1,300 miles of ‘planting seeds’

By Greg Moses, Tuesday, Aug 04, 2009
The Daily Post-Athenian

A group of cyclists have found the best way to "plant seeds" is from a bicycle seat. Riders in the Fuller Center Bike Trip made an overnight stop at North Etowah Baptist Church on Thursday, July 30, after traveling 19 days and more than 700 miles via bicycle from Michigan en route to Florida. The group of 14 are on a mission to raise funds and awareness for the Fuller Center for Housing, a non-profit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry dedicated to eliminating poverty housing worldwide by building and repairing homes for the impoverished in local communities through partnerships with various organizations. The Fuller Center was founded in 2005 by Millard Fuller, who also founded Habitat for Humanity.

While Habitat builds houses from the ground up, The Fuller Center focuses more on renovating current homes, both in urban and rural settings.

"The average person probably wouldn’t know what the Fuller Center is, so our goal is to introduce it to as many people and communities as possible," said Ryan Iafigliola. "We’re trying to plant the seeds to get it started."

Their planting tools consist of what Ryan calls a "new kind of triathlon." The group rides 60 miles each day of the trip. At their different stops, they speak to various organizations and churches, such as North Etowah Baptist, about the work of the Fuller Center and at 8 points along the way, they have done and will do work on Fuller Center building projects in Indiana, Kentucky, Georgia and Alabama.

The group consists of 14 full-time riders and various other cyclists picking up pieces of the trail here and there. One extra rider made the trip into Etowah for a total of 15.

"People might ride for a day or a weekend," Ryan said. "We love for people to get involved, and if it’s not through biking, then maybe they can come out to a site, pick up a paint brush or a hammer and volunteer."

The riders come from various parts of the continent, with cyclists of different ages and backgrounds coming from the South, Midwest, Pacific Coast, the North and Canada to make the trip. Starting in Benton Harbor, Mich., the group dipped their rear tires in Lake Michigan on Sunday, July 12, before beginning their month-long journey south. On Saturday, Aug. 15, the group plans to dip their front tires in the Gulf of Mexico in Panacea Park, Fla., a few miles south of Tallahassee.

Last year saw the ride’s maiden voyage with a nearly 3,000-mile trek from San Diego, Calif., to Savannah, Ga.

"I did that trip and after it ended, I got smarter. I looked at a map and discovered it was a lot quicker to go from Michigan to Florida," said Ryan, adding with a laugh, "We were told it’s all downhill."

While the easy part was at the beginning, with several days of biking across the plains of Indiana, Ryan said the views afforded by the hills and mountains of Kentucky and East Tennessee were among their favorite parts of the trip.

"Indiana was easy," he said, "but it’s still hard to compare with the beauty of Kentucky and Tennessee."

For more information on the Fuller Center Bike Trip, including how to sign up for the next ride, visit the group’s Web site at www.fullercenterbiketrip.com. To learn more about the Fuller Center for Housing, visit www.fullercenter.org.

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