Threads - Aug 2023 Cycles of MCC

cyclists cycling down a road in a forest

Manitoba — Aug 2023

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Audio file

Listen in as our host Kyle Rudge talks to Reinhold Kramer, one of the organizers for Cycle Clear Lake, an annual bike ride that raises funds for  MCC.

Threads, formerly known as Word and Deed, was established in April 2007. It is a 15-minute radio program by KR Words featuring the work of MCC in Manitoba and around the world. Threads broadcasts on CFAM AM 950, CHSM AM 1250 and CHRB AM 1220 at 8:45 am on the first Sunday of the month.

Audio Transcription:

Kyle Rudge (00:02):

It begins with a single thread, woven through other thread and then another and another until we have a single piece of fabric. That fabric is stretched, cut and stitched together with another, just like it. This process is repeated over and over and over until we have a beautiful tapestry that all began with a single thread. Welcome to an MCC Threads, where we look closely at how our stories in Manitoba weave together with the stories of MCC and its partners around the world. When it comes to summer, things really slow down for a lot of offices. But at MCC in Manitoba, it doesn't slow down, per se, it just goes outside.

Reinhold Kramer (01:04):

Hi, I'm Reinhold Kramer. I teach at Brandon University and I've been involved with Cycle Clear Lake since its beginning in 2001.

Kyle Rudge (01:11):

Reinhold's day job is that he teaches English and film at Brandon University, which lends itself well to volunteering with MCC's Cycle Clear Lake in the summer.

Reinhold Kramer (01:20):

I started because Arnold Hildebrand sort of nudged me into it. And basically both of us had a great respect for MCC and the work that they're doing around the world. We in Canada here are so privileged and people elsewhere have, you know, many greater hardships to deal with and we're just glad that MCC is working towards that. So in our small way, we want to contribute to that.

Kyle Rudge (01:48):

That was 22 years ago now, but even before serving with Cycle Clear Lake, Reinhold was being nudged by his friend Arnold to volunteer in other capacities at MCC.

Reinhold Kramer (01:58):

He twisted my arm for helping with the relief sale of public relations, which I wasn't all that interested in, but I love the cause. But he didn't have to twist my arm too hard for Cycle Clear Lake, cause I do like biking and you know, it's fun to do together. So that was a lot easier.

Kyle Rudge (02:16):

Cycle Clear Lake wasn't always called that, well, because it wasn't always at Clear Lake.

Reinhold Kramer (02:22):

When we started off, we started at Spruce Woods and the cycling was pretty difficult there and we endured it for three years and at a certain point we just realized this is, you know, it's for, you know, hardcore cyclists, but a lot of people can't do that trip including me sometimes. So we moved to Clear Lake.

Kyle Rudge (02:45):

That was back in 2004. At the time they had 64 cyclists participating and had raised nearly $20,000 for MCC that year. The first year after the change, there was a bit of a dip, but just one year after that the funds raise jumped to nearly $24,000.

Reinhold Kramer (03:02):

It sort of peaked just before the pandemic. I think in 2019 its 2018 or 2019, we had 86 cyclists. So that was really exciting.

Kyle Rudge (03:13):

That year, 2018 with 86 riders, the funds raised was $48,734, (That number will come back up.) the most that had ever been raised to date. 2020 and 2021 though was the pandemic. And there was a bit of a dip as the event was put on hold in place of a more solitary fundraising activity called Go 100.

Reinhold Kramer (03:36):

After the pandemic we're kind of starting again almost. So we've had I think 48 and 42, I'm not sure the exact numbers, but in the forties we've had. And so we're hoping to sort of slowly get up to, to speed again with the numbers of cyclists. But it's great cause it brings people from all over the province together. We've had a lot of people from our church at Richmond Park Mennonite Brethren and Grace Mennonite in Brandon, and then people from all over the province. We've had a couple from BC once, Saskatchewan, North Dakota. So it's been great.

Kyle Rudge (04:10):

And the numbers don't lie. Despite the lower numbers of cyclists, the generosity of those donating to the cause has continued to increase with 2023 being an estimated $48,780. That's $46 more than their previous high back in 2018.

Reinhold Kramer (04:29):

And that is partly because individual cyclists are maybe, you know, a little more confident in asking for the money. So, and people used to giving they're, they're giving more. So that's part of it. I know one thing that I didn't really like to hear was that one of our cyclists was baking some pies for her people who sponsored her. And I thought, man, that's a high standard to follow. I can't bake a pie. But I think she had to stop after 10 pies maybe. But there is a, no, I think people are caring about the work MCC's doing. So that's both the cyclists who are asking for the money and also the donors who are, who've been so generous and, recognizing the importance of the work.

Kyle Rudge (05:10):

But what is the cycle Clear Lake Trail actually like? What does one expect when they're off cycling around?

Reinhold Kramer (05:17):

A lot of it was kind of a single track trail, but it wasn't as much up and down as Spruce Woods. But there are some, you know, there's some more difficult parts. Lately, we've actually had to cut off part of the North Shore because there's actually some dangerous sections because of the erosion that's happened there. We had some very exciting moments because there's an isthmus that we have to cross that's on the, between South Lake and Clear Lake, and we've had moments there where we didn't really realize that we could go around on a sandbar. So we had to sometimes swim through with our bikes, but we did take a canoe one year for cyclists who weren't gonna swim through with their bikes. And so we helped them across, and then we finally figured out that even on very deep years, there is a sandbar that runs well into Clear Lake and back out. So you can do that without a canoe.

