By Megan Alley
A local church pastor recently returned home from his 1,430-mile bicycle tour, which he did to raise money for his church’s biannual missions to a village in Colombia devastated by drug crimes.
Joe Royer, who has been with Emmanuel United Methodist Church in Batavia for eight years, left on his bike tour from Casper, Wyoming to Batavia on June 14, and he pedaled back into town on July 1.
He described the warm reception that greeted him when he returned, on bicycle, to the church.
“They were clapping, happy, they had banners out for me,” Royer said. “They got my favorite pizza, favorite cookies; I ate too much.”
Plans for Royer’s tour developed in the last year.
“I’ve got a friend that lives in Casper. I like to bike, and I made the half joke that I should bike from Casper to Cincinnati,” Royer said. “He’s like, ‘Yeah, you should go do that,’ so I actually started thinking about it seriously.”
Royer’s plans really came together when fellow parishioner Bill Maskiell offered to drive Royer’s support vehicle.
“So that’s when it was really born, was probably last June, when we had that conversation,” Royer said. “The fact that I was going to have a driver with me, in my mind, made it possible; that’s a big deal.”
Royer decided to use his bicycle tour as a fundraiser for the work the church does in Brisas del Mar – mission groups work to bring food and water to the community, which was destroyed by invasions of drug cartels.
All of the funds raised, which at last count was $10,0000, will go to help the church’s work in Brisas del Mar.
“We love the village in Brisas; we built a relationship with them, and they know who we are,” Royer said. “We have a legitimate connection with them, and it’s just our little corner of the world that we felt like we could make a better place.”
He added, “So, we’ve provided a lot of hope for that village … they’re so thrilled that we’re part of the rebuilding process down there.”
To prepare for the trip, Royer began a rigorous training regiment in January.
“I biked, biked and biked some more,” he said.
Royer lost 20 pounds, and got fitted for and purchased a new road bicycle.
In the days leading up to Royer’s departure, he stockpiled the support car with protein bars, water, Gatorade and bananas.
The Royer and Maskiell also made plans to stop over at a UMC each night, an arrangement which dictated how many miles Royer would ride each day – Royer’s shortest day was 77 miles, and his longest day was 142 miles.
Royer remembers that his first day on the road was “excellent.”
“I was pretty excited, plus being in Wyoming was beautiful, and the wind was behind me,” he said.
In contrast, Royer remembers the third day as being “brutal.”
“We saw the good and the bad in those first three days,” he added.
Royer calculated that he was on his bicycle seat for a total of 100 hours. He burned up about 9,000 calories a day and lost about six pounds on the trip.
While he rode, Royer thought about a lot of things, including family, church and the missions.
“A lot of it was mind games as well; psychological warfare,” he added.
As the two approached home, all they could focus on was finishing the trip.
“During the last two days, we were ready to be home,” Royer said. “That last day, you’re excited to be home, and it was a good day because you start to see roads that are familiar to you.”
Now that Royer’s home, it’s back to work. He’s focused on using the momentum of his bicycle tour, including utilizing all the connections he made along the way, to get people to help in Brisas del Mar in the future.
“One of the reasons I stopped at churches along the way is to try to expand on the interest of helping Brisas del Mar,” Royer said. “We’re really working to celebrate the results of this, not just the bike trip, but sending the team down and all that we’ve accomplished.”
To learn more about Royer’s trip, including ways to donate, visit the Emmanuel United Methodist Church’s website at http://emmanuel-umc.com.