ZIMMERMAN, Minn. - In 12 days, Jim Rienstra will celebrate one year of being on the road for a cause -- but he's not on a car. He's pedaling from Minnesota to Argentina in a pan-American tour that's already changed his life.
"Colombia is amazing," Rienstra told Fox 9 News. "I think it's the 9th country I've pedaled through and, hands down, Colombia is the best."
Rienstra is a former professional BMX freestyler who walked away from the sport while he could still walk. When his father died of pancreatic cancer 9 years ago, he got back on a tour bike to ride from Minnesota to Alaska to honor his dad and raise more than $17,000 for cancer research. Now he's pedaling for pennies from Zimmerman, Minn., to the southern tip of Argentina.
"I kind of found my niche in life," he explained. "I thought, 'If I could go 5 times bigger -- have a goal of $100,000 -- I'd just go for it.'"
On Aug. 19, 2013, Rienstra did just that. He took off on a 15,000-mile journey that began in Minnesota and cut west to Oregon before turning south. Along the way, he is documenting the sights and sounds from his adventure on a blog -- including a 2-day ride up one of the most dangerous roads in the world, the "Trampoline of Death" in Colombia.
"The roads shot up 10,000 feet, the cliffs dropped down to 4,000 -- no guard rails," he recalled. "The views were so spectacular. It was challenging -- so quiet. No one around, peaceful. Nothing could have beat that road, I don't think."
So far, Rienstra said he has lost about 10 pounds, but he's gained plenty of friends and memories along the way. Yet, the biggest benefit has been getting a bike's-eye view of a world he'd never seen before.
"Overall, this trip has been eye-opening," Rienstra. "It's the experience of a lifetime. Every day is different and new, and I just wouldn't do anything else."
Rienstra hopes to reach the end of his journey by the end of the year. So far, he's raised about a third of his $100,000 goal for the Randy Shaver Cancer Research Fund. To help him reach it and to follow his progress, visit his blog, Pedaling for Pennies, and the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund.
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