Liz Wurster finishes a coast-to-coast bicycle trip
By Liz Wurster
For The Salisbury Post
Oh, these legs. They’ve gotten me into trouble and they’ve scrambled me out of it. They’ve kicked alongside sharks in the Great Barrier Reef and stood upon icebergs in the vast wonderland of Patagonia. They’ve salsaed it up in the clubs of Colombia and they’ve weaved their way through nearly millennia-old ruins. They’ve chased after bad dogs (and boys) and wandered the terrain of nearly 40 different countries. But this past summer, these legs took me somewhere I’d never been.
For the first time, thanks to some very memorable kids down in Peru, my boyfriend Conor and I turned our foreign-focused wanderlust inward and these legs, plus a bicycle, carried us 3,200 miles over nine states, through mountain passes and flooded farm roads, mud paths and raging interstates. They pedaled us past road kill ranging from alligators to mountain lions, past Native American reservations and bustling cities, national parks and trailer parks, past Hummers and Priuses, run-down shacks and sprawling mansions with oceanside vistas.
They passed Californian surfer dudes and Texas cowboys, people who lived the charmed life and people who could no longer be charmed, people with hope and people without. These legs persevered through hailstorms and 20-mile-an-hour headwinds, they endured a few less than kind shouts, some pretty bad sunburn and soreness, and they just kept on trucking.
We ran into our fair share of doubters before this trip began. Even those who know me well (and therefore know I rarely say I will do something and don’t) thought that, even for these legs, this was just too much. People urged me to carry a gun (after my mother’s constant cajoling, I finally purchased some pepper spray, but the closest I came to using it was on some questionably rabid dogs on the back roads of Mississippi). They said that we would go insane traversing nearly 1,000 miles in Texas (I cried when we left Texas!), they insisted that we had to train for at least three months to even THINK about attempting a feat as brazen as this, and I even had one friend tell me she hoped I broke my ankle while snowboarding this past season because that was the only way to foil this doomed plan.
Perhaps there were a few who, in the deepest darkest corners of their mind, actually wanted us to fail. Because dreaming big is tiring, it’s a package better left unopened. And besides, nobody likes a show-off.
But these legs had faith, and somehow once on the road, they were able to awaken in nearly every person we encountered some sort of humanity. Some innate goodness, it seemed, was magically and spontaneously implanted in individuals who came upon us (perhaps because we had bicycles laden with over 100 pounds of gear, were sweating profusely and panting like dogs). From fresh-over-the-Mexican-border immigrants to a woman we ran in to at a gas station in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s, we were offered food, lodging and kindness, and usually in the times we needed it most.
Now, realistically, perhaps it was the naysayers who were right, perhaps the odds were against us, perhaps reason would tell us to back down before it was too late. But there is a place that resides in the soul that doesn’t listen to reason, but responds to a deeper calling. It was this place, I believe, that was touched in people when they came across us, pumping our way across this vast, HOT country because of some very strong convictions, and it was this place in me that had the idea, last year, sitting in a kitchen of a very special home in Lima, Peru, to pull this outrageous stunt in order to get the attention that could raise some much-needed funds for such a wonderful place.
I knew that these legs had to work the hardest they’d ever worked to make up for the failing lungs, malnourished body or absent eyesight ó just a few of the disorders plaguing the roughly 60 children at the hogar (home, in Spanish). These legs had to utilize all the benefits that I’ve had throughout my life to better the life of someone who doesn’t even know those benefits exist.
So just when I thought these legs were bogged down with enough of my harebrained ideas, they surprised me. They took on the added weight of children who couldn’t hold their own.
Editor’s note: It’s not too late to donate. Checks can be made out to Villa La Paz Foundation (the tax ID number for Villa La Paz, Inc. is 59-2344266). The Internal Revenue Service recognizes Villa La Paz, Inc. as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization and all donations are tax deductible.
If you have any questions about the hogar or sending donations, check out Liz and Conor’s Web site, www.getjealous.com/conorbolger.
Checks may be mailed to Liz’s mother, Jean Wurster, 504 Camelot Dr, Salisbury, NC 28144.