By Tom Weber
2013 is my third summer Fuller Center Bike Adventure. I rode most of the 2011 summer ride, the 2012 spring ride, 2012 East Coast ride and West Coast ride, the spring ride 2013, and now the summer ride. In 2011 I needed the van support to carry me three times. In 2012 I didn’t need to get in the van at all, but this year I was in the van more than I was riding, because of various health issues. After struggling for the first three weeks I left the ride for a planned fishing trip in Alaska with my brother and his family, rejoining the ride 10 days later. While away from the ride I visited my family doctor who told me I needed to take 4-6 weeks off the bike to heal properly, so I decided to drive back to FCBA in my SUV that has 4 bike racks, and help support the riders. I’ve been supporting for about two weeks, and we have two weeks left to finish the summer adventure. It has been a great experience! Up and down the ride, protecting riders, picking up tired or disabled riders, staying at the last rest stop to allow the van to get to the church to unload and get ready for showers. I’m not riding, but am feeling very useful.
This year I am 71 years old, and last year I rode a total of 7,402 miles on my bike, 4,200 with the Fuller adventure. Although admittedly not a fast rider, I’m a good, safe rider who has been able to ride without accident, and I know my way around riding, in groups, and especially with the Fuller Adventure.
So having ridden with, and now supporting these riders, I want to try to tell you about these "kids and grandkids" on this adventure. Most of the riders have arrived at the start of FCBA with very little training or even experience on a bike. All kids learn how to ride a bike, but riding a bike across country is quite a different experience. Some riders come with bikes that are not in the best of condition, need some TLC, and many start even needing new tires. Often riders do not "fit" their bikes properly, and I have taught more than one rider how to get on and off a bike. I have talked to many who admitted that on the way to the start, they had to force themselves to continue because of the apprehension of the unknown.
I have watched these “kids” become accomplished bike riders, team leaders, caring team members, and grow into a family unit that I have been blessed to witness and share six times now. I have watched these kids ride their hearts out for a cause greater than themselves. I have seen them cry at what they perceive as failure, cry at accomplishing what they thought was impossible, and cry for the families that we help along the way. I admit, I have cried with them. Today I was shedding tears of joy as I watched Melissa reach the summit of a climb that was over 10 miles long with a constant grade of between 7% and 8% which came about mile 72 of a 91 mile ride. She was struggling, not sure she could make it, but so proud that she did. Yesterday I was blessed to watch a new rider, Dottie, ride 106 miles her first day, almost all of it uphill, having ridden no more than 50 miles before. I have been blessed to witness the joy of accomplishment on so many faces that I can’t begin to count. Many of the riders enjoy the advantage of youth to help do what seems impossible, and I have been blessed to have witnessed these feats. It’s so great to watch new riders with about 100 miles of training before starting on a 9 week ride that averages 75 miles per day, riding the entire distance, and literally jumping for joy at the finish. I was so proud to witness my son teach his 14 year old daughter on the spring ride this year, how to mud, hammer, use a saw a chisel, etc., and have her ask what else she could do to help on the build site.
I have also witnessed the faith these kids possess. They know the bible, they know how to pray, and they have been blessed with the desire to help people less fortunate. Alex came to me when I was feeling bad about not being able to ride, asked if he could pray for me, and proceeded to do so. They have given of themselves days, weeks, months, and years in service to others. They have become my heroes as I watch them struggle to reach goals that seem impossible. Not all of them reach every summit, but they are all out here trying, serving their Savior, as they serve others.