Cyclists hitting the road to benefit camp for deaf |

Cyclists hitting the road to benefit camp for deaf

Jennifer Davoren
Aspen Times Staff Writer

When London native Tom Hughes first agreed to a 2,700-mile, cross-country bike ride for charity, it might have been the beer talking.

Hughes, a seasonal Aspen resident for the past six years, was a few drinks into an evening at McStorlie’s Pub last year when he first met Stef Dietschi, an Aspenite originally from Switzerland and an avid biker. When Dietschi casually mentioned his plans to bike from Los Angeles to Daytona Beach, Fla., Hughes – a mountain biker who says he’s never owned a road bike – readily agreed to join him on the journey.

“We were chatting in McStorlie’s, a little worse for wear, and I said I’d do it,” Hughes laughed. “Well, it’s too late to back out now.”

Kidding aside, the pair say they’re ready for the ride, which they hope to start on April 3. The bikers estimate the trip will take about 18 days to cover eight southern states – 150 miles per day, if they hope to stick to their schedule.

The goal calls for a lot of training – and, Hughes reports, cutting alcohol from their diets. Aside from visits to the gym five days a week, the duo hikes up Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk on a regular basis. Snowboarding, a major reason for Hughes’ move to Aspen, is also a part of the daily workout schedule.

The charity ride will be a first for Hughes, but Dietschi has already attempted a cross-country ride – in order to “clear his head,” Dietschi once rode from Aspen to Boston in 20 days. This first trip, Dietschi said, helped give him the idea to “ride for a good cause,” rather than just the chance for a quick vacation.

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“It started as a ride across the states, but then we decided we wanted to give something back to the community,” he said.

The pair chose to raise money for the Aspen Camp for the Deaf, a school in Old Snowmass that hosts nearly 100 deaf and hearing-impaired children each year. A producer friend with Grassroots Television told Dietschi that, though many local nonprofits are funded by celebrity ski races and the like, the camp is “always last in line” for local funding.

A fund-raiser at Shooter’s Saloon last weekend garnered $900 for the camp, and a local real estate agent and Dietschi’s employers at the Hickory House helped boost the duo’s current tally to $2,500. National sponsors have also chipped in, and, if the deals are finalized within the next week or so, Balance Bars and Vitamin Water could be fueling the charity ride.

Hughes said they hope for further generosity from local sponsors.

“Up until a week ago, I didn’t have a bike, which is a big problem,” he said.

Luckily, a manager at Pride Snowboards lent his wheels to the cause, and Hughes will pedal the borrowed bike to Florida.

Donation boxes have been placed in high-traffic areas in the Hickory House, Bagel Bites, Cafe Ink and downvalley at Stubbie’s Billiards in Basalt. An account for the camp has also been established at the US Bank in Aspen, and Dietschi said checks can be forwarded to account #125401334763.

For additional donation information, contact Dietschi at 309-4372. A Web site currently under construction,, will soon include donation possibilities as well as photo updates of the bikers’ progress toward Daytona.

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