"Culinary Tour" takes North Platte man on 3,100-mile trek across Nebraska
Riding a bicycle for 3,100 miles can work up an appetite.
That’s just what Ron Snell, director of the Connection Homeless Shelter in North Platte, Neb., did on his “Culinary Tour” as he traveled through all 93 counties in Nebraska in an effort to raise money for the homeless.
No need to worry about hunger pangs, however, as designated restaurants along the 3,100-mile bike trek were eager to serve Snell one of their favorite meals.
The restaurants were chosen earlier by customer nominations solicited for the tour. “The people we’ve met, the places we’ve seen and the variety of eating places we have eaten in are just great,” he commented.
SNELL CALLS HIMSELF a “missionary kid.”
“My parents were Bible translators from Peru, so I grew up in southern Peru among the Machiguenga Indians,” he related. “It was an amazing childhood. We lived out in the middle of nowhere – we say 350 miles by air from the nearest lightbulb.”
Snell has been shelter director of the Connection at North Platte for the past nine years. The facility provides both emergency and transitional housing for 200 to 300 clients a year. Five years ago, Snell saw the need for a new building.
“The reality is we’re not building to accommodate more people, we’re building it so people can stay longer, so they have a place they can sort of call home for enough time to sort out issues and move out into a healthier situation. For instance, if you have somebody who comes in that has lost everything in a house fire – including their ID – it could take months just to get your ID back because you can’t get an ID without an ID.”
In order to raise funds for the two million dollar project Snell put together a task force, then launched a fund raising effort by walking 1,000 miles around Nebraska. “That was four years ago, 25 miles a day for 40 days. In the end, when all was said and done, we raised about $450,000,” Snell said.
TWO YEARS AGO when Snell wanted to go on a two-week vacation via flatboat, he came up with another fund raising idea. This time he would pole his homemade flatboat – named Plattepus One – 548 miles from Wyoming to Iowa on the North Platte and Platte Rivers.
“People said I’d never make it – there’s sand, there’s fences, and there’s no water,” he laughed. “So I said let’s turn this into a fundraiser. People could make a donation to the shelter depending on how far I would get. Well, I made it the whole way, so we raised about $15,000.”
Snell thought his most recent idea – the bicycle ride across Nebraska – would be a “good finishing capstone for the project.” He started training in April – “because I’d hardly ridden a bike lately” – and began his ride on August 1. He completed the ride the first week in September.
The donations he received during the 3,100-mile ride aided in the purchase of appliances and furnishings for the shelter. They hope to be able to move into the new building by the end of the year.
Snell’s goal is to provide basic needs for the homeless and to help each one move a step closer to home. And he’s willing to do whatever it takes to reach that goal – whether it’s by foot, boat or bicycle.
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