Cyclists in Thompson Falls Saturday were ‘pedaling with a purpose’

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Jared Chad fixes his tire at a water stop as he and 29 othe cyclists approach Dixon on their cross-country Journey of Hope. (Marla Hall/Clark Fork Valley Press)

Montana is a popular destination for cyclists who want to experience the beauty of nature up close, but some of those cyclists also ride for other motivations. This year marks the 30th anniversary that members of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, from chapters across the country, have pedaled across the U.S. working to raise funds for “The Ability Experience,” which supports people with disabilities. The 38-member team—30 riders plus eight crew, that was making its way from Thompson Falls to Missoula on Saturday is one of three cohorts traversing from the West to the East coast. The fraternity anticipates raising $650,000 through their “Journey of Hope” philanthropy this year.

As they make their way from Seattle to Washington D.C., the group will by pedaling an average of 75 miles per day completing the 4,300 miles by August 12. Along the way, they will be overnighting in church basements, high school gyms and YMCAs, and of course, there will be a few days off to rest and relax during the 68-day adventure. The highlight for this group so far has been a “Friendship Visit” in Sandpoint, Idaho. Sandpoint is a stop every year and there the residents welcome the “Journey of Hope” cyclists warmly, lining up along the bike route and then mixing with the riders for lunch, dancing, karaoke, and other festivities.

Despite months of weight lifting and miles upon miles of biking to prepare for the journey--and despite their youth--the cyclists said that nothing could really have prepared them for the long days of pedaling. Frank D’Amico from Virginia Tech went so far as to admit, “My butt hurts a lot!” The others, although they chuckled at his revelation, seemed to be sharing his pain. That was not a deterrent to their enthusiasm and dedication to the mission, however, as they soon hopped right back on their bikes and continued on their way.

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