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Cycling pianist promotes music, athletics with 2,000-mile journey

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In an effort to promote music and athletics for kids, a Michigan blues pianist and his team are biking along the Mississippi River – with a piano.

Mark Braun and the Mr. B's Joybox Express team are pulling a 350-pound piano the length of the Mississippi River to advocate and raise money for children's arts and athletic programs.

“I am convinced that I am a better musician because I have always been active in sports,” Braun, an internationally recognized pianist, told the Red Wing Republican Eagle. “A lot of people find art and athletics to be mutually exclusive, but I see clearly how both played a pivotal role as I learned valuable life lessons about endurance, ambition, passion, failure and achievement.”

The three-member, musician-athlete team started at the Mississippi headwaters at Lake Itasca earlier this month. The roughly 90-day bike trip will span over 2,000 miles, finishing in New Orleans in November, according to the nonprofit's website.

"We needed something epic. I woke up and had the vision. It's the Mississippi River. We are going to go the whole length of the Mississippi River and we are doing to do a reverse migration of the blues," Braun told KARE 11.

The Joybox Express plans to stop in cities, towns and villages along the river to perform, educate and conduct group rides hoping to inspire blues, jazz and bicycle appreciation. They've made several stops in Minnesota, including some impromptu performances, and are looking to add more along the way.

Among the stops in the state was a visit to Hobgoblin Music in Red Wing Sunday.

They also performed in Bemidji, St. Cloud, Minneapolis and St. Paul, among other cities.

Artrain, an organization that works to bring cultural exhibitions and education programs to all communities, no matter the location or economic status, is producing the Joybox Express' tour. You can follow the journey here.

Cycling to fight hunger

In another philanthropic effort on wheels, a Minnesota couple biked from the old Metrodome in Minneapolis to Lambeau Field in Green Bay to raise money to benefit food pantries – Moms and Neighbors in the Twin Cities and Paul's Pantry in Green Bay, the Green Bay Press Gazette reports.

Rick Martinek, a Vikings fan, and Robin Martinek, a Packers fan, left the Twin Cities Sept. 8, biking through the wind and rain, to the gates of Lambeau Field ahead of Sunday's Packers game against the New York Jets.

"We wanted to bring awareness about the need for food pantries," Rick Martinek told the Press Gazette. "It could be your neighbor, it could be a veteran who has served the country, it could be an elderly person, it could be a family with small children that are just not quite making enough money to support the family."

This is the second time the Martineks have embarked on the seven-day, 316-mile trip, KSTP reports. Along the way they collected donations for the two charities.

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