LEWISTOWN - To raise money for a cause that's important to him, Gary Gill is gearing up for a 136-mile bicycle ride next week - something he's never taken on before.
Gill, of Lewistown, is embarking on the trek Monday, June 13, in honor of his 68th birthday, which is June 18.
Sentinel photo by MARJORIE STROMBERG
Gary Gill, of Lewistown, is preparing for a 136-mile bike ride next week to raise money for the Juniata Valley Vegetarian Society, which he has been a part of since 1999. Gill will ride in honor of his upcoming 68th birthday.
"I'm doubling my age," he said about the mileage.
Funds raised for the ride will go to the Juniata Valley Vegetarian Society, which Gill has been involved in since 1999, he said.
The nonprofit organization, which is based out of Lewistown, will use the money for promotional materials and events, he said.
Though this is the first time Gill will undertake such a long-distance ride, he has "doubled his age" before when it comes to bicycle riding, he said. He rode 124 miles at the age of 62.
"It was a lot of fun," he said.
The JVVS is a small organization and relies solely on member dues, Gill said, so he thought it would be a good idea to have some sort of fundraising for it. And, since he enjoys biking, he thought of combining the two.
"Maybe I can get some pledges," he said.
Gill's hope is to get members in the community to challenge him. People can either make a pledge per mile, or make a single donation for his efforts, he said.
So far, he said, "the outpouring of interest has been really amazing."
The goal of the ride, Gill explained, isn't just to have the community challenge him and bring in money, it's also to raise awareness about the JVVS and a plant-based diet.
Gill will begin his ride, using his Trek bike, at his home along Ferguson Valley Road in Lewistown. From there he'll head east to Newton Hamilton. Then, he'll reach Granville, and Hawstone Road, which he'll take to Mifflintown. From there he will go through Port Royal, Thompsontown and McAlisterville, and eventually make it to Middleburg, he said.
"I'll be taking a lot of back roads," Gill said.
Then Gill plans to head to U.S. 522 to Beavertown, and then to Back Maitland Road and eventually to Vira Road and back home, he said.
The entire trip is exactly 136 miles, Gill said; he did a practice run in the car.
Gill said his journey is a good opportunity to ask other bikers to ride along with him, either part of the way or the entire time. His wife plans to ride her bicycle the last 30 miles, he said.
"She's my support," he said.
Gill said preparation for the ride mainly consists of "kinda' building up over time the long distance mileage."
Recently, Gill went on a backpacking trip, which he said is good exercise, and later this week plans to go on a two-and-a-half-hour bike ride. He'll rest for three days before the big day, he said, "and be ready to go."
One of the most important things to do during the ride will be calibrating and pacing himself, Gill said, noting that the last 36 miles will be more of a struggle.
"I'm gonna' have to really bear down and just grind it out," he said.
"I've never done this many miles in one day," he added. "This will be a challenge for me."
In terms of eating for the day of the ride, Gill said he'll basically eat his normal diet. During the ride he plans to bring along energy gels, granola or energy bars, and sandwiches made with tempeh salad spread or tofurkey - tofu turkey. He'll also bring plenty of fluids, he said, and will make trips to convenience stores along the way.
Gill said mental inspiration for the ride will be "easy" because he has so much support from people.
During the ride itself, Gill said his motivation likely will come from being in the "beautiful" country and on the back roads that he takes pleasure in.
"I enjoy riding," he said. "I don't mind being alone."
The Juniata Valley Vegetarian Society has about 10 core members, but has a mailing list of about 100 people. All members are volunteers, Gill said, and 100 percent of money raised for the organization goes directly to the group treasury.
The JVVS started, he said, to support vegetarians and vegans in the area, and to educate people on what it means to be a vegetarian or vegan.
"We're trying to also break down myths that people have about vegetarians," he said, such as how they get protein into their diets.
Gill said people can get plenty of protein through eating such things as grains and beans.
"(If you) eat a varied diet, you'll get all the protein that you want," he said.
Gill, who has been a vegetarian since 1984 and a vegan the past 15 years, said he originally changed his eating habits for environmental and ethical reasons, but those also eventually turned into health reasons.
The JVVS is accepting new members. Those interested in joining do not need to be vegetarians.
For more information or to make a pledge for Gill's bicycle ride, call Gill at 242-9566 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.