By Edwin A. Velarde, Past-President of RC Westlake Village, CA, BOD of Cycling to Serve USA/CAN, BOD of Rotarian Action Group for Diabetes.
For 2019, the goal of the EPiC Journey Against Diabetes is to travel by bike, 1,200 kilometer from London, UK, through Northern France, The Flanders Region of Belgium, Holland and finally to arrive in time for the Rotary International Convention in Hamburg, Germany. Along the way, one of my priorities is careful management of my type-1 diabetes. This is a huge challenge as diabetes is metabolic disorder where I am not able to produce sufficient amount of insulin to convert nutrition to energy. I must rely on insulin injections and continually monitoring my blood glucose level to keep myself healthy. Another goal during the journey is to engage Rotarians and their communities to raise awareness of the diabetes condition, its perils and the Global Diabetes Epidemic that is costing 4 million lives each year around the world.
My wife Cristina and I travelled from Los Angeles to London, UK ahead of time to have a couple of days to acclimate to Northern Europe’s weather and the 8 hours time difference. We were welcomed by President Tony Betts of RC London-Redbridge. Tony is the Coordinator of EPiC Journey Against Diabetes in England. After some last-minute bike preparations, a little bit of sight-seeing, meeting Rotarians and some miles of cycling in unfamiliar traffic system, ready or not The EPiC Journey Against Diabetes is underway.
RC London-Greenwich organized a send-off for The EPiC Journey Against Diabetes led by President Hari Neupane with a Children’s Bike Ride around Honfair Park. Before riding, I had the opportunity to speak to the children and their families about the importance of keeping active and healthy and how that can ward-off onset of diabetes. Afterwards, Hari Neupane and a few Rotary colleagues joined me for the ride to Gravesend, UK.
Cycling in the United Kingdom is so much different than in the United States. I find that turns to be most difficult. I had to keep reminding myself “tight-left” and “wide-right” which helped me stay left side of traffic, most of the time. Still had to correct myself a few times when I saw on-coming traffic heading straight at me. Part of the way, the group cycled on the Thames River Bike Path which was nice and safe for the most part but further into the ride, it turned into a rough and rocky unpaved path. Continuing would have delayed us tremendously so we rerouted onto busy roadways with no bike lanes and very narrow shoulder space. This was quite nerve wrecking. Had to stay focused while speeding motorcars pass on the right.
Safely arriving in Gravesend, PDG/Dr Himansu Basu of Rotary Global Network and Dr Bhargawa Vasudaven, The Queen’s Representative in Kent, UK, welcomed us. We had some engaging discussions about two related subjects, the Global Diabetes Epidemic and Maternal and Child Health. At the meeting of RC Gravesend, as the guest speaker, I had the opportunity to share my diabetes journey and the fast-spreading diabetes public health crisis.
After a send-off by RC Gravesend, PDG Chris Barnett from RC Dover, with his cool e-bike, accompanied me across the hills of Kent, UK. We passed through some busy roadways, serene English country roads and amazing historical monuments . It was great to have someone with local knowledge and historical insights while cycling in unfamiliar territory. In Canterbury we were hosted by President Jarle Tatt of RC Canterbury. We arrived in Port of Dover in time for the mid-day ferry across the English Channel to Calais, FR.
After a brief passport control process, it was a pleasure cycling onto the ferry. Bicycles are given priority boarding. The ferry across the English Channel took about 90 minutes. It was enough time to unwind, have lunch and enjoy a cup of coffee with the EPiC Journey support team. The Chunnel would have been a much faster means of getting across but the having the time to enjoy the cool breeze of the North Sea was an experience I’d choose again if given another opportunity.
Note: To learn more about diabetes visit https://rag-diabetes.org/what-is-diabetes/. Feel free to browse around this website as there are a plethora of information from Rotarian Action Group for Diabetes.