Kyle Rudge (06:15):

And that explains why his advice -

Reinhold Kramer (06:16):

Don't bring your best runners

Kyle Rudge (06:18):

- makes so much sense.

Reinhold Kramer (06:20):

It used to be even worse, there used to be on the west side, there used to be some very enterprising beavers who would build a dam every year. And we tried to open it up a little bit so that the water would be released, but there were times when you couldn't go there and stay dry at all. You'd have to wade up to your knees for, you know, several hundred meters. But now the, the parks have fixed that a little bit with a little bridge, and so it works well there. But the, you know, just a bit of trail riding practice, I think it would go a long way and a little bit of endurance. But even that's not absolutely necessary because we do have people with a truck and so we have sometimes kids that as young as ten and eleven cycling, and they may not be able to do the whole trail, but there are several rest stops. And so,if you've had enough, you stop at the rest, stop and say I need a ride back home. And so the truck will come and pick you up.

Kyle Rudge (07:23):

There's a lot of wins when it comes to cycle Clear Lake. Of course, there's the funds raised, there's the nature, the trail being outside, et cetera, but there's also the community.

Reinhold Kramer (07:33):

Yeah, it's very nice because you get to meet people from around the province. You get to see younger people, older people. We looked at the, the numbers this year and it was just like a whole spectrum. There was, every age group represented almost. And so afterwards it's kind of a community meal that we have afterwards and a very short presentation. So you get to chat with people and also before the ride, we sort of gather together and the group gets a little bigger and a little bigger and a little bigger, and then we all sit at the head of the trail. And after a short prayer, then we head out onto the trail. And yeah it's a nice way to meet people too.

Kyle Rudge (08:13):

And what's the meal they serve? You won't be surprised.

Reinhold Kramer (08:17):

It's usually Mennonite sausage at the end and a bunch of salads that people have prepared. I've had a lot to eat at these things. I don't usually eat three sausages, but I think at some points I did have three.

Kyle Rudge (08:31):

Mennonite Sausage. Classic. Communities are forged around two things, food being one, but the other is story.

Reinhold Kramer (08:40):

The one that sticks in my mind, the best, happened last year. I was cycling along with a couple of people on the north side of the lake, and we were actually on a road, there's a cottage road there, and so we were cycling on the cottage road. They're a very quiet road. There's almost never a vehicle on there. There were two cyclists that, one of them I recognized and another one I didn't know personally. They were coming the opposite way to us. And so I stopped them. I said, guys, you're going the wrong way. And they said, well, there's a mother bear there with a couple of cubs on the road. And so I said, actually, you're going the right way.

Kyle Rudge (09:22):

It's been 22 years of Cycle Clear Lake/Spruce Woods/Go 100. And all combined, we're looking at over $640,000 raised for MCC and its partners around the world, and certainly no small amount, but why MCC, there are a plethora of great causes. And yet Reinhold has chosen to volunteer with relief sales, MCC Thrift and Cycle Clear Lake. What is it about the work of MCC that resonates with him?

Reinhold Kramer (09:49):

I guess there are several aspects. One is the relief aspects. So difficulties that people have that are overcome being present. I like the way MCC works with partner organizations. In other words, they don't just come in and tell people, okay, you gotta do this, but they work together with the people on the ground. So I really appreciated that. The peace focus I think is really important and I really appreciate that about MCC and Mennonite groups in general.

Kyle Rudge (10:17):

Those who have volunteered with MCC will know this, but one of the things that's important to the organization is to ensure volunteers know how the time they are giving truly impacts others around the globe. Stories are shared to connect the volunteer or donor with the lives that are being changed through MCC and its partners.

Reinhold Kramer (10:37):

I guess the one that I remember the best is family in, I think it was, Democratic Republic of Congo that, anyways they were refugees and they were at that time in a camp in the Congo, I don't know, six, seven children. And just the fact that they had been there for a while. So they had to, because of armed conflict, they had to leave their home, ended up in a refugee camp and then they are still trying to work a little plot of ground in order to make enough to feed the family. And so to me that hard work there that people have to do because of conflict that's happened around them. They interviewed the mom there in that case, and she talked a little bit about what it was like. And that to me that really inspires me too to push a little bit harder and get a little bit more for MCC here, because those are the people that we really want to help as much as we can.

Kyle Rudge (11:38):

It's been a banner year for Cycle Clear Lake and the funds raised, the bonds built, the community formed, it's worth sharing and celebrating. If you're interested like myself in joining up next year for Cycle Clear Lake 2024, the community will be right there to rally behind you.

Reinhold Kramer (11:54):
I'd just say it's a lot of fun. Yeah, it's good exercise, good food, and get to meet interesting people. So yeah, go for it.

Kyle Rudge (12:03):

MCC Threads is produced by KR Words with story assistance from Jason Dueck. Thank you to Reinhold for your over two decades of volunteer work with MCC and we're sharing that passion and journey with us. Head to and search for Cycle Clear Lake for more information. It happens around July long weekend each summer, and hopefully I'll see you next year. I'm Kyle Rudge and this is MCC Threads.