People with a desire to do good can accomplish just about anything if their hearts are in the right place.
Peoria residents Ian and Erin Long are proof of that.
A friend of theirs had been helping to build new homes for the poor in Rocky Point for about 10 years and a few years ago moved down there full time to continue that work with an organization called 1Mission.
Ian participated in one of their projects himself and came home with a desire to do more.
“We wanted to be supportive,” Ian said. “We thought, well, we could just write a check. But a check only goes so far. So how can we make this something bigger?”
And thus, 207 Miles was born. Two years ago, Ian and five others rode their bicycles from Peoria to Rocky Point, with pledges from family and friends going directly to 1Mission. Friday morning the third annual 207 Miles trip left town, this time with more than 30 riders.
The 207 Miles trip calls for a ride to Ajo on the first day, covering about 114 miles. On the second day, they ride the final 93 miles to Rocky Point.
Once they reach the border, Ian said they will be met by several Mexican riders, as well, to join them for the last leg of the trip. But why cycling?
“Because people don’t realize how close they are to this really crippling poverty,” Ian said. “Two-hundred miles is not that far. And also, to make a point about safety. By riding our bicycles down there, we are showing people it is safe to go down there and help.”
Sun City resident Becky Anderson said her husband and best friend participated in last year’s event and inspired her to try it herself.
“I’m doing the first day of the ride,” she said. “I did a triathlon in September, and I enjoyed the bike part of it so much that my husband talked me into doing this.”
Amanda Wolfe, an Ocotillo resident, is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Endurance group. She heard about 207 Miles through them and thought it was a great opportunity to do good work and get in a challenging ride. As she prepped her bicycle Friday morning and assembled her gear, she said she was feeling just the right mix of nerves and excitement.
“I’ve been doing triathlons for about three years now,” she said. “The longest I’ve ever done was a half-Iron Man, so we’ll see. I’ve never done a ride this long before.”
Aside from the distance, though, Ian said the characteristics of the route are favorable.
“It’s a nice, kind of downhill ride,” he said. “The longest climb only lasts a few miles, and it’s only about 700 feet. And you have the wind at your back all the way into Mexico, when the wind from the ocean can maybe give you some problems.”
The riders had support teams in vehicles to provide any assistance needed along the way and planned to take regular rest stops every few dozen miles. They traveled in two packs, one keeping a pace of about 18 miles per hour and another going 22-24 miles per hour. Erin said the first year they had six riders. Last year, they had 16. This year, 33 people signed up, with another 20 serving as volunteers.
“It’s very exciting because it’s getting bigger and bigger every year,” she said.
Ian said this year they have raised about $32,000 with more money still coming in, and he expects it to continue to grow exponentially.
“I’m really excited to see this thing gaining momentum. I look at what we’ve been able to accomplish and I’m so proud of everyone involved.”
Jeff Dempsey may be reached at 623-876-2531 or firstname.lastname@example.org.