Diego to Fuego: Going the Extra 11,500 Miles in 2005

by Jody Godoy '05

This year, Dylan and Cheri Harris '98 have kept their to-do list simple: eat, sleep, share the Gospel, and raise funds for charity while bicycling from San Diego to the tip of South America. With four wheels, one tent, and the grace of God, the two are traversing fourteen countries, a total of around 11,500 miles, in a feat that will test their physical, emotional, spiritual, and cultural strengths.

Neither undertook this year-long trek, which began on January 3, lightly. Both were veteran outdoor adventurers when they met. Dylan had hitchhiked more than 20,000 miles and traveled in Asia and South America, while Cheri had done missions work in Nicaragua, explored the Americas working on a cruise ship, and solo-hiked the entire Appalachian Trail.

In 2002, the couple cycled from Canada to Mexico together, and the trip was a main source of information and inspiration for the ride now underway. Together, these grueling two-wheel treks accomplish two-thirds of a vision Cheri has had since her junior year at APU: to cycle the entire Pan American Highway, from Point Barrow, Alaska to the southern most tip of South America. But for the Harris', this expedition is more than just a personal adventure.

One of the main goals of their ride from Diego to Fuego is to raise money for charity, through pledges of a "Penny-a-Mile" for each mile they cover. Thinking globally and locally, the Harris' chose three different charities supported by their community in Mammoth, California.

Some of the funds raised will go to For His Children, an orphanage in Ecuador which they will visit and volunteer at en route. The Harris' are also riding to support the Lighthouse Food Outreach, in which the couple is actively involved at home. "We know a lot of snowboarders from around the world go to the food outreach every winter, and many would not hear the Gospel otherwise. It's a powerful ministry that shares the love of Jesus to an unreached subculture," said Dylan. The third charity is a new local pet shelter where Cheri volunteers.

And their ministry is not limited to fundraising. Both speak Spanish, and hope to fellowship and share the Gospel with those they meet along the way. They will be in touch with the U.S. via their email, and welcome encouragement, insights on the countries they will be visiting, and potential contacts along their route.

By plunging into the physical extremes of rain forest, desert, and mountain passes, the couple anticipates that the ride will build their faith, as well as "a stronger bond between the two of us," maturing their marriage of two and a half years. The experience of different countries and cultures "will also give us a much better appreciation of the things we have in life," said Cheri. "We hope God will use this trip to shape our world views, impacting how we live the rest of our lives, wherever we are. It will be interesting to see how God changes us for the better in a year's time," said Dylan.

Related stories: Trail Mix by Cheri Harris