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 somewhat 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.”