Mindy Ahler

August 2016 - If actions truly do speak louder than words, endurance cyclist and environmental advocate Mindy Ahler is on track to sway hearts and change minds in a dozen different states this fall. Ahler kicked off a 3,000-mile, cross-country journey late August in Oregon, with plans to peddle her way to Washington, D.C. by mid-November.

For this Edina resident, that ambitious undertaking represents both a long-standing personal goal and a golden advocacy opportunity. Ahler is co-director of Cool Planet, an Edina-based outreach organization aiming to stoke local support for wide-ranging climate change solutions.
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"For about the last seven years, I've wanted to bike across the country," she explained. "I was just waiting and looking for the right reason and opportunity to do so." A perfect justification came along in 2014, when Ahler and her colleagues at Cool Planet first learned of so-called LowCarbon Crossings. The underlying idea behind this grassroots initiative is simple: bike an extended distance, stopping at towns along the way to give presentations and/or engage in community dialogues about important environmental topics.

Cool Planet started with baby steps, relatively speaking, coordinating two LowCarbon Crossings in southern Minnesota totaling around 300 miles each.

"This offered a framework for what I wanted out of a cross-country trip," Ahler said. "I realized there would never exactly be a ‘right time' to do this, so I decided to commit myself to making it happen now."

Ahler traced her bike plan, which dips south through the Dakotas and Nebraska along an otherwise easterly route, well in advance and with great care. In addition to her work through Cool Planet, Ahler is a regional coordinator for Citizens' Climate Lobby (CCL) - a national nonprofit devoted to championing climate issues in national politics and policy. Ahler deliberately drew up her route so that it touched four of the five states in North Wind CCL, the Upper Midwest's region.

She also wanted to incorporate several well-known bicycle routes, and referenced maps and other materials from the Adventure Cycling Association when sketching out her travels.

Her goal - besides making it to Washington D.C. on schedule - is to keynote or play some other part in at least one presentation or other community event in each state she passes. "What the community conversation looks like will vary from place to place based on my partners there, what they want to get out of it, and who those volunteers wish to attract," Ahler said.

Her schedule is filling up quickly, with five events planned for her time in Montana alone.

If all goes as planned, her arrival in the Capitol will allow Ahler to cap off her event's itinerary by participating in "CCL Lobby Days," the CCL's best opportunity all year around to share concerns and hopes with federal legislators.

"Ultimately, we want to build a sense of hope and possibility that we can solve climate problems ... and that we already know how," Ahler explained. "All we need is to build on the momentum already out there. We just need more people to take action."