Hamburg native bicycles over 3,000 miles for charity
After leaving the Peace Corps earlier than he anticipated, the 26-year-old Hamburg native found himself full of time but without a focus. He had three months to spare before his job as a youth leader for a Global Works service trip to Costa Rica began.
“I figured I could do nothing; I could get a job at a coffee shop briefly; or I could do something really meaningful,” Hines said.
He chose option number three.
Last Monday (June 20), Hines completed a three-month, 3,250 mile cross-country bicycle trip to raise money for Partners in Health, a non-profit organization that provides free and adequate health care to poor communities, especially those in Haiti.
He was inspired to raise money for the organization after reading “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” a biography on Partners in Health co-founder Dr. Paul Farmer.
Hines borrowed a friend’s bicycle and set off from Annapolis, Md. with the original goal of cycling 4,248 miles to raise $2,124 dollars — earning 50 cents per mile. Yet over the past few months, as severe weather racked the nation, Hines was forced to alter his route more than once.
While traveling through Tennessee, he realized he was heading straight into tornado weather. Luckily, Hines sought out a nearby friend’s house, where he took refuge as storms devastated the neighboring towns.
“It would have been a miserable night outdoors,” said Hines, putting it in terms that most would argue is an understatement.
In another instance, he found himself pedaling over 100 miles in a single day, as he tried to outrun the large wildfire tearing through eastern Arizona. He biked 50 miles through thick, dark smoke and 23 mph winds.
“I have no idea how I did it,” Hines admitted.
He set up camp in an evacuated town that night, waking himself up every hour to check the horizon for the glow of the approaching fire. “I was more scared that night than I had ever been in my life,” he noted.
But it was in those moments that Hines discovered personal truths, and additional purposes for his journey.
His experience taught him that he is more mentally and physically capable than he ever thought possible. He’s also learned that life has a funny way of always working itself out.
Help for Hines seemed to always come at the most fortuitous of times, whether in the form of a stranger’s cozy couch after a hard day’s ride, or a simple ‘thumbs up’ from passerby when his morale was in need of a boost.
At one point, Hines was bit on the leg by a dog and in need of medical attention. He called a woman who had earlier offered him a place to stay for the night. Although they had never met, the woman and her boyfriend drove over 30 miles to pick up Hines, take him into a hospital. They fed and cared for Hines for the remainder of the day.
“The hospitality, kindness and generosity I’ve been shown has been incredible,” said Hines in a blog post about the incident.
During the last few weeks of his trek, Hines decided to take himself “off the map.” He turned off his cell phone, stopped eating at diners and only slept outdoors.
This portion of the journey has served as a reflective, almost spiritual experience for him. Hines said that the down time taught him to live better in the present moment.
He also said that all the time spent “in his head” has caused him to think up “cheesy” bike metaphors for life.
“If you hate the uphills and just look forward to the downhills and to the day’s end, you miss out on the ride,” he said with a slight chuckle.
And yet, after all he endured and discovered on his life altering journey, he admitted that it was not so cheesy after all.
When Hines saw the San Diego coastline, his personal finish line, tears welled in his eyes.
“I felt relieved, exhausted, incredibly content and also proud,” he said.
Although the trip was both mentally and physically grueling for Hines, he said that anyone could do what he did, provided that one has enough determination. “Fulfillment is not out of reach. Stop making excuses and do what your heart aches for, and do it like the fate of the world depends on it, because it does.”
Although Hines has completed his journey, there is still time to donate to the cause. Go online and visit http://act.pih.org/page/outreach/view/haitiearthquake/bikewithhaiti to help continue Hines' mission.