With a strong wind at his back, Eras Van Zyl rolled down Main Street on Friday, completing his mission to help the Fort Macleod Handibus Society.
The Trinity United Church minister, who cycled 315 kilometres to Fort Macleod from Kimberley, B.C. was welcomed by supporters cheering and holding a banner.
“I’m feeling very strong,” Rev. Van Zyl said as he dismounted from his bicycle in front of The Macleod Gazette. “It was much easier than I expected.”
Rev. Van Zyl averaged 34 kilometres an hour on his journey, reaching a top speed of 54 km-h near Pincher Creek.
If the ride was easier than he expected, fund-raising also went better than anticipated in support of repairs to the present handibus and eventual purchase of a new bus.
A $5,000 donation from the Fort Macleod Lions Club has pushed the total to more than $16,000 that will go to the handibus society.
“I thought that if I could raise $5,000 I would be happy,” Rev. Van Zyl said. “God bless people.”
With handibus society president David Hughes providing support in a pickup hauling a camper, Rev. Van Zyl set out Wednesday morning from Kimberley.
The first leg of the ride went so well that when they arrived in Fernie, their objective for the first day, Rev. Van Zyl decided to push on to Sparwood.
The next day presented the cyclist with the biggest challenge of his journey.
“The uphill ride from Sparwood,” Rev. Van Zyl said. “All the way to Pincher Creek, it’s uphill all the way.”
When Rev. Van Zyl reached the top of the mountain pass after Sparwood, he paused to admire the view and phone his wife Lynne.
During that pause, Rev. Van Zyl thought of a quote one of his mentors often used: “It’s your attitude, not your aptitude, that will determine your altitude.”
Rev. Van Zyl spent seven hours on his bike on Wednesday and another 5 1/2 hours on Thursday.
That left a short 1 1/2-hour jaunt Friday to Fort Macleod from Pincher Creek. Rev. Van Zyl was so far ahead of schedule he waited about 90 minutes just outside of Fort Macleod so he could be on time for his reception.
“I didn’t realize the ride would go so quickly,” Rev. Van Zyl said. “I could have been here last (Thursday) night.”
Rev. Van Zyl paid tribute to David Hughes for his support on the ride.
“He’s been wonderful,” Rev. Van Zyl.
Hughes repaid the compliment.
“It was absolutely awesome,” Hughes said. “Not only for the handibus, but it was also a great feat for Eras.”
The fund will get a further boost later this month when Trinity United Church hosts a performance by the Masters Singers.
Proceeds from the concert at 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23 will go to the handibus society. Admission is by a free will offering.
Rev. Van Zyl is already looking forward to next year, when he plans another fund-raising ride.
“What I would like to do next year is a ride for Kids First Family Centre and get other bikers in town involved,” Rev. Van Zyl said.
Rev. Van Zyl will approach people from other churches in Fort Macleod to have a representative in the ride.
“I would like to try and get us all together and plan a ride for next year.”