The FREEDOM TOUR grew out of a life-changing experience called RICH'S RIDE.
Rich’s Ride grew out of a longstanding personal dream, the next chapter in a developing story of hope and God's faithfulness. It was supposed to be a one-time deal. God chuckles when we tell Him our plans.
This video tells the original story of Rich's Ride:
Rich's Ride received inspiration from three sources.
The first was a movie titled The Bucket List, the story of two cancer survivors who embark on a series of adventures, life-long ambitions to be accomplished before they “kick the bucket.”
The whole point of a bucket list involves acknowledging that time is limited. We tend to put off important adventures, waiting for a better time, until we suddenly realize that it may be too late. That “better time” never arrives and we’re left with wishes and regrets.
Source #2 was the reality that during 2011 my age once again ended in “0.” Age may be only a number, but it’s also a stark reminder that I don’t have forever to follow my dreams.
Ever since I began hand cycling in 1999 I harbored the dream of an extended cross-country ride. I did a few “virtual” versions in Fort Collins—1000 miles in a summer, 1250 miles to raise funds for a friend’s cancer treatments, and 3000 miles in 2010. But I never mustered the courage to tackle the real thing.
Don Miller tipped the balance with his book titled A Million Miles In A Thousand Years. He talked about analyzing his life as a story, realizing it wasn’t as interesting as it might be, and resolving to write a better story going forward.
The context for Million Miles was Don’s cross-country bike ride. As I read, I felt like he was personally challenging me. When I finished reading Million Miles, I told my wife it was time to stop making excuses and start writing a better story.
Don said an interesting story involves a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it. And since we tend to avoid conflict, the story requires an inciting incident, an event that forces the character to change or move.
In story lingo, Don’s book was the final inciting incident in the story of RICH’S RIDE and our 1500-mile handcycle journey along the Mississippi River. Million Miles prompted me to confront the fear and the self-imposed limits. The dream’s invitation sat squarely before me, and I could no longer ignore it. I had to say Yes or No. It was time to do it or let it go.
On that original ride I cranked 1500 miles in about eight weeks, roughly along the Mississippi River north-to-south. We turned the event into a fund-raiser for a wonderful cause and spoke to groups about hope and dreams along the way. As you can see, it wasn't quite as simple as jumping on the bike and taking off.
A guy with more sense would have dropped the whole silly notion, but I’ve rarely been accused of displaying common sense. Why start now?
A story involves a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it. That notion resonates with me—I’ve been through that cycle a few times.
- I wanted to get my life back after a spinal cord injury caused permanent paralysis. I mostly had to overcome my own resistance and depression to find the path God had in mind. It only took ten years!
- I wanted to exercise. I discovered hand cycling and cranked a thousand miles in one summer.
- I wanted to re-connect with a lady I hadn’t seen or talked to in over twenty years. Fear, anxiety, and distance gave way and made room for a wonderful marriage.
- I wanted to tell my story, so I published Relentless Grace. I was a math teacher with no writing experience—amazing what happens when you get your self-imposed limitations out of the way and let God work.
One thing about interesting stories, though, is that even a string of good ones doesn’t guarantee continued interest. Even the best character has to keep seeking and confronting challenges. So Rich's Ride is about a new chapter, the next obstacle.
We thought 1500 miles was enough, but God had other ideas.
So we did a bunch of other tours that prepared us to invite others to follow their own big dreams. In 2013 we hung up a sign and invited people to join us on a bike ride. A few brave souls accepted, and the FREEDOM TOUR was born.
Follow along. Join the circle.
Who knows? Maybe somewhere along the way you'll figure out how you want to re-write your own story.
The journey continues.