Tiffin native Rick Kimmel graduated from Columbian High School in 1982 and from Ohio State University. Now employed as the manager for Kingsgate Marriott Hotel in Cincinnati, Kimmel and another manager, Tim Jones, departed from Cincinnati May 22 - on bicycles.
Their destination was the Marriott Select Service General Managers' Conference in Orlando, Fla. An additional goal was to raise $5,000 for Cincinnati Children's Medical Center programs to combat childhood obesity and promote weight control.
Kimmel said he sent his conference clothes ahead of him and just carried his riding garb, personal products and a bike repair kit. Along the route, the men have been staying at Marriott Inns.
In a phone call Thursday, Kimmel said he and Jones were on the final leg of their tour, covering more than 1,000 miles in nine days. They were instructed to arrive at the conference no earlier than 5 p.m. because a special celebration was being planned.
"We're pretty much right on schedule," Kimmel said. "The mountains were fine no issues there. What's probably the toughest is right here in Florida. They've got 15-20-mile-per-hour gusts of wind. Probably the toughest part of the trip was the last two days."
Aside from being chased by nine dogs, the cyclists had no flat tires, no accidents, and only one short detour around a construction site. On a few occasions, they spotted rain in the distance and were able to take cover before being drenched. Kimmel said he did the initial route planning, but after Jones signed on for the ride, he utilized the "Map My Ride" website.
"You pick and choose how far you want to go each day and ... the program will tell you the route," Kimmel explained.
The program also describes the terrain along the route so riders know what to anticipate. Kimmel said they pulled into a "mom and pop-type" gas station one day when a storm was threatening.
"We were about five miles away from the hotel, and the guy said, 'I'll haul you over there' ... So he threw our bikes in the back of his pick-up truck and we flew down these country roads. He got us there just before the storm hit. As soon as we took the bikes out of the back of the truck, the rains just came pouring down," Kimmel said. "We met some terrific people throughout this whole trip."
In addition, the men exceeded their fundraising goal for CMN. They raised $6,000 online and another $2,000 that had not yet been posted.
Jones and Kimmel will be at the convention through the weekend for awards, team building and networking with other managers. They are to fly back to Cincinnati Tuesday. Kimmel said he was not worried about the hotel while he was away.
"I've got a great team at my hotel. I've got my assistant general manager and my operations manager. This whole thing couldn't come at a better time. We're a business hotel, so our business usually drops off the week before and the week after (Memorial Day). The weekends are usually very busy with soccer teams, so that's two or three days of craziness without me being there, but I've got a fantastic group of people at the hotel to mind the shop," Kimmel said.