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Riding for a cause

Couple rides, raises big bucks for MS research

By Carlienne A. Frisch

Carl and Denise Wieman made a right turn out of their driveway in Owatonna on the balmy evening of Friday, Aug. 18. Riding together on their Vanderhall cycle, they headed westward toward Monticello to the MS River Road Run -- an annual fundraiser for research on the treatment of the disease Multiple Sclerosis (MS). When the River Road Run began 38 years ago, riders started the run at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul. Ten years ago, the starting point was relocated to Lakeville -- and this year to Monticello -- with plans to return to Lakeville next year.

MS River Run participants (left to right) Denise Wieman, Butch Fischer and Carl Wieman posed for a photo at this year’s fundraising event. The Wiemans have been riding in 22 of the 38 rides and raised more than $100,000 toward MS research. Photo by Karen Van Hert

Carl explained their Friday evening departure. “We left the night before the ride because we didn’t want to have to get up at five o’clock in the morning to arrive in Monticello in time for the ride,” he said.

Wieman spoke from experience. He and his wife have taken part in the ride for 22 years. After arriving in Monticello, they rode their motorcycle 249 miles on Saturday and 77 more miles on Sunday, raising more than $11,000 for MS research this year through donations from friends and acquaintances.

The Wiemans have been active with the MS event for more than two decades. They have designed the route for the run, served on various committees and, over time, raised more than $100,000 towards MS research through the generosity of supporters of the volunteer work. Some of the long-time financial supporters of the Wieman’s non-profit efforts live in various parts of the United States, as well as in Canada. They include several business associates of Carl during his career as a tech support specialist for an automotive tool company.

Participants, including the Wiemans (standing middle) posed for a photo at the most recent MS River Run. Photo by Karen Van Hert

Before embarking on this year’s ride, the Wiemans joined other bikers in fortifying themselves with a full breakfast provided to all participants by the owner of Moon Motorsports in Monticello. Around 9 a.m., shortly before the sound of gunning engines filled the air, retired pastor James Fuchs spoke the Blessing of the Bikes, with all participants gathered around for the prayer. Then, the riders took off. This year, Carl and Denise received a special honor in recognition of their many years of fundraising efforts, which included being among this year’s top fundraisers. The Wiemans were chosen to be two of the three riders who led off the run. About 40 riders followed them.

Participants make the ride at their own pace, following a route booklet that is provided to all riders. The route varies from year to year. This year, the riders followed a scenic route from Monticello toward Maple Lake, where they had to navigate their way through a different event -- a roll-in of cars and bikes. Once out of Maple Lake, the MS riders headed toward Tonka Bay, taking a scenic ride around several lakes. They eventually rode past a fairly new southern Minnesota landmark -- Paisley Park, which honors the late singer Prince. From there, the riders proceeded to Lakeville, where they were treated to lunch.

Fischer rides in this year’s MS River Run. Butch was this year’s top fundraiser. Photo by Karen Van Hert

The riders seldom find traffic to be a problem because, as Wieman explained, “The entire bike route is on scenic state and county roads -- no major highways.” This year’s scenic route took the bike riders out of the Twin Cities area, along the Minnesota River, to the south edge of Mankato. There, the MS River Run ended with a celebratory banquet. When riders dismounted from their bikes, the fundraising for MS research continued with events such as a silent and live auction and raffles at the banquet.

Uncle Bob set the pace

One reason Carl and Denise became interested in the MS River Road Run is that Carl’s uncle, Bob Wieman, became somewhat of a River Road Run legend, riding in the event for more than a decade. In 2002, at age 80, he met his goal of raising a total of $50,000 for research into multiple sclerosis. His nephew, Carl, said he is sure that there are many River Road Run participants who remember Bob Wieman’s efforts to raise funds for MS.

“Some of the River Road Run riders remember my uncle, Bob, who rode his Goldwing,” Carl said. “His last year of riding was 2002, when he was 80 years old. Those who don’t remember him may have heard about this 80-year-old guy who had ridden in the MS River Road Run for 11 years.”

The Wiemans cruised by in this unique three-wheeled bike and give a wave. Photo by Karen Van Hert

Wieman recalled that in 1986, his uncle bought his first Honda Goldwing, which Carl has since restored. It’s the motorcycle that Carl and Denise ride in the MS River Road Run.

The Wiemans have another personal reason for being involved in raising funds for MS research. Denise’s sister, Lori Serbus, lived with MS for 24 years before dying in December 2004 from complications of the disease.

Learn more about the MS River Road Run by visiting

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