Wyoming woman heading west for a cause

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Countless people visit national parks in Alberta and Montana each year to get away for it all, but few ride their bikes through those same parks over ten days to raise money for charity.

That’s the excursion that Christeena Nienhuis is preparing for.

She and her younger brother, Jonathan, will fly to Edmonton early next week and after being shuttled to Jasper National Park will begin a trek of nearly 1,000 kilometers through Jasper and Banff National Park as well as Glacier National Park in northern Montana.  The tour begins on July 30 and ends on August 8.

“It’s going to be beautiful,” said Nienhuis, who is no stranger to long distance cycling.

She participated and completed cross-country bike tours for charity, known as “Sea to Sea” in 2008 and 2013.

The 25-year-old primary school teacher at John Knox Christian School in Wyoming says long-distance cycling is a great way to force yourself to slow down in our fast-paced culture.

“You think about one pedal stroke at a time,” she said.  “You can’t think about tomorrow or you just get overwhelmed by what you have to do the next day.  You have to cut off the worry and cut off the brain and just bike.”

Cycling a significant distance is only 10 per cent physical, she said, and 90 per cent mental.

Having made a life choice not to own a vehicle, Nienhuis says her pre-tour training has been riding her bike from her residence in Wyoming to wherever she needs to go, whether that be to and from errands in Sarnia, or going to the gym in Petrolia five days a week.  She also embarks on a 50-100 kiolmeter ride each Saturday.

“The only way to train for this (tour) is to ride.”

And, while she is excited about the trip, she is also mindful of the inherent dangers of cycling in a vehicle-centric society.

“It’s something that I have to be OK with.  Knowing that I could be injured or even die riding my bike.”

As for the physical ramifications of such a ride, Nienhuis says quad muscles will be “shot” and many riders will experience neck pain because they are in the crouch position so long.  And, the butt really takes a beating as well, she joked.

“The butt is not built to sit on a seat like that for eight hours a day.”