A crowd stands in front of the Engineering Fountain, cheering as a group of cyclists comes riding in. The cyclists seem more than ready to pry themselves off of their bikes and set them gently on the grass. Nathan Kahlenbeck, dressed in neon green attire, immediately runs into the fountain to cool down. Not long after Kahlenbeck goes in, the others follow.
This wasn’t the average bike ride.
The cyclists rode from Columbus, Indiana to Purdue’s campus, putting about 139 miles behind them. They were led by father-daughter duo Chris and Emily Wessel.
And joining Emily and her father on their bikes were Jim Ramsey, Melissa Morelli and Kahlenbeck, Wessel's friends and family.
The group met at the Wessels' house at 7 a.m. Sunday, and arrived to Purdue around 5:30 p.m. They rode for 10 and a half hours, taking breaks to rest whenever necessary.
“It was a long day,” Chris said. “But it’s relatively flat and we were fortunate to have a tailwind, so it was good.”
Emily and Chris' motivation to ride to Purdue stemmed from their original plan to participate in Ride Across Indiana, an organized bike ride that goes from Terre Haute to Richmond, spanning 151 miles.
“I got cut from the volleyball team my senior year, and volleyball was kind of my life,” Emily said. “So I needed something else to do. So I decided the next day after I got cut to do Ride Across Indiana.”
The event, however, was canceled because of the pandemic. So Emily and Wessel decided to change course and ride from Columbus to campus, since Emily will attend classes her as a freshman in the fall.
To prepare for the ride, the cyclists began training in August 2020 and moved inside to stationary bikes during the winter. They also participated in two organized long distance-rides in Kentucky, which covered 75 and 103 miles, respectively.
Sunday’s bike ride took place after a week of on and off again rain and thunderstorms that doused the state, but the ride itself proved smooth and easy for the most part.
“We had a couple of spots that were flooded and we just had to drive or ride really slow through it,” Emily said. “But besides the couple of spots in the beginning, (the flooding) was pretty much done, which was nice.”
Emily is majoring in kinesiology at Purdue. Her plans include getting her bachelor’s degree and working her way up to a doctorate. As a new student, she’s said she’s looking to join some of the abundant extracurriculars campus has to offer, but she especially has her eye on any volleyball-related clubs.
Emily also said she’s ready to meet new people.
“I’ve lived in Columbus my whole life and I’ve never moved,” she said, “And so I’ve kind of met everyone in the small town that Columbus is, so I’m just really excited to move here.”