By Kert Emperado
Today was the day! Like other mornings of this epic journey across the country, we rolled out of our sleeping bags at 4 am, half asleep, and staggering, we began our day. But, this day was special; the final stretch to the shore, and the end of our bike adventure across the country. I was excited and eager to soon feel the ocean sand under my feet again, but definitely sad about the thought of leaving this new family and the life changing experiences we were all given to be part of. Only 50-60 miles to Vancouver from Bellingham. No problem; we’ve averaged 75 miles a day, 6 days a week. In addition, the last few days, no, weeks, we were climbing mountain passes, almost everyday, so today the ride should be an easy downhill straight to sea level. One can hope…
Bags packed, bike gear on, water bottles filled. Check! Our food supplies were all random leftovers so we pieced things together. I began my morning with a hearty breakfast of oatmeal and icecream. What a combo huh! It was great. Oh, and two, maybe three slices of homemade bread from our church host was just what I needed to get started. Deliscious! The breakfast team also made some tasty pancakes on the griddle. Thanks guys! Trailer loaded and morning route and devotion shared (thanks Melissa), we set off to Vancouver. I was one of three sweepers alongside Geezerman himself, Tom Weber, and miss "chicker", Kristi Bowman. To clarify, to be chicked is to be passed by a girl. Haha. I’ve learned a lot of bike lingo on this trip. Anyway, I was really excited to see Tom back on the road as a cyclist, who does a lot of chicking himself, on his pink bike. For a few weeks, Tom served the team as a support driver, cheerleader, generous donor, resource person, Fuller Center ambassador…you name it, he does it. He is such an inspiration! So the ride began with a right turn onto a road with an 18 percent grade, the steepest hill of this nineweek trip! Poor Kristi turned into that road on a high gear. All I hear was, "crap", as she is forced to dismount her bike. Soon enough she is back on the saddle, spinning up that hill. Go Kristi! Tom was going strong too. We won’t mention any walking up the hill on this blog okay. Turn after turn, another hill. We all made it to the top and enjoyed some gentle downhills.
Aside from the hill climbing, the first 20 miles were great. The first rest stop was just shy of the border, where we had a second breakfast at a local cafe. To the border we rolled. We looked like a swarm of orange bees approaching the busy Canadian border. I’ve crossed the border more than a hundred times, going to Toronto from Philly, but this was the first in the West coast, AND, on a bike, with 20 other adventurous philanthropists. What an experience! We even had a border lane opened just for us. It was great.
Cleared at the border, we met our Canadian guides, Keith and Vic, who led us to the White Rock Beach, just a couple miles away, where we raced to the water like we just biked 3700 miles to get there. OYEE!!! We made it…ahhhh. What an amazing journey. Running, screaming, "zeromphfing", overhead bike poses shared by all. It was our moment, and it was beautiful. Melissa lead a reflection on our trip and prayed for each and every person that impacted our journey. I recalled so many fond memeories, as she recited the many many names of wonderful and generous people and churches we met along the way. Melissa then thanked each and every rider for their contribution to the trip. THANK YOU MELISSA for leading and organizing this extraorinary life experience. "Melissa Merrill, Oyee!", we shouted! The end.
Not quite. Little did we know that our trek to our host church in Vancouver would be another 70 kilometers. Riding through highways, small backsteeets, bridges, and bike paths throughout the city kept this long ride interesting. What a diverse place.
Finally, we made it to the church, after the longest day of the 9 week trip. And we were exhausted! We earned our stripes today!
I was especially surprised to see my sisters, Charisse and Aileen, and friend, Ellen, cheering for all the riders as we rolled in, one by one. The huge banner with my name, and my nephews’ handprints made me forget about all the aching muscles and sore bottom that compounded during the many weeks of long riding days. I am so blessed!
This whole journey and experience taught me so many things about myself and my limits, as well as ignited an increased passion for service. I’m so excited to be part of next year’s ride, especially since the route is from A… to A…! What’s your best guess Philly???