Monday, November 27, 2006

Follow-up story from the Herald-Times

Firefighter’s bike ride raises more than $1,800 for charities

By James Boyd
331-4370 |
November 27, 2006

A Bloomington firefighter who rode his bicycle 540 miles from Ellettsville to Branson, Mo., earlier this fall raised more than $1,800 for two local organizations.

Battalion Chief Chuck Welch completed the trek in early October, but just recently totaled the amount of funds raised on his trip.

Nearly $1,300 of the money will go to the Bloomington Metropolitan Firefighters Local 586’s Shop with a Firefighter fund, which will help several children purchase necessities and toys next month during the holidays.

The other $550 was donated to the Ellettsville Masonic Lodge, where Welch is a member.

“The trip wasn’t about me, wasn’t about my age,” Welch said Saturday. “It started out as a salute to our veterans, but people kept asking me if I was riding for a charity. Finally I just said, ‘Fine, I’ll raise money for two charities!’”

Welch said he would’ve liked to have been able to raise more, but was grateful for those who donated to both causes.

“The overall ride went very well,” he said. “I hit a lot of hills in Missouri, and I knew it was going to be rough. But I made it.”

Welch was riding to attend the reunion of his Navy Vietnam veterans, which was held in Branson, Mo., last month.

He got the ultimate surprise when he pedaled into that town.

“My friend down there had arranged to have people standing out from the shopping malls cheering me on,” Welch said.

But as he looked closer, he realized he knew some of them.

“I saw that it was my family. I had no clue they were going to be there. That was just the best!”

Welch made it to the reunion on time, and came back to Bloomington — this time by car — and returned to the fire department.

Find out more

• Welch took time during his trip to write a blog about his experience. It’s still up and running at: www.

• The Bloomington Metropolitan Firefighters Local 586’s Shop with a Firefighter program accepts monetary donations year-round. The program pairs a firefighter with a child to provide both essentials and toys during the holidays.

Donations can be sent to: Bloomington Metropolitan Firefighters Local 586, P.O. Box 474, Bloomington, IN 47401.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Reunion Group Picture

Small as this reunion was we still had a wonderful time sitting around telling old sea stories, reminiscing about the past, and remembering some of those who had passed on.

Pictured Front row l to r Olaf Entwit - Alaska, Bernie Green - Florida, Mike Liska - Wisconsin

Back row l to r - Buck Owens - Texas, Jim Bieberitz - Wisconsin, Ken Fuchslocher - 2006 Branson Host - New York, Jim Wilson - St Louis, Myself - Bloomington, Indiana, and Andy Anderson - Oklahoma

We had several cancel out due to either personal illness or family illness.

Our next reunion will be in Green Bay, Wisconsin and I have been asked IF I am riding to it also. Two years is a long time away

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A thank you from Chuck

My Branson trip has been realized!! Pedalling from Ellettsville to Branson, MO to honor the men and women of the armed forces past and present is now completed. This ride has not been about Chuck or some of the places he has stopped at for pictures, excluding the ones in Bloomfield, MO at the Civil War Cemetary, The Stars and Stripes Museum, and the Missouri Veterans Cemetary.
If during your travels in everyday life you have enjoyed the freedom of this country, PLEASE take time to "thank" a veteran for his or her sacrifice. Many of our WWII veterans are passing away and some of the history of that war goes with them. The pride they have to tell their story shows in their face when they talk about their stories. Also the pain of losing buddies show. But take time today to say "thank you for your service". Tell your dad, grandfather, uncle, cousin, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt or friend.

To all the veterans who have checked in here on this blog site - and to all who hear of this ride I sincerely say-- Thank you for the sacrifice you or your family have made to help keep freedom in this country and world. Thank You!!

No Chuck, you can't trade !!!

I want to again thank all of those people who checked in on this blog site, who took time to write comments or send emails, to those who phoned, To thank those who contributed in one way or another, (by setting up the blog, updating the blog site, or any other way)

I especially want to thank all the reporters who helped get the word out about what I was riding for and the two charities who would benefit from those who contributed monetarily.

The welcoming committee

And what a surprise I had waiting for me at Branson. My whole family!! I must say I was really taken back by their support -- Thanks gang!!

