monarch Pass — is called ‘The Venture for Veterans, Colorado Cycling Challenge.’’
The charity is attempting to raise $500,000 and donations can made directly through its website, pawsforpurplehearts.org.
Schemmel’s ride will conclude at some point the morning of Sept. 1.
“You have to take this route to qualify for the record, which I’m going to try to do, but that’s secondary to raising money,’’ Schemmel said. “I’ve done that many miles straight through before. It just depends on how your body responds.’’
That record through Colorado happens to be 32 hours, 7 minutes.
Training for such a time is not ideal when spending half a baseball season on the road and working practically every day. Stationary bikes in hotel rooms, Schemmel admits, can get “boring’’ rather quickly.
“It’s a huge challenge finding enough time in the saddle,’’ said Schemmel, who played baseball as an Ichabod and met his wife Diane, a native Topekan, while both attended Washburn.
The last time Schemmel biked for charity, he and his partner, Brad Cooper, won the Race Across America. Although it was coast-to-coast, cyclists pedaled for an hour, then rested an hour.
“With this, I’ve got to be on the bike for 32 hours straight,’’ said Schemmel, “so I have to get used to my body being on that bike for longer periods of time. So it’s really more challenging training for this race.’’
Besides, Schemmel does have a day job … though it often takes him deep into the night.
The Rockies, though they lost a series this week against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium, are contending for a wild card berth in the National League. The scorching leader in their West Division happens to be the seemingly infallible Dodgers.
“They’re playing baseball like no one has seen for a while,’’ said Schemmel, a longtime Denver sportscaster who previously called Nuggets games. “Two months ago, we kind of blew it off and said we’re not going to win the division, so let’s seek a wild card.
“But it’s been great. Really fun. Bud Black’s done a great job. He’s a great manager and communicator and a great guy for the media to work with. It’s been a surprise team. They’ve fallen off a little lately, so we need to get it back, but it’s been great.’’
Schemmel will be back at it too after his charity ride. Doubt anyone informs us he’s fallen off his bike.
Contact Kevin Haskin at firstname.lastname@example.org or @KevinHaskin on Twitter.