With Wellinski, a tour of perseverance for all

A selfie by biking Bob Wellinski.

WNLP editor’s note: Tour de La Porte, the annual biking, running and walking event, began in 2002 with cycling alone. The two-day event now includes several running events ranging from a 5K run/walk to a half marathon. This year on Sunday morning, Aug. 22, bicyclists hit the roads with a choice of courses ranging from 5 miles to 100 miles. Proceeds help provide care for local cancer patients and now also benefit another worthy cause, the YMCA’s Scholarship and LiveStrong Cancer Survivorship Programs. Wellinski chose the 40-mile route for what turned out to be a thought-provoking ride.    

Column and photos by WNLP’s Bob Wellinski

(Click photos to enlarge)

“When trying to tackle those steep hills, focus on keeping your speed above 5 mph. Although it may not seem like it, you’re still making progress.” That was the advice given to me by an avid bicyclist as we sat under the shelter of a canopy from the hot summer sun, rehydrating ourselves with refreshing water. We had just finished a hilly and grueling third leg of the Tour de LaPorte’s 40-mile bike route and were preparing for the fourth and final leg.

Tour de LaPorte is an opportunity for people to get out and enjoy a ride through the scenic countryside. But for many, including myself, the ride is also an opportunity to unite with a loved one who is battling cancer.

Normally I would be pedaling alongside others, including my brother Steve. This year I found myself flying solo. It was an opportunity to reflect … a spiritual retreat on wheels, if you will.

Throughout most of the ride I was thinking about writing a column that centered on the deeper sense of why I decided on the 40-mile route … until that architect/bicyclist said those simple but transcendental words.

Heat, hills and … well, to be honest, lack of training were taking their toll. The majority of the ride was smooth until those hills, especially in the later miles.

Life’s road is full of hills, some small, others much steeper. I’ve seen firsthand the hills cancer patients battle daily. Greg, Ian, Chrissie, to name a few … the list is much longer. I bring up cancer as the Tour de La Porte was founded in assisting cancer patients and their families. But each and every one of us encounters hills daily. Physical, mental, financial, family and career struggles present hills from time to time. But we can sure get comfortable on those smooth roads with the wind at our back on the other side of those hills where we can coast at great speeds. Life is sure good then.

Hills sure make us uncomfortable and tired. They push us to our limits, and at times, we doubt if the ascent will ever end and question if we have enough strength to make the summit.

The key seems to be in the bicycling advice I received. “When trying to tackle those steep hills, focus on keeping your speed above 5 mph. Although it may not seem like it, you’re still making progress.” Keep a steady pace. Stay focused on your forward motion, not the hill. Although it may feel like no ground is being gained, “keep your speed above 5 mph … you’re still making progress.”

I did have to ask myself, “Why did I choose the 40?” The question arose in my mind not after the majority of the miles had passed, but shortly after I started, while I was still pretty fresh-legged. I could have pedaled alongside friends on the 15- or 25-mile routes, even considered the 60-mile route a few times, but something was calling me to the 40. For me, the purpose of the ride is to unite some “suffering” with those who suffer from the effects of cancer on a daily basis, while still enjoying a Sunday bike ride with hundreds of other bicyclists, ranging from the young to the young at heart.

I wasn’t too far out, actually on Small Road near CR-500W, flanked by fields of corn stalks, when the number 40 became more than just the length of a bike route. Although the number 40 is referenced in the Bible several time, two in particular came to mind: The 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert, and the Jews’ journey through the desert for 40 years to the Promised Land.

There were times the ride seemed like it was lasting about 40 years! But in reality, don’t we find ourselves wandering in the desert at times? It was at this time I happened to look down and see a lone shadow on the asphalt below me. How many of the Jews looked down only to see a lone shadow during their journey? How many cancer patients, homeless, our neighbors, etc., look down only to see a lone shadow during their journeys? For nearly a year we were quarantined due to the pandemic. I think during that time we realized how much we need each other. We need to rely on each other, especially when climbing those hills of life.

Unlike the journey through the desert, where there were no pit stops, bicyclists had the opportunity to stop at SAG locations for a short break and were treated to goodies and drinks. It was an opportunity to gather as a community of people with a common interest. But there another element to SAG stops … the volunteers who gave of their time to serve. Pure joy and happiness filled the atmosphere as they provided nourishment for our bodies so we could press on for the rest of the journey.

There were a couple of times I thought I had bitten off more than I could chew with the 40-mile route — or as the saying goes, “my eyes may have been bigger than my stomach.” (Or legs, in this case.) Although I was determined, and reasonably confident, that I was going to finish, there were times when it appeared I wasn’t making any ground with what was on my plate. I’m sure there are many of us who feel we have too much on our plates. After a while we start feeling as if we just can’t take another bite. How can we help someone whose plate is too full of challenges? Or if it is our plate that’s too full, can we humble ourselves to ask for help?

All in all, keep it above 5 mph, or take one bite at a time … remember, you’re making progress.

5 Responses to “With Wellinski, a tour of perseverance for all”

  1. LSG

    Sep 07. 2021

    Great article that touched my heart!! Really enjoyed it…..thank you Bob!!

    Reply to this comment
  2. Wendy Montorsi

    Sep 07. 2021

    Excellent Article Bob!

    Reply to this comment
  3. Linda Strain

    Sep 07. 2021

    Great article Bob and nice perseverance.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Julie Kessler

    Sep 07. 2021

    Bob, your writing just keeps getting better and better! What a great column. It could also serve as a sermon. You rock!

    Reply to this comment
  5. Ruth Livergood

    Sep 07. 2021

    Dear Bob,
    I enjoyed your article, text and pictures. I like that you have some Christian interjections, and some realistic observations. Keep pedalling, teaching, writing and photographing. You do such awesome work! Sincerely, RL

    Reply to this comment

Leave a Reply to LSG