Chuck and Family

I must include David, my daughter's husband holding my granddaughter, without his gracious attitude toward this trip Kristina, my daughter, would not have been able to be my support for the first two days.

Chuck and Family

I really need to include my son, and daughter for their support also!!

Chuck and Jean

Without my wife, and her support this whole trip would not have come off as the success it has!!!

Reunion Attendee's

Here are four of the couples that attended the reunion. Front row l to r Jean - my wife, Linda Wilson, Judy Bierberitz
Back Row l to r Buck Owens, his wife Jody, Jim Wilson, Myself, and Jim Bierberitz.

Update from Chuck 10-8-06

Downtown old Branson has had a big face lift in the last two years. A new shopping area has been built with all quality stores like Bass Pro, Dress Barn, Build a Bear, Famous Dave's BBQ, and Belks. Of course there are more stores than these. To see what they are go to Yahoo and type in Branson Landing. This picture is of their new water "fountain" choreographed to music. It is spectacular at night with fire coming out of the large tubes.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Now we know who really rode the bike all that way !!!

I tried to get Jean to take my place riding, but would she do it - NO! But here she is holding my bike while I take the picture. Sure Chuck, keep tallking :)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Branson Welcoming committee Pictures from the

Branson Fire Division Chief Ted Martin greeted Chuck Welch today on Branson's Avenue of Freedom. Welch is a battalion chief with the Bloomington-Indiana Fire Department. Welch road his bike 540 miles from his hometown of Ellettsville-Indiana to Branson. His fundraising ride was designed to honor all veterans. Welch is also in town to join Navy shipmates for a reunion.

Chuck is surprised at the intersection of Gretna Road and Highway 76 by the sight of his daughter, son, daughter-in-law, and Chuck's wife who drove the chase car... he did not know they would be here to cheer him on.
(Photos by Ted Martin)

Branson Trip Realized !!

Branson Trip Realized --lost miles have been made up, and Jean is resting better

I went out today and made up all the lost miles from yesterday. Riding in and around Branson is like Riding the route from Poplar Bluff to Birch Tree, only worse!! All miles are completed!! Jean is feeling a little better, and is resting. I will continue to make sure she gets her rest. Although it didn't seem like a rough job for her to do, sitting, waiting, watching traffic pass me at times and just the wondering about how things were going wore on her. It's over!!! The ride dedicated to the men and women of the armed forces past and present is done. Our job of saying "thank you" should never be done.

Thank you for all of your thoughts, prayers, emails, and phone calls!! Without them I may not have made it!!!
Thanks for checking in here also. Keep watching the site as I will add some information during my reunion here in Branson.

Until then!!


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A special post from Chuck

This was supposed to have been posted on day 6, but due to confusion on my part I didn't get it on here until today. Sorry Chuck !! Scott.

The last six days I have been pedalling from Ellettsville to Branson, MO to honor the men and women of the armed forces past and present. This ride has not been about Chuck or some of the places he has stopped at for pictures, excluding the ones in Bloomfield, MO at the Civil War Cemetary, The Stars and Stripes Museum, and the Missouri Veterans Cemetary.
If during your travels in everyday life you have enjoyed the freedom of this country, PLEASE take time to "thank" a veteran for his or her sacrifice. Many of our WWII veterans are passing away and some of the history of that war goes with them. The pride they have to tell their story shows in their face when they talk about their stories. Also the pain of losing buddies show. But take time today to say "thank you for your service". Tell your dad, grandfather, uncle, cousin, or friend.

Thank you,

Stay safe and we will see you when I return


Riding for charity and in support of soldiers - A story from The Daily Register in Harrisburg, IL.

