Special to The Morning Star
Standing with his feet in the cool Pacific Ocean for the first time ever, Regan Gray, 23, experienced an extreme sense of bitter sweetness. Under the banner of Ride 2012, Gray and his wife Amanda, 24, had just completed four weeks of cycling from Winnipeg to Vancouver.
Cyclists participating in Ride 2012 passed through Vernon July 27 and 28 as part of week three of a four-week cycle tour across Canada. They cycled on paved roads from Winnipeg to Vancouver for six days a week, for up to four weeks. There were also a number of motorcycle routes, the longest of which was a 2,800 km, week-long ride from Winnipeg to Vancouver in July.
Ride 2012 was an initiative of The Christian and Missionary Alliance Church in Canada, in conjunction with several other denominations, to raise awareness and provide resources for planting and supporting inner city churches in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto. Riders were encouraged to raise sponsorship for each day or week of participation. Vernon Alliance Church’s VAC River Riders team has set a goal to raise $10,000 for The River Church of Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, by the end of December 2012.
Each day, riders were given the opportunity to either ride a long course route or a short course route. Gray explains that for the short route, riders would be driven to a point about 70 to 80 kilometers from the final destination and bike from there.
Regan experienced an “exceptionally humbling” low point of the ride when he had to miss two days of the ride due to a knee injury. However, the short route option from Medicine Hat to Brooks helped to get him back on track.
A list of more than 50 Vernonites volunteered their time during the local stop to provide a warm reception, satisfying meal and billets for the night and to join the ride for a short distance. After cycling a gruelling 155 km from Revelstoke on July 27, riders arrived in Vernon. After a quick swim in the Recreation Complex pool, the cyclists enjoyed a dinner at Vernon Alliance Church, prepared by one of the congregation’s small groups. The cyclists appreciated the chance for a good rest and some got to watch a replay of the day’s Olympics opening ceremonies with their billets.
The following day, the cyclists continued for 75 km on to Kelowna. VAC River Riders’ Steve Witvoet, a Vernon physiotherapist, cycled with the group from Revelstoke to Kelowna. Two more members of the team, Caleb Kermociev and Gerry Malnis, joined in Vernon and finished the trip with the rest of the group in Vancouver.
One of the highlights for Regan included “the hill of a lifetime” between Abbotsford and Mission right at the end of a 130 km day, which they instantly baptised Mission Hill.
“It hurt, but it was a good hurt,” said Regan, who also loved the view after conquering Roger’s Pass and the orchards and lakes of the Okanagan Valley.
Regan found the people of Ride 2012 the most inspiring, including the host churches, the support and gear team and his fellow riders. Amongst them were Shirley Polson, a remarkable woman from Calgary, who had only started cycling in her 60s and participated in Ride 2012 from Calgary to Kelowna. Polson celebrated her 83rd birthday the day after they arrived in Kelowna.
“She rode with such determination and strength, it was absolutely astounding…She did all the mountain passes – including Roger’s Pass.”
The Grays felt sad to be done with this memory-filled trip. Return to their normal daily life will mean Regan entering his second year as medical student of the University of Manitoba and Amanda returning to her job as a nurse at the Graceland Hospital, Winnipeg.
“Suffering in the saddle for God’s kingdom has changed our lives and here’s to believing it will change the lives of countless others,” said Regan.
For more information on Ride 2012 or to make a donation, visit www.ride2012.ca. Donations can be made directly to the Ride 2012 project or by searching for the VAC River Riders to donate to the Vernon team.