AZ Stage 16 of the 2011 Navajo Tour de Rez began here last
week, with over 15 young riders trekking up and down the switchbacks
and rolling hills of Black Mesa toward Rocky Ridge, Ariz.
whole concept is to show kids that we have the power to make change,"
said Tom Riggenbach, founder and executive director of Navajo Nation
Youth Empowerment Services, or YES, a nonprofit organization offering
adventure, enrichment and service learning for youth across the
said since 1991 NavajoYES
has sponsored the Tour de Rez, which promotes healthy living, appreciation
of the outdoors and, most of all, makes Navajo youth "dig deep."
can realize they can push through the pain, the realization," said
Riggenbach, adding that youth develop endurance and stamina from
the challenging treks, which in turn helps them see how a strong
mind and body can help them overcome other challenges they may encounter.
said NavajoYES provides youth with mountain bikes, gear and equipment
to use on the tour.
June 1, riders from the New Mexico communities of Chichiltah, Breadsprings,
Tohatchi and Wingate started in Chichiltah, routing through Birdsprings,
Wingate, Twin Lakes, and across the 9,500-foot Chuska range to Bear
June 24 service project at Buffalo Pass, Ariz., in the Carrizo Mountains
began the second leg of the tour. At the base of the Carrizos, youth
from Red Valley and surrounding areas helped improve the trail systems
at Twin Falls Trail and Carrizo Mountain Trail in Teec Nos Pos,
next leg of the tour began at Teec Nos Pos to the Four Corners,
and then continued on to Monument Valley and Navajo Mountain, where
the riders stopped to help work on an irrigation project at Narrow
Canyon, before arriving in Shonto on July 11.
from Chilchinbeto, Kayenta, Page and Shonto, among other areas,
joined those who were continuing on from the previous stages.
Dean, 12, of Mexican Springs, NM, said he has been on the tour since
the beginning on June 1.
kinda getting homesick but Tom has helped me out," he said.
been away from home for over a month, but enjoys exploring the Navajo
Nation and meeting kids from other parts of the region, he said.
to Shonto, he had trekked about 500 miles, and was on schedule to
complete the nearly 1,000-mile bike tour on Monday in Window Rock.
said he learned about Tour de Rez from Riggenbach when he visited
and made a presentation about NavajoYES at Tohatchi Middle School.
powering up the summit of Black Mesa, which included a brief monsoon
shower, Dean said, "Tom always says to eat healthy, stay energized,
and drink lots of water."
the route turned toward Rocky Ridge, Riggenbach provided important
details of what the riders should expect, and a quick orientation
for newcomers to the tour.
guarantee you will not forget this challenge," Riggenbach said.
"If you dig deep inside, you will be surprised. We're going to have
more fun on the bikes than those in the trucks. The bike is your
friend. You don't want the bike to work against you."
wish I had this when I was younger," added Illene Bryant, 52, of
Shonto, whose children Dawn Yazzie, 15, and Myron Bryant, 10, were
participating in the bike tour. "In our area, we herded sheep the
whole day. We did horse riding without the saddle. We were always
ya back on the 18th," shouted Illene, as her children and the rest
of the riders started for Rocky Ridge in thundering rain.
ride also offers a chance for young people to carry the messages
of the Navajo people to their capital in Window Rock.
have young people interested in biking and promoting healthy living,
and the Council delegates and horse riders honoring the traditions
of how messages used to be given to Window Rock," said Council Delegate
Jonathan Nez (Navajo Mountain/Oljato/Ts'ah Bii Kin/Shonto).
said this was his fifth year participating in the Tour de Rez, and
the first time the bike ride and horse riders merged.
don't eat much because of the bike, for the horse ride it's the
same," Nez said, adding that he had trekked 48 miles since Navajo
Mountain on July 11. "A lot of the communities have provided meals.
We kinda get spoiled."
approximately 9:30 a.m. on July 13, the riders started their 52-mile
route at the base of Black Mesa to Rocky Ridge on the Isaac Mine
Road. By 10:15 a.m. they reached the top of Black Mesa after three
grueling miles of switchbacks.
there, they rested for a good 10 minutes before coasting up and
down over about three miles of rolling hills to the Navajo-Hopi
said he coordinated with Hopi and Navajo County officials to cross
the Hopi Reservation.
fun ... it's hard," said 11-year-old Kevin Smith of Shonto, who
at times led the pack of riders through the rough terrain.
riders looked exultant, at times coasting along down the hills with
their arms outstretched in the 90-degree air, the heat at times
relieved by passing clouds.
final leg of the tour, which was broken into 20 stages, began last
Thursday and went from Rocky Ridge through Pi-on, Cottonwood and
Ganado chapters, ending Monday with a service project at the Navajo
Nation Zoo in Window Rock.
stop we do, we listen to the locals," Riggenbach said, adding. "These
young kids sure can bike, great endurance, stamina."
Beginning even before the first Tour de Rez, the people who are
today known as NavajoYES were offering outdoor adventure programs
for reservation youth. Multiple outings at Navajo Mountain, Rainbow
Bridge and Grand Canyon had already been completed before the
Tour was even conceived in 1991.
The growth of the Tour marked the advent of a new era and revealed
the need for a new organization. In 1994, Youth Empowerment Services
for Dine' Bikeyah (NavajoYES) was established, joining community-based
groups in the rez towns of Shonto and Kayenta.