Riding for charity and in support of soldiers
By Brian DeNealStaff WriterPublished: Saturday, September 30, 2006 7:39 AM CDT

VIENNA - Chuck Welch of Bloomington, Ind., passed through Harrisburg Wednesday and Thursday on a bicycle ride to Branson, Mo., for a reunion with his Vietnam War shipmates.Welch was a radio operator on board the USS Indra, a World War II landing ship tank converted into an auxiliary repair landing ship during the Vietnam War. The ship traveled up the rivers of the Mekong Delta and anchored in the middle of the river where the crew repaired damaged boats, Welch said.Welch retires as battalion chief of the Bloomington Fire Department in December after 31 years. Welch has been planning his trip for two years and is dedicating it to the men and women of the armed forces.
Weather caused Welch to make a repeat trip through Harrisburg Thursday. The first day, Tuesday, Welch reached Mount Carmel and Wednesday he was in Harrisburg."I did 68 miles (Wednesday). Because of the horrendous wind I gave up at Harrisburg Ponderosa," Welch said.His daughter was driving along as his support and took him to Vienna. Five minutes after loading the bike they saw the lightning and rain as a strong storm passed through.
Thursday morning Welch's daughter brought him back to Harrisburg so he could complete the Harrisburg to Vienna section honestly and by Thursday afternoon he was on Illinois Route 146 past Vienna on his way to Cape Girardeau, Mo., speaking on a cellular phone as big trucks zoomed past on the highway.He had ridden through some cold, nasty rain and was a day behind schedule. He had expected to make the trip in five days, but was allowing seven days for bad weather.Welch was in a good mood and was looking forward to his reunion.
"It's going to be amazing for me to see how people are doing. We'll be able to sit and talk about fun things we did, some serious things and about ones we lost recently," Welch said.There will also be a two World War II veterans who had served on the same ship during that war at the reunion.Welch said everyone he told about the ride assumed he was riding to raise money for a charity, so he decided to promote two charities that are important to him: The Ellettsville Masonic Lodge mortgage fund and the Bloomington Metropolitan Firefighters Local 586 for its Shop With a Firefighter providing needy youth with Christmas presents.
He asks anyone who wants to send a check to mark either Masonic Lodge Mortgage -- Branson Bike Ride or Shop With a Firefighter -- Branson Bike Ride on the memo line.Checks may be sent to Ellettsville Masonic Lodge, care of Gary Brinley, Treasurer, P.O. Box 65 Ellettsville, Ind. 47429 or to Bloomington Metropolitan Firefighters Local 586, P.O. Box 474, Bloomington, Ind. 47401.Welch invites people to follow his progress at the website

Day 7 - Branson !!!

Day 7 Seymour to Branson (the trip cut short, but not completely, I will make up the mileage --- promise!)
As you see we stopped short of the goal of Springfield last night. I was tired and Jean was exhausted. Not much to do but sit in the car and wait but it wore heavy on her. A days trip is long for her but several days gets pretty intense. We talked about it last night and again this morning and decided to cut the trip short and ride into Branson from a little ways out. I called my friend from the fire department and told him our plan and he said he would meet me along the route. Little to my knowledge that he had arranged to have some people along the route waving me on!! Then I got to my last intersection and heard a bunch of people clapping, hooping it up, and screaming "good job" then I heard "Grandpa!" . Boy was I surprised!!
Chris and his wife Jenny and their two boys, Nate and Wyatt along with Kristina and her oldest daughter Kate were the ones waving me on. Of course I had to stop, get hugs, and tell them how surprised I was to see them!! What a day. All is not lost though-- I do plan to make up my mileage loss today - - Just could not afford losing Jean!!
If she gets a good nights rest and relaxes tomorrow morning she will be fine.

My friend, Ted Martin, of the Branson Fire Department did an excellent job of planning to have the people waving me on, and working with Chris and Kristina on time frames. Ted was able to go to supper with us tonight and he and Nate, our oldest grandson, hit it off pretty good!

Hope all is fine there - - and don't worry there is plenty of roadway for me to get my miles in! Thank you for your support and thoughts, as well as your email.

Chuck and Jean

After passing a group of people waving me on, my friend Ted Martin form the Branson Fire Department, took me back to the Bob Hope Memorial Drive. While returning to the Drive this small group of people were there and I stopped and shook hands with each of them.

My whole crew!!

Front row (l to r)- Kate, Wyatt, Nate
Back row (l to r)- Wife- Jean, daughter - Kristina, Me, my daughter in law - Jenny, and my son- Chris

What a surprise to see them here in Branson. Signs were courtesy of my sister who visited me on my second day.

This blog isn't over yet!! Hang in there for a while longer!!! And THANKS for all of your thoughts, prayers, emails and for stopping byThank a Veteran for his sacrifices he or she made!


