Sparks, Roise finish their cycling journey

The more than 2,000-mile journey halfway across the United States is finished for Syd Sparks and his ride-mate, Stephen Roise.

Syd Sparks (R) and Stephen Roise (L) dip their wheels in the waters of Lake Michigan. They went from the Pacific Ocean to the great lake in 31 days on their bikes.
Syd Sparks (R) and Stephen Roise (L) dip their wheels in the waters of Lake Michigan. They went from the Pacific Ocean to the great lake in 31 days on their bikes.

By COLE BENZ | Herald Editor | cbenz@countrymedia.net

The more than 2,000-mile journey halfway across the United States is finished for Syd Sparks and his ride-mate, Stephen Roise.

Finishing on the banks of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin, the duo ended in the Badger State on June 13, 31 days after they left the shores of the Pacific Ocean in Washington.

Overall, they logged 2,377 miles.

“It feels great,” Sparks said. “It’s kind of funny being finished because I really did enjoy the trip, part of me would like to just keep going to the east coast.”

Roise said he couldn’t believe how fast it went, and added that the weather was very cooperative the last week, which helped as they were approaching the finish line.

Sparks said it was an adjustment, getting up on the morning of June 14 and not slipping into his riding gear and hopping on his bicycle, but he’s adjusting.

“It’s definitely an abrupt ending,” Sparks said.

During a nearly 2,500-mile journey, Sparks said they encountered many interesting feats. For one, they had planned the trip based on the prevailing westerly winds. Unfortunately when they were on the trip, they were riding with an east headwind the majority of the days.

Two of their longest days stretched 110 miles and 118 miles. A few were cut short based on their planned stops with a few others stretched out due to an available tailwind or unfavorable weather on the horizon.

Being able to ride from the west coast to Wisconsin was another interesting aspect, said Sparks. They were able to see the vastly changing landscape from the west coast to the Midwest.

Through their trip, both said it was the relationships they made during the journey that they will treasure the most, but for Sparks, one other thing stood out.

“I think it was particularly very exciting to know that the miles that we were putting on our bicycles were making a difference,” Sparks said. “Even as we were riding.”

Sparks and Roise were raising money for New Hope Uganda in hopes of building cabins and shower houses for the camp. Unlike some fundraisers, where the money is donated in one lump sum at the end of the event, money was being sent to Uganda as it came in.

This allowed for construction to begin, even during the bike ride.

Sparks said the plans were drawn and the construction crews were on hand just waiting for the money to arrive. During the ride, one cabin was finished and two were already being raised with another starting.

Sparks said it was definitely a motivating factor to know that the miles he was putting on were going right to the cause, a sentiment that Roise echoed.

“Then you know that what you’re riding for isn’t just a dream but as you’re doing it it’s becoming a reality,” Roise said.

The journey was aiming for an amount of $166,000, enough to build 10 cabins and two shower houses. Though the amount raised fell a little short, they did get enough for six cabins and one shower house, something Sparks is excited about.

“I’m absolutely thrilled, I’m thrilled with what’s come in,” Sparks said.

He didn’t know what to expect when he ventured on this long trek, he didn’t know if it would raise $1,000, or $100,000. The unknown is a true testament to his faith in what he does. Many wouldn’t jump on the bike for a 2,000-plus-mile journey without knowing if the results would come. Sparks said that his faith is what moves him, and that he knows the Lord is in control of the camp and he is just there managing it.

Sparks said the donations came big and small, and a few times they were given money just by striking up conversations. During a break at a rest stop, some people walking by asked what they were doing. After they explained their trip and what the cause was for the curious onlookers reached in their pockets and handed them $10.

The day Sparks and Roise finished the ride, June 13, made it kind of full-circle for Sparks. Seven years to the day was when Sparks and his wife Andrea landed in Uganda on a permanent basis.

Though the trip is over, the memories will last and Sparks said he wouldn’t change anything.

“Overall it was excellent, I have no regrets,” Sparks said.

He even hinted at another trip. When asked if he would do it again Sparks said, “absolutely I would do it again.”

Roise said that if the timing worked he would definitely do it again and that “it was an awesome experience.”

Roise also added that he would be an encouraging voice for anyone who wanted to embark on an adventure like this.

He thinks that if it is possible to do this again that he would like to start where this past journey finished, in Wisconsin and ride to the east coast, but for now he is happy with completing this ride.

“I was very glad that we followed through with the idea,” Sparks said.

If you still want to donate they are still reaching for the goal of $166,000. Those interested in supporting Sparks and New Hope Uganda Ministries visit www.NewHopeUganda.org/donate, or send funds to New Hope Uganda Ministries, Post Office Box 154, Belle Fourche, SD 57717.

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