Our association with Eagle’s Wings began five years ago when we heard about them through Jeff and Simone Younger and Simone’s parents Phil and Naomi Cavil. In 2015 our daughter Elise, helped out with a fundraising dinner that was organized for Eagle’s Wings and well-supported by our local church, Naringal Baptist. Elise was fortunate enough to meet Ba Wesley Mazenta, and became very passionate about the work Eagle’s Wings is doing in Zambia.
A couple of years ago, I started thinking about how I could challenge myself physically and mentally. I wanted to achieve a goal, raise some money for a worthwhile cause and hopefully set a good example for my children. Whilst not much of a cyclist, I had the idea that I could attempt a big bike ride for Eagle’s Wings, and set about training.
Let me assure you that at this point in time, it seemed a far off dream. I didn’t have an appropriate bike, I didn’t have (or want to wear) padded, lycra shorts or the other standard attire of cyclists and the logistics of the trip were beyond what my brain could handle. But, once I verbalised my idea, people were right behind me – in a way. Phil Cavil dared to call me crazy, and that was all the motivation I needed. Our dearest friend, Mick Dowling, wanted to support me to achieve my dream and with him on board, everything else started to fall into place. Mick arranged to have a bike donated to the cause, pushed me to get training and put together a promotional video. Mick and my husband Garry headed up my support team and worked out where I would actually ride. I originally planned a longer ride, but time off work became problematic, and so the ride was limited to a 5 day trek along the mighty Murray River from Mildura to Albury, a distance of almost 600km.
In the weeks leading up to the ride, I felt nervous. I had put in many hours on the bike and had ironed out a few problems, but due to time constraints the longest distance I had attempted was 80km and on the trip I would be riding an average of 120km per day. Would my body be able to cope? Would I cope mentally? As more and more people donated to my bike ride and put their faith in me, I stressed that I would let them down. Little did I know just how challenged I was about to be.
The bike ride started well, with 80km under my belt before lunch on the first day. I started to believe I could do this. Then disaster struck. 16km after lunch, I saw a shady spot to pull over, turned the bike too quickly on soft gravel on the side of the road, and hit the ground hard. I sat up expecting to see the usual gravel rash after a stack like that, and instead gazed at a deep gash just under my left knee. My second of misjudgement that day resulted in a trip to the Robinvale Hospital for 5 stitches and a course of antibiotics. The doctor at the hospital commented that I would need to stay off the bike for a few days. I was shocked “I can’t” I responded, “I have to keep going!” When he realised his words were falling on deaf ears, he recommended putting my bike seat up high so that I didn’t have to bend my knee as much.
That night back at our camping site, I was in so much pain when I tried to move my leg, that I laid in bed and prayed “What can I do, Father? I don’t think I can do this, but if we don’t do it now, when are we going to do it? When are we all going to be able to get four or five days off work together again? We’ve hired a bus, the accommodation is sorted….what are we going to do?” In the darkness, I felt a determination to attempt the ride, no matter what.
Early the next morning, we headed back to the scene of the accident and I hopped on the bike. I rode 30km that morning using just my right leg. It was mad, and took forever. I needed a new solution. Garry went back to Robinvale and bought me some painkillers. That afternoon I forced my leg to at least bend a little, with the bike seat up almost as high as it could go. I rode another 54km that day and arrived at our campsite exhausted and discouraged.
The morning of Day 3 was when I was closest to quitting. I knew that I couldn’t keep riding the bike using primarily my right leg. Both legs needed to work for me to continue. It took every last inch of my willpower to make my left leg push through the pain and turn the pedals that day. I knew that people were praying for me and all the text messages and facebook comments I received were in the back of my mind as I determined to praise God and hold onto the main reason I was doing this – to make a difference in the lives of young people in Zambia. After about 45minutes, the pain lessened and I was able to fully use my left leg to complete the allocated 120km for the day.
The next two days continued the same. I rose early, ate breakfast, took painkillers and then gritted my teeth for the first part of the ride until my leg that didn’t want to bend loosened up. At each rest stop, my support team went into overdrive. I could still barely walk when I hopped off the bike, and the crew treated me like royalty. I was helped into my special reclining chair and brought food and drinks and made a fuss of. Prayer warriors back home were praying and my church family and work colleagues regularly sent words of encouragement.
Finally the ride was completed. What a relief for everyone! I didn’t realise how hard it had been for Garry and Mick to watch me struggling each day. Their support and the encouragement of our children, not to mention everyone’s support behind the scenes was invaluable and I can’t thank everyone enough. The going was tough, but I can truly say the blessings have outweighed the challenges. In God’s strength I was able to make it through. I’m safely back at home now, resting and looking forward to the next adventure!
- Jade Drake