Day 7 - Branson !!!

If you look close, up there on the corner are a few people cheering me on. There was a photographer who is just behind the telephone pole in this view. To my total surprise, I didn't know who it was until I heard a couple of them yell "Grandpa"!! I had to look again, and then realized it was my son Chris, his wife Jenny, and their two sons Nate and Wyatt, my daughter Kristina, and her oldest daughter Kate. My son in law, Dave, had to stay home because of his job and kept the youngest grandaughter, Claire, with him.

Day 7 - Branson !!!

Just as I was hitting around 36 miles per hour on the downhill slope the stop light changed and I had to stop. Now if you have been in Branson, you know that with my luck on the other side of this light is another hill. I will tell you in no uncertain terms - most of the hills may not be long but they sure are steep!!!

Day 7 - Branson !!!

After passing the Bob Hope Memorial Drive sign on the downhill slope I returned to get a picture of the sign. I think my friend knew that their was another group ahead that needed time to get things planned!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Day 6 - Update

Day 6 - Birch Tree, MO to Seymour, MO -- Total miles today 82 miles

Sometimes you set goals a little lofty and can't carry it through!! When we were planning this trip the rolling hills in this section looked like some of our small rolling hills around Indiana, nothing big, nothing long. Guess they seemed small after driving up some of the BIG hills between Poplar Bluff and Birch Tree. They were long up hill grades sometimes climbing as much as 1.5 miles some of them steep!! I guess to make a long story short, I didn't make it to Springfield, MO today!

We stopped at Seymour this evening and will finish the trip tomorrow -- that's no lofty goal -- thats "do-able"!

I just received a call from a friend in Branson, Deputy Chief of Technical Services, Ted Martin and he says that my route takes me in on what is now called Bob Hope Memorial Ave (named for Hope for all he did for the men and women of the armed forces). Then I will be on another road that has recently been re-named FREEDOM Avenue. I will take some pictures while on these streets!

Looking forward to the completion of the ride! So is Jean, it has taken a toll on her. Just sitting and waiting for me and wondering if I was doing okay. I didn't want her following me, so I had her go ahead to the next designated rest stop and wait. As I said before -- she makes a dandy coach.

I will include the pictures from Mansfiel and any others we may have taken along today's route.
Hope the children will enjoy seeing some of the "Little House on the Prairie" history.

Keep watching the blog site I will also include pictures from the USS Indra's reunion, and sites around Branson. IF you haven't been to downtown 'Old" Branson in a while they have a beautiful water show choreographed to music.

More tomorrow - thanks for visiting the site.


Day 6 - Food !!

Don't let the outside appearance fool you - the food was excellent!! Birch Tree diner! When we got to Birch Tree last night it was 6:30 PM and we were told the diner closed at 7PM. I didn't even change clothes!! I went there, poked my head in and asked if I could come in dressed in my riding gear, an old gentleman said "well you're in here, have a seat!". Of course the car was still had the windows painted. A family of 4 came in and after sitting there quite a while the father looked over at us and said, "you from Indiana??". I said "yes, I don't exactly blend in do I". He just laughed! We struck up a conversation and just carried on like we had known each other for years.

Day 6 - Laura Ingalls Wilder

A bust of Laura Ingalls Wilder sat right in front of the town square as you drive into the center of town.

Day 6 - Jean's on the Prarie too !!!!

Day 6 - Laura Ingalls WIlder Info

Day 6 - Is it Chuck Welch or Charles Ingalls???? Hmmmmm

The Highway going past the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home and Museum has been renamed as - Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Highway

I took a side trip off the main highway to get a picture at the Laura Ingalls Wilder home and Museum.

Standing in front of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home - this home is the place where all of the "Little House on the Prairie" books were written.

Day 6 - Museum

Sometimes its hard to smile when you're tired and have aches!! Chris and Kristina, we have a picture of the two of you back in 1983 when Chris, you were 12 and Kristina you were 8. The picture was taken at this same spot!

At a convenience store in Mansfield, MO I took a break prior to going to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home, and also contemplated a "trade" with the cycle rider of this fine looking Harley. We talked about 20 minutes with them. I coulldn't get him to trade.