North Park Bikers Finish Strong

Bikers end with their front wheels in the Atlantic Ocean

QUINCY, MA (August 18, 2008) – On Sunday, the six young adults parked their bikes with the front wheels standing in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and then jumped in to celebrate the completion of their cross-country journey that had taken them months to complete and raised thousands of dollars for two ministries.

“It didn’t feel like it was really happening until we were all in the water,” said Dylan Maysick, of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The cyclists – all of whom attend or recently graduated from North Park University - started their trek on May 24 in Redwood City, California, with the rear wheels of their bikes immersed in the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, they stopped at Evangelical Covenant Churches to discuss issues of social justice as well as raise funds for two ministries--ACIRFA Bikes and Spark Ventures, both of which serve the poor in Zambia.

The University sponsored the trip and paid the students’ expenses.

In addition to Maysick, the riders were Marcus Simmons of Longview, Texas; Matt Enquist, of Libertyville, Illinois; Eric Landin of Jamestown, New York; Andrea Buchanan of Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and Emily Johnson of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Landin, Buchanan, Johnson, and Enquist attended Evangelical Covenant Churches Covenant churches

They spent their last night at Covenant Congregational Church in Quincy, which had invited them and helped the riders finish in style. Members formed an 11-car motorcade and others lined parts of the route carrying signs to congratulate the six riders.

People participating in a walk to benefit breast cancer research who saw the church’s signs also applauded. The cyclists did make one last unexpected five-minute stop when they were surprised to find 20 residents of a local nursing home sitting on the front yard and cheering them on.

“It was so wonderful,” said Johnson.

The discussions with church members as well as encounters with others made the greatest impression on the students, they said. “I think people really want to be involved with things that are important,” said Buchanan. “That was really encouraging to me. I was struck by that.”

They also gained a deeper appreciation for the kindness of strangers – and from those they never would have expected. On the blog maintained by the cyclists throughout their trip, Enquist wrote of a time that a storm was approaching and they had no place to stay.

“When we rolled into New Raymer, CO, we were riding around town looking for a place to pitch some tents when a woman in a beat up old El Camino pulled up next to us and offered us a place to stay in the local 4H barn,” he wrote. “She flagged us over to the car with a Budweiser can in her hand hanging out of the car. We slept well indoors that night, listening to the rain crashing on the roof above us.”

The riders said they had no doubt about whether they would finish even though few of them had any experience of cycling long distances. “I was not a cyclist at all; I was a runner,” said Simmons.

The difference became quickly and painfully apparent. After the first day, Simmons blogged, “IT WAS HARD! IT HURT! I WANTED TO CRY!”

They would endure mountains, rain, heat, mechanical malfunctions, and even a gray squirrel and birds that attacked Simmons on separate occasions.

The only question as to whether they would finish came in Colorado when Johnson lost control of her bike on some gravel and suffered injuries that caused her to miss several days of riding with the rest of the team. The team decided to continue, however.

The riders also said they had learned to live more simply as they traveled with few possessions. Simmons said he would be giving away some of his when he returns to school. “I feel like they were a huge part of my identity. I don’t have to worry about those things.”

“It is such a blessing knowing that college-aged kids are joining us in the battle to defeat the mindset of poverty and bring the gospel from the pulpit of a bicycle,” said Vaughn Spethmann, a co-founder of ACIRFA and a member of Clairemont Covenant Church in San Diego, California. “It is amazing how God can unite us across a continent and across the globe to help those in need. We thank all the NPU students for letting the world know about how God is moving in Zambia through ACIRFA.”

The amount of money raised won’t be known for several weeks, but “It’s in the thousands,” said Rich Johnson, director of University Ministries and trip advisor.

Johnson, who also is the co-founder of Spark Ventures, praised the students. “People can feel overwhelmed and not know how to respond to issues,” he said. “They did something.”

To read the article done on the bikers in the Quincy Patriot Ledger, click here.