by Brian Vossen, Camrose Canadian
A former Camrose area resident is cycling across the entire continent this summer.
On June 17, Matthew (Gus) Gusel, along with four friends, Anne-Marie Jamin, Cody McNalley, and Gene-Viève Perreault-Murphy began cycling from Edmonton to Quetzaltenango, Guatemala to raise money for a free clinic that serves the area. Gusel said the idea came to him while he was visiting McNalley and his girlfriend, Perreault-Murphy, on Vancouver Island. McNalley and Perrault-Murphy are avid cyclists, and Gusel rented a bike during his visit so he could pedal around the island with them.
“After probably about four or five days of biking a pretty solid 60 to 100 kilometres a day, I asked these guys, [McNalley and Perreault-Murphy] ‘Do you think I could do a bike trip?’ They said ‘Yeah, yeah you probably could,’” Gusel said.
When Jamin received a text message from Gusel asking if she wanted to bike to Guatemala she was a little hesitant, “Uhh, okay. You’re crazy, but okay,” was her response. Then she actually started to think about it and thought it “would be a great idea.”
McNalley, however, said he loved the plan from the beginning.“I was all for it. It didn’t even take me a second. It was just an instant thing. I was like, ‘Yeah!’ right away.”
The foursome is all connected though Gusel. Gusel and McNalley grew up together in Camrose, and Gusel eventually met Perreault-Murphy through Mcnalley. Jamin and Gusel became friends while they attended U of A’s Augustana Campus together. Just before Gusel went on his trip to Vancouver Island, he and Jamin had made a commitment to form some kind of non-profit group to raise funds for Primeras Pasos (Spanish for First Steps) the clinic that Jamin had been working for in Guatemala. Inspired by McNalley and Perreault-Murphy’s recent bicycle trip across Canada, the group formed Pedal 4 Pasos and decided they would raise money for the clinic by cycling there all the way from Edmonton.
McNalley planned most of the route and said they will be travelling through Alberta, Montanna, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Mexico, and then finally Guatemala. McNalley said they might stop and do some sightseeing along the way, but everything depends on time and weather. The group plans to reach Quetzaltenango in August, as it will take about three months to complete the continental bicycle ride.
Each of the cyclists has their own area they are looking forward to visiting. McNalley said he thinks he will enjoy Colorado the most, while Perreault-Murphy said she thinks the route through Mexico will be cool as there will be mountains on one side of them, with the Gulf Mexico on the other. However, the clinic at the end of the trip is what everyone is looking forward to seeing the most.
“[I’m looking forward to] seeing all the kids once we get there. I think Anne [Jamin] is the only one who’s actually been there and seen the whole clinic and everything,” Perreault-Murphy said.
As for lodging, Jamin and Perrault-Murphy said that the group would be camping for most of the way, though they may have to stay in some cheap hotels or hostels in Mexico as security and safety are concerns there.
Weather is another major concern for the group. Though there is a rough schedule to follow, the group has to be flexible, as poor weather or other complications could make it so they can’t bike for a few days. Also, if the weather gets too hot, the cyclists may be at risk of becoming de- hydrated or getting heat stroke.
There is also a team of filmmakers following the group and making a documentary about the trip. The team will be following the cyclists as far as the United States border and is paying for the making of the film themselves, as there is no other funding.
Pedal 4 Pasos gained its non-profit organization status last summer. Since then, the group has raised $12,000 for the clinic and $7,000 to cover the cost of the trip. Any money left over from the $7,000 will also be donated to the cause. Anyone wishing to make a donation can do so online at the Pedal 4 Pasos website, www.pedal4pasos.com.
There is also a Facebook group dedicated to the organization and a YouTube channel where the cyclists will be posting videos about their trip. Gusel said they would be uploading as much as they can to these websites while they are travelling.
Primeros Pasos is a free medical clinic that serves about 15,000 people. The clinic aims to provide free medical service to children in the area and affordable medical services for adults, as well as providing a free basic health education to both children and adults. For more information about Primeros Pasos, visit www.primerospasos.org.
Pedal 4 Pasos has a Canadian based partnership with Change for Children, an organization dedicated to finding long-term solutions for child poverty in other countries. From more information about Change for Children, visit www.changeforchildren.org.