When I was 12, I began taking long rides on my bike as a way of getting out of a tension-filled house – the solitude, the beauty, and the adventure were a comfort to me, as was the simple rhythm of peddling along. By the time I was a freshman at Purdue University, I was riding home for the weekend: 180 miles round trip. After college, I took a 2,000 mile solo ride up the East Coast.
I have very fond memories of those long trips, of having the time to think about God and my place in creation, especially of seeing the Spirit at work in chance encounters along the way. Long before cell phones and ATM cards, I had to depend on the kindness of strangers from time to time, and it was always there when I needed it. I believe that, at heart, people everywhere want to do the right thing.
With the pressures of graduate school and then work, I pretty much hung up my bicycle – literally: my 30-year-old road bike was just hanging unused on the garage wall back in late 2011 when the idea of riding to DC first crossed my mind. That old bicycle means a lot to me, and taking it down to Freeze-Thaw Cycles to get it repaired felt right.
I was far less certain, however, that I could get this 50-year-old body back into riding shape. When I first went out on my old bike, I couldn’t believe how far down the handlebars seemed! Whereas I once sought out speed, whipping down hills (with no helmet, of course), I now was fairly skittish moving at anything faster than 15 mph. But I knew it was worth it: I needed to DO something about climate change and riding my bicycle to DC seemed perfect.
I’m not a “chain myself to the White House gate” kind of guy, but I’m seriously concerned about climate change. Scientists tell us we have about 10 years to get our emissions under control to avoid the most catastrophic consequences, but carbon dioxide in the atmosphere keeps increasing.
This is now our third annual ride, and I’m starting to see signs of hope. People are moving from apathy to action, and more people of faith are taking the lead. We have a long way to go, but the more we reach out to one another, the easier it will be.
Some days, responding to climate change seems like an impossible task – there is so much to do and so little time – but the rhythm of the peddling helps. Like that anxious 12-year-old kid, I am calmed by the slow steady progress up yet one more hill. By the time we reach Washington, I have stories to tell: of solar panels in the fields, of congregations in need, of the endless hope of youth.
Is it enough? No. But I’m not alone: I have six friends joining me this year, seven others came along in previous years, and over one hundred people have donated thousands of dollars to support these efforts. Plus, PA IPL is just one of many such organizations. So thanks for reading this and helping to make a difference – climate change is the challenge of our generation, and I know we will prevail; we must.
Donate online to PA IPL in support the PA-to-DC riders (or send a check, memo: bike 2014 to PA IPL 2100-C East College Ave., State College, PA 16801)
(training ride group photo is missing Dorothy Blair, and adds Ola Sodeinde)