Coast To Coast Cy­cling Tour Takes On Poverty

Escalon Times - - FRONT PAGE - By MARG JACK­SON mjack­son@escalon­times.com

Back in 2013, Escalon res­i­dent Joann Van Vliet did some­thing she never thought she would do – join a bi­cy­cle tour, rid­ing coast to coast.

Not only did she do it once; now the lo­cal has done it again.

This time, the tour took her north of the bor­der, with most of the ride done in Canada. In 2013, the Sea to Sea tour was across the United States, spend­ing 10 days in Canada. This year, it was just the op­po­site, with the tour across Canada, dip­ping down into the U.S. for 10 days.

The ul­ti­mate goal of the ride is to end poverty, with rid­ers rais­ing funds to par­tic­i­pate, ei­ther through their own fi­nanc­ing or get­ting do­na­tions and spon­sor­ships along the way. Each rider must raise $12,000 and Van Vliet said many raise more than that min­i­mum.

“It was nine-and-a-half weeks,” Van Vliet said of the tour, which started on the west­ern coast of Canada and con­tin­ued across to the east coast. Rid­ers dip their bi­cy­cle tires at both ends of the ride, the sym­bolic start and end to the jour­ney.

“I left in 111-de­gree weather,” Van Vliet added of the start date in June. “We rode in mostly 70 to 80-de­gree weather and some­times at night, it was cold.”

But the lo­cal res­i­dent is not com­plain­ing … she is just still some-

what as­tounded by the fact that she made it through … again.

“It was the Lord,” she said, in­di­cat­ing that her faith and the sup­port she felt from her church fam­ily at Escalon Chris­tian Re­formed Church were al­ways with her. “I have never felt so sup­ported. I woke up with a smile ev­ery day.”

She did suf­fer a few in­juries along the way but noth­ing that kept her from ped­al­ing an av­er­age of 80 miles per day with the rest of the group. Her hands are fi­nally start­ing to get some feel­ing back in them, af­ter weeks of grip­ping han­dle­bars, and she still has trou­ble with a ‘drop foot’ but that also is some­thing she feels will even­tu­ally be back to nor­mal.

“We had a re­ally good direc­tor this time,” Van Vliet ex­plained of the tour, which had rid­ers get­ting from Point A to Point B dur­ing the day, then stop­ping for the night at a spot where they could eat, sleep and recharge. “Com­pared to 2013, it was much more or­ga­nized. We rode Mon­day through Satur­day, wher­ever we ended up on Satur­day, we stayed un­til Mon­day.”

Sun­days were a day for do­ing laun­dry, fix­ing any­thing wrong with the bike, hope­fully find­ing a lo­cal church … Van Vliet said the rid­ers were sup­ported all along the way by the Cana­dian peo­ple and those in the U.S. when they made the trip south into the states.

“Fifty-two of us rode the whole way,” she said of the cross coun­try ad­ven­ture.

Oth­ers were able to join for a por­tion of the ride, tak­ing part in a spe­cific leg or for a spe­cific time frame. More in­for­ma­tion is avail­able on seatosea.org.

Van Vliet noted that roughly 90 per­cent of the time, the rid­ers did not have ac­cess to the In­ter­net but she was able to post up­dates from her phone, uti­liz­ing Face­book and shar­ing photos along the way.

“I felt prayed for,” she re­it­er­ated, and said that rid­ers of­ten were held up in prayer when they were able to at­tend lo­cal church ser­vices.

The ride started in Van­cou­ver and ended in Hal­i­fax and rid­ers were able to help Canada mark its 150th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion on July 1 as well. The ride be­gan on June 26 and ended Aug. 29. Van Vliet, who works part-time for both Escalon Com­put­ers and Ve­lociter, said she was blessed to have un­der­stand­ing bosses that al­lowed her the free­dom to take on the Cana­dian tour.

“There are 10 prov­inces in Canada, we hit nine of them,” she said.

New­found­land was the only prov­ince rid­ers did not visit.

“We left as a group, at 7 a.m., we started each day with The Lord’s Prayer and I just al­ways felt pro­tected,” said Van Vliet, who sur­vived be­ing run off the road three times by ve­hi­cles, hav­ing a rock fly up from the road­way and strike her hel­met and also es­caped ma­jor in­jury in a nasty fall.

“Some­times I felt like I was rid­ing through a mine­field,” she ad­mit­ted.

There were a to­tal of 135 rid­ers tak­ing part along the way, with the 52 in­volved for the en­tire Sea To Sea. There were also a hard-work­ing group of vol­un­teers that pre­pared meals and paved the way ahead to make sure rid­ers had a place to stop each night.

The cy­cling ef­fort is part of World Re­new, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that aims to help peo­ple in un­der­de­vel­oped coun­tries learn to help them­selves, pro­vid­ing he frame­work for self-suf­fi­ciency.

“The goal is aware­ness to end the cy­cle of poverty,” Van Vliet said.

The next time she gets in­volved, it will likely be as a vol­un­teer, not a rider.

“I’m not a cy­clist, my bike just sits for most of the year,” Van Vliet said. “I’m kind of still in awe … if it’s the Lord’s will, you can do it.”

Bi­cy­clists in the Sea to Sea ride across Canada, in­clud­ing Escalon res­i­dent Joann Van Vliet, were there on July 1 when the coun­try marked its 150th an­niver­sary.

MARG MARG JACK­SON JACK­SON /THE TIMES

Tak­ing time to look through some photos of her mem­o­rable tour across Canada, Joann Van Vliet has twice done the Sea to Sea ride.

Rais­ing her bike tri­umphantly over her head, Joann Van Vliet ends the Sea to Sea cy­cling tour in Hal­i­fax on Aug. 29; it started in Van­cou­ver on June 26.

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