Iron Horse part of Durango McDonald’s genetics – The Durango Herald

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Family of local restaurant has been sponsoring event, volunteering time for decades

Each year for the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, McDonald’s sets up five aid stations from Durango to Silverton. McDonald’s has sponsored the event and volunteered to help since 1979. (Courtesy of Scott DW Smith, via Iron Horse Bicycle Committee)

They’re the unsung guardian angels of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic. You may not even notice them – until you need them.

And they’ve been doing it since 1979.

That was months after the Bronson family opened Durango’s first McDonald’s. John and Beckie Bronson approached Iron Horse director Ed Zink about the event. They not only became a major sponsor, but with the advent and growth of the citizens ride, began directly supporting riders.

Brett Bronson bought out his father’s McDonald’s in 2015. (John and Beckie now both live in San Diego.) Brett was 7 when the family and restaurant tradition with the Iron Horse began.

“It started out with my parents, being part of the community, and being connected,” Bronson said as the McDonald’s crew prepared for the 50th running of the event. “It just became part of the DNA of what we do here. As simple as that. ”

They will set up five aid stations for Saturday’s Durango-to-Silverton race and ride, plus an aid station atop Red Mountain Pass for the Ouray-to-Silverton ride. To give a small idea of ​​what that entails, it means hauling 250 gallons of water to Coal Bank Pass alone. Jeff Donahue, the Durango McDonald’s go-to guy for everything store-related, sets up a spreadsheet every year as a guide for what and who goes where.

“It’s fun for us,” said Donahue, whose parents were friends of the Bronsons. He’s worked at Durango McDonald’s since 1987. “It gives us a bigger purpose. There’s more than just making the hamburger. It really is that community connection, the connection with our team, the connection with our customers. ”

For Iron Horse organizers, it’s a huge load to carry.

“The Bronson crew, and the McDonald’s crew, they’re invaluable to us,” Iron Horse outgoing director Gaige Sippy said.

Sippy noted that other sponsors play invaluable roles in the Iron Horse’s success. The local Coca-Cola bottling company, owned by the Mapel family, has unflinchingly supported cycling in Durango and in particular championed the Saturday race and citizens ride. (For 2022, it’s the Durango Coca-Cola Road Race and the McDonald’s Citizen Tour.)

Bronson said that even as a rebellious teenager, he knew what he’d be doing Iron Horse weekend. The Mapel children near his age, Meredith and Frank, and the Zink children near his age, Brian, Tim and Kristi, all share this experience.

“You’re part of the family and you’re doing whatever it takes to be done to get it done,” Bronson said. “Today or back then, there was always an excitement about the weekend and being part of it. When you’re part of it, it’s something special. “

After preparing for weeks to make sure there are enough cookies, bananas, coffee or whatever going to the proper aid stations at Shalona, ​​Haviland, Purgatory, Coal Bank and Molas, the big day finally arrives. Donahue rises at about 4 am to get things rolling. He makes sure people – store employees, other volunteers – and supplies are delivered to the proper places.

The aid stations have blankets and a few tools for riders with mechanical issues.

“It does not matter what their bib number is” or if they even have a bib, Donahue said. “If someone needs help, we’re going to help them out. And if someone is struggling, we’ll keep an eye on them. “

Kathy Bowser moved to Durango in 1981 and started working at McDonald’s. She’s been involved with the Iron Horse almost since then. Her job on Saturday morning is to wait for the citizens ride to start, then follow as the last sag wagon.

“Seeing the bikers take off is super impressive,” she said.

Bowser gets to meet a variety of riders, some of whom are struggling. She’ll offer help, and give rides when needed. “I came from Iowa,” one might exclaim. “What was I thinking?”

It’s fun for the McDonald’s team, but it’s hard work.

“There’s a pride part of it,” Bronson said as the train whistle blew just outside the restaurant in seeming agreement. “There’s a responsibility to make sure we do it right.”

Saturday evening they can finally rest, the reward of a long day helping riders achieve their goals and bailing them out of trouble.

Oh wait, there’s the Sunday gravel ride, too, and aid stations to set up for that. Well, OK, after that …