By Steve Woodhouse The Chronicle
The Pella Chronicle
---- — The day after Pella welcomed 20,000 RAGBRAI® riders to town, another group of riders – who are crossing all of America, not just Iowa – spent the night and found the generosity they hope to spread nationwide.
The Sea to Sea bicycle tour to end poverty began in Los Angeles, Calif., on June 21. With over 100 participating riders and 220 people involved overall, it is believed to be the largest cross-continental bicycle ride in history. Along the way, the riders hope to raise funds and awareness of poverty in America.
The ride hopes to raise $1.5 million. This is the third Sea to Sea ride, with the previous two being held in 2005 and 2008.
With the assistance of sponsoring partners, including the Christian Reformed Church, the ride includes a trailer with a full kitchen. Al DeKock, ride organizer, said the Reformed Church’s ties to Pella helped lead them to an overnight stop there. While in town, DeKock said the organization planned to hold a meeting on the square and spend time volunteering at Bibles for Missions.
The stop in Pella was a treat to the riders, who are used to camping. Central College opened its doors to the riders, allowing them to use dormitories and showers on campus. Even though they had the chance to sleep indoors, some of the riders were still observed setting up tents.
DeKock said some of them just enjoy sleeping outdoors, even after riding 70-100 miles in a day. All of those miles, through various kinds of terrain and weather, can also take its toll on a bicycle.
Danita Blowers of Geneva, N.Y., was having trouble with her bike as she pulled into Pella. She had hoped to get to Oskaloosa to have some repairs done, but, with RAGBRAI going on, all bicycle shops and mechanics were unavailable. Her next option was Iowa City.
Blowers realized she needed a new bike. While she was discussing this issue at a local restaurant, Larry and Rosie DeVries overheard her plight.
When Blowers went into Iowa Bike and Fitness to purchase a new bike, she was told that the DeVries family had told the shop that they would cover the cost up to $1,000. Blowers said that when she was told about the donation, she was overwhelmed.
“Things like this just don’t happen to me,” she said. The 24-year-old said it was another way God showed her that He is looking out for her. “I don’t think I have words for it.”
Larry DeVries said the family was glad to help her. He has been tremendously blessed and feels obligated and inspired to help out others when he can.
Blowers, who works on her family farm with her father and two brothers, said she has been smiling the entire route. She decided to take part in the ride because “God placed it on (her) heart.”
Another entire family was encouraged to do the same. Larry and Sherry, along with sons Eric, Joel and John, of Kalamazoo, Mich., are riding as a family. Eric and Larry had ridden on the 2008 ride and thought bringing the entire family along this year would be fun.
“I think it’s a great way to support mainstream agencies,” Larry said of the ride. As for how the ride is going for the family, he added, “The boys are doing great. Mom’s surviving.”
Riders are of all ages and various backgrounds. One of the commonalities is the ability to take seven weeks out of their lives to participate. They ride six days a week and rest on the seventh.
There have been a few weather issues along the way, including 120-mile per hour winds in Phoenix, Ariz., and heavy rain in Gallup, N.M., that washed out the road.
DeKock said there have been no serious injuries on the ride. He is encouraged by the number of dedicated Christians who are not only on the ride itself, but whom have offered assistance and support along the way.
DeKock believes that most of the riders have decided that, when the ride is over, so are the hardships of the road. While they can put this challenge behind them, those in poverty cannot.