Biking cross country, for a cause

Mark and Sarah Tiu will pedal their bikes 4,100 miles this summer. They’re doing it in support of "Kenya Kids Can," a program that supplies food and computer centers for Kenya’s impoverished youth.

The Rochester couple leave in early July and finish by Sept. 16, in time to get Mark to a wedding in South Carolina.

While they’ve already sent the $6,400 in pledges they’ve raised in advance of their journey to "Kenya Kids Can," it’s tempting to give the Tiu’s ride a similar name, with a twist.

Something like, "Mark and Sarah can. . .at least they think so."

This 4,100-mile jaunt on bicycles is full of daunting questions.


At the top of the list is can a mid-20s couple that has never been on a days-long extreme adventure together or separately, hang in there for 10 weeks?

A not-too-distant second is can a pair that has never endured even a week’s worth of going super-long distance on their bikes, hold up averaging 50 miles per day for two-and-a-half months, with just a day of rest per week?

The truth is, Mark and Sarah Tiu are as eager as anyone to get answers to these questions.

But the truth also is, they can’t wait to get started. Both have adventurous hearts, a love for the outdoors and an ability to "rough it." Sarah still speaks with pride about winning a no-shower contest in college. She stayed dry for 15 days. They’ll be plenty of call for more of that kind of thing on this trip, when they’ll be on bikes during the daytime and in tents at night.

"We’re excited," said Mark, who came to the United States seven years ago from South Africa, and is now a teaching tennis professional at Rochester Tennis Connection. "This trip has been on my mind for quite awhile. Seeing the country and the diversity of it, and experiencing the different cultures within it, is something I’ve wanted. To be able to meet different people and see so many different things has us excited."

While the Tius aren’t hard-core bicyclists, they enter with some experience. They’ve been working out for a year in preparation for their trip, both on their bikes and at a Rochester fitness club.

Sarah, a Kentucky native who met Mark while both were attending Campbellsville University (Ky.), wasn’t much into athletics until the last year. That’s when she and Mark began to fall in love with bicycling. They’re biking trips became longer and longer, including 16-20-mile rides on the Douglas and Root River trails.

They went from that, to taking on a whopper ride this past April, the 100-mile Minnesota Iron Man. They completed it and are glad they did, because it gave them a sense of what’s ahead of them. It also gave them confidence that they really can pull off a 4,100-mile trip that begins in Anacortes, Wash., and ends in Bar Harbor, Maine.


"That (Minnesota Iron Man) went well," said Sarah, who works as a receptionist at Rochester Tennis Connection, but is trained in social work. "It was windy and rainy during it, so it tested us a lot and gave us an idea of the pain to expect (for their upcoming trip). At the end of the day, to say you rode 100 miles, it felt good."

Now, if they can make it to the end of this 4,100-mile jaunt, they know they’ll feel even better.

They’ll have plenty of inspiration to keep going. This, after all, is a trip not just for themselves, but is a fundraiser for the kids of Kenya. It’s a cause that’s been on their minds since their college days at Campbellsville, when the head of "Kenya Kids Can" spoke at their church.

Three years later, they’re on an action plan to support it. It’s a 4,100-mile action plan.

Wish them luck.

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