This week, we will be bringing stories from our SEA-TRI-KAN bike riders who cycled across the state to raise awareness and support for World Relief’s refugee employment program. They rode from our office in Kent to our office in Tri-Cities, then finished at our office in Spokane.
Author Bill Roberson, recreational cyclist
On day 1 we left our homes with our first destination in mind: a Boy Scout Camp in the Cascades Mountains. After a lunch and celebration in the sun, our spirits were high! After a few challenging hills, some traffic situations, and our first rest stop, the rain began. We continued to climb to the camp and it got colder and wetter as we rode. Most riders were not prepared for the conditions and arrived at camp soaked and chilled to the bone. We hit the community showers, hung our soggy clothes up to dry, and spent the night in bunk beds.
I had the thought that this is analogous to refugees who leave their homes and flee to a refugee camp. There is relief from a bad situation, but the journey is harrowing and the camp can also be crowded and sometimes dangerous. I thought of those who spend not one night, but decades in such a camp.
On Day 2 we started in cool weather, heading up to the top of Chinook Pass. It was a challenging ride, with temperatures dropping to near freezing with heavy fog and light snow on the top. Not everyone made it on their own power. But shortly over the pass began our long, downhill ride. The sun came out and soon our clothes dried. A lot of smiles. One of the support vans broke down, which created a lot of challenges for the team.
Day 3 started out as a lovely sunny day with all the cyclists together. Unfortunately, my riding partner, a very experienced cyclist who was well-prepared for the ride hit a root and crashed. Since we were in a tight group it was a miracle that no one else went down. While he took an ambulance to the hospital, the rest continued on, but with much greater caution. After seeing him safely to the hospital I rejoined the ride and joined a different group of riders. When discouraged they would begin to name all of the things they were thankful for. How cool?! I learned a lot. Spent the night in a hotel! Lovely! A surprise massage! How wonderful!
When refugees make their way to a new country for resettlement it can be a challenging journey. They cannot make it on their own. Upon arrival, life seems much better, but unforeseen challenges will always come up. When disaster strikes, it takes the help of others to get them back on track. And small acts of kindness go a long way!
Day 4 was our longest day at 113 miles. Back-to-back long days are a challenge for anyone! Some of the cyclists showed real grit to knock off the miles. Everyone needed encouragement to get through. There were flat tires and mechanical issues, but everything was handled well with the support of Steve (bike mechanic extraordinaire!). The forecasted strong winds appeared, but for the most part, they were tailwinds! Hallelujah!
With only 79 miles left, Day 5 felt like an “easy” day. The group was now hardened to challenges. With the goal in sight, thunderstorms with lightning rolled in and some of the group even had to seek shelter from hail! For safety reasons, we loaded up into the vehicles and drove the last couple of miles to finish our journey at World Relief Spokane.
Refugees are a very resilient people. They face challenges with determination that comes from experience. Even with the “end” in sight, it’s never easy. Assistance to meet education goals, get better jobs, find better homes, and make a better life for their children is like a “tailwind” of support from agencies and volunteers. As they work through things on their own, they are not doing it alone.
Overall, I was happy to do SEA-TRI-KAN. The funds raised will be put to good use by World Relief to support employment opportunities for refugees facing enormous challenges. Separating from my dear friend and riding partner early in the journey was disappointing, but it encouraged me to get to know the other riders much better. Our short journey was a major challenge for all of the riders. The tenacity and perseverance show by so many to overcome significant obstacles was truly inspiring.