Cadyville man nears end of 4,000-mile coast-to-coast bike ride

PLATTSBURGH The mission of one man and his church has taken him on a journey from coast to coast. The Rev. Bruce A. Overstreet, pastor of the North Country Alliance Church, visited with members of his congregation last Saturday after being away from them for more than two months. Overstreet is nearing the completion of a bicycle ride which has taken him from Clam Beach, Calif., back to the east cost in an effort to raise money for the Koutiala Women and Childrens Hospital in Mali, West Africa. The mission of the ride, which began May 26, was to raise as much as $1 million for the hospital. The facility is in desperate need of additional delivery and surgical space and new equipment to serve the abundant amount of women and children seen on a daily basis. The big concern Ive had all along has been the funds for the hospital, Overstreet said. I think its hard for people to get their heads around the needs of people in a foreign land theyve never been to before. But, its important to understand those people have kids just like we do that they love very much. While $1 million seems like a lofty goal, Overstreet said the idea was to aim high. Already, the church has received more than $25,000 in donations for the Bike for Mali fund, with pledges for thousands of more expected to be made good when he returns to Plattsburgh sometime this week. We set the goal at $1 million, which is rather audacious, but going across the country on a bicycle is audacious, too, Overstreet said. So, to me, it seemed like the two went hand in hand. Overstreets journey has taken him through the deserts of Nevada, the cornfields of Nebraska, the prairies of Iowa, and through other states such as Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, before reaching New York. While the pastor said there have been several memorable moments in his journey, perhaps the most was when he reached the continental divide at Monarch Pass in the Rocky Mountains. It was an emotional moment, Overstreet said. Once I got to the top of the pass, I had the sense that I could do the rest of this thing. Until that point, I was a little worried about making it over some of the high passes in Colorado, and that was the highest one. The experience was one just as inspirational for his friends back home, said the Rev. Tim Koffkey, assistant pastor of North Country Alliance Church. Its been very exciting, said Koffkey. Throughout the trip he has been sending some video clips back to us, so on Sunday mornings weve watched them as a congregation. Its exciting to be able to watch his progress across the United States. We do all we can to encourage and support him. While his parishioners were thousands of miles away, Overstreet wasnt alone on his trip. He was accompanied by his oldest son, Isaac, driving the family motor home from the beginning of his journey, and later joined by his wife, Cheryl, younger son, Jeremy, and daughter, Christina, once school was out for the summer. Having the support of his family was crucial, he said, as he faced a task that, even for an avid biker such as himself, was quite daunting. When you see the size of this country, you realize its a big country; its a long way across it, said Overstreet. You go across the deserts and you go across the mountain passes and you think, Can I do this? But, I maintained from the beginning that I needed to just focus on one day at a time. I went from this point to this point each day. Some of those days 20, in fact consisted of more than 100 miles on the road. One day, Overstreet biked more than 200 miles. In all, his journey to Plattsburgh brought him around the 3,900-mile mark, he said, all in a matter of about 50 days. During his interview last Saturday, Overstreet was gearing up to head back on the road Monday to complete his bike ride. His final stop, which he said he anticipated to reach Wednesday, was in Old Orchard Beach, a small town in Maine on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. He expects to return this weekend where he will likely take it easy for a few days, said Koffkey. Im glad to make it, but I have to admit, if we dont do fairly well with the financial end of it, itll leave a hollowness to some of it, Overstreet said. I really, really want to see this benefit the people of Mali. Theres a hope and excitement in them as theyve learned about [Bike for Mali]. I want that hope to come to a realization for them. Those interested in making a donation to the Bike for Mali fund or learn more about the North County Alliance Church mission may visit www.bikeformali.org or call the church at 324-5430.

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