Biking Around Minnesota To Honor Vic Rosenthal

(Editor’s note: Due to health reasons, Michael Kuhne had to cut his ride short. His effort raised more than $2,300 for JCA).

Before he retired in mid-May, Michael Kuhne rode his bike every day to and from work – 27 miles round trip from Shoreview to Minneapolis Community Technical College. But that trip is going to be very different from the one he is now embarking on.

Kuhne is riding 1,500 miles around the state in order to raise money to honor Jewish Community Action’s founding executive director Vic Rosenthal. The ride will take him clockwise through all 36 countries around Minnesota that border neighboring states and Canada. He’s calling it the Minnesota Perimeter Ride.

“I wanted to do something to mark the end of that phase and open up to whatever’s next,” Kuhne said. “It feels like havdalah, marking between two different times.”

Kuhne also knew he wanted to fundraise for Rosenthal, who passed away in late March after a long battle with cancer. Rosenthal’s family asked that memorial gifts be made to JCA or to Beyond Hospice: The Pillars, which cared for Rosenthal in his final days, so that is where the funds Kuhne is raising will go towards. 

“The Rosenthal family has been so gracious with their time and support,” Kuhne said.

“We are honored that Michael is raising funds for JCA and Pillars Hospice with this epic ride,” said Beth Gendler, JCA’s executive director. “We wish him a nesiyah tovah and we can’t wait to follow Mike on a Bike on Instagram and hear all about it when he returns.”

This isn’t the first athletic endeavor that Kuhne has done with an eye toward honoring Rosenthal. An avid Nordic skier, Kuhne has participated in the annual American Birkebeiner in Wisconsin with an index card pinned next to his race bib that said he was skiing to honor his friend Rosenthal, who was living with cancer.

“I didn’t know I would dedicate this to him until he died. But his death just gutted me,” he said. “It can’t be just about the grief or I’ll go insane. This is like a quest. It’s a soul-searching time.”

The ride he started on July 3 was not the original plan. Kuhne thought he was going to tackle a cross-country ride from Seattle to his home, but realized he was starting to regret his idea.

“In May, I was waking up 4 or 5 times in the middle of the night and going to the computer to look at the route,” he said. “There are a lot of mountain passes and uncertain camping. It was to the point that I wasn’t enjoying the planning. I pivoted and thought of other rides I could do. It’s epic enough that it appeals to me.”

The ride through Minnesota will take him to parts of the state he’s never been to, and he will stay in state parks as often as he can. 

Kuhne’s rise is his 1981 Trek 520, bought with one of the first paychecks as a high school English teacher. He’ll ride solo with the exception of connecting with a friend who lives on the Iron Range and who will join for a couple of days.

Raising money in Rosenthal’s memory is partly because of how JCA helped him connect with Judaism. Kuhne said he experienced his daughter’s bat mitzvah when he was not Jewish. While he appreciates the way Mount Zion involves parents who aren’t Jewish in a b’nai mitzvah, but when the Torah passed by him without being able to hold it, he said he knew conversion was forthcoming.

“I didn’t have a sustained conversation with anyone I knew that identified as Jewish until I was 29, and then I married her,” he said. “We belonged to a synagogue, but connecting to JCA and being part of those efforts in the 2010s around the marriage and voter ID amendments was really great. I had organized in other venues, but to do with a Jewish lens, it hit me right in the heart. JCA was my way in.”