2011 STIHL Tour des Trees a Record-Breaker

Return to Table of Contents – Fall 2011 TREE Fund Report


The 2011 STIHL Tour des Trees finished its 500-mile trek through Virginia October 8 at American University in Washington, D.C., where the cyclists blessed the last of a record 45 new trees they’d planted during the week and presented a check for a record $457,020 to TREE Fund President Mike Neal. October in Virginia proved to be nearly perfect for cycling.

Celina (L) and Cheyanne Harris help plant a tree at STIHL (photo credit: Al Gilens).
STIHL’s Roger Phelps and 3-time ITCC world champion Mark Chisholm led the Ride for Research out of the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center October 2 under chilly, drizzly skies, but the day was brightened by the enthusiasm of local riders and Team STIHL.  The Tour’s title sponsor pulled out all stops to ensure that the Virginia Beach events were fully staffed with volunteers, well stocked with refreshments, memorable for their “special effects” (a fire truck at the lead, a rock band at the finish) and fun.

Bob Bluford helps bless the Lee Tree
in Richmond (photo credit: Al Gilens)
TREE Fund Partner Dominion also provided a hybrid bucket truck to escort the Ride for Research. Six new trees were planted that first day, and Celina and Cheyanne Harris, daughters of Dominion’s Bonita Harris, will long remember their tree plantings with the Tour and their ride on the fire truck.


Historic sites and trees dotted the 2011 itinerary. Tree plantings at Colonial Williamsburg and Monticello gave veteran Tour riders an opportunity to revisit trees they’d planted in 2000. On Tuesday Richmond’s Bob Bluford, a 92-year-old  advocate for the preservation of historic Virginia land, turned out to tell the story of gathering the last acorns from the 400+ year old “Lee Tree,” a massive oak under which Robert E. Lee conferred with his officers during the civil war. Hurricane Isabel felled the original Lee Tree in 2003, but a sapling “Lee Tree,” propagated from an acorn from the original and planted and blessed by the 2011 STIHL Tour des Trees, now graces the grounds of Virginia’s state capitol.

Professor Pricklethorn illustrates photosynthesis at Columbia Elementary School (photo credit: Al Gilens)


The educational opportunities created by the Tour’s October timeline provided some of the most memorable moments of the ride. Toronto arborist and veteran Tour rider Warren Hoselton, aka Professor Elwood Pricklethorn (“Arborifessor Extraordinaire”), captivated school kids in Palmyra and Leesburg with his engaging reenactments of photosynthesis and his tuneful entreaties to “give trees a chance”.

Volunteers from Dominion distributed tree seedlings and coloring books to children at both events and helped plant the largest tree of the Tour at Ida Lee Park in Leesburg. Crown Sponsor Bartlett Tree Experts donated 500 copies of Bonnie Worth’s “I Can Name 50 Trees Today” to the 2011 Tour, which were distributed to schools and libraries along the Tour route and to the State Arboretum of Virginia. 

Thursday’s 12-mile continuous ascent to Skyline Drive was the ride’s biggest challenge, and those who conquered “The Escarpment” on two wheels were hailed as heroes at the top. The reward was an 8-mile serpentine descent to the hotel and dinner at the home of Tour rider Tom Armstrong.

The Tour reached Washington, D.C. on Saturday, October 8. The cyclists were given a warm welcome at the National Arboretum, where they planted a rare hybrid maple, Acer griseum x A. pseudoplatanus, a spontaneous cross of paperbark and sycamore maple. Casey Trees hosted the Tour for lunch at their new headquarters in DC, and then sent them on their way to American University, where award-winning environmentalist, author and Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell delivered the keynote address at the closing ceremonies.

Team Canada presents The Big Check to
Mike Neal (photo credit: David Hucker)


The Tour and the University community were treated to an outdoor concert sponsored by STIHL at the University amphitheater, featuring the Tom Principato Band with Leavell on keyboards for the last set.

Photos from the VA2DC Tour are posted on the website at www.stihltourdestrees.org. Rookie Tour rider (and talented photographer) Helen Steussy also captured her experience in beautiful detail in her blog. Find a link on the Tour website and at www.treefund.org

The fundraising campaign for the VA2DC Tour continues through Dec. 30. This year’s goal of $500,000 is within reach. Your donation will make a difference in the TREE Fund’s 2012 research budget and help a Tour rider reach their “personal best” in fundraising as well as hill-climbing. Donate today at www.stihltourdestrees.org.




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