WEIRTON - While not reaching their goal of riding 600 miles, a group of bicyclists still had reason to celebrate Sunday.
This year's D.C. Freedom 600 Bike Ride set off May 21 with the goal of participants riding 600 miles, including a 400-mile stretch between Weirton and Washington, D.C., all to help raise money for Tri-State Christian Academy.
Along with the Rev. Marlin Hawley and George Miller, who started the event two years ago, returning rider Bruce Trushel once again took part in this year's ride, as did newcomer the Rev. Darrell Maze.
The Rev. Marlin Hawley spoke to many of the residents gathered Sunday at the R.J. Bush Center in Weirton to celebrate this year’s D.C. Freedom 600 Bike Ride. While not reaching their full 600-mile mark, the group estimates close to $9,000 has been raised to date for Tri-State Christian Academy. -- Craig Howell
On Sunday, approximately 85 residents gathered at the R.J. Bush Center in Weirton to celebrate their return and the results of this year's ride.
Although they made it to Washington, D.C., Hawley said they were unable to officially make the 600-mile mark for this year's event - coming up about 100 miles short - but said there is still good coming from the journey.
"This is a celebration," Hawley said. "Money keeps coming in. We have somewhere between $8,000 and $9,000."
All donations in support of the ride will benefit Tri-State Christian Academy, helping to cover the costs of providing a Christian-based education for area students interested in attending the school.
The group rode their first 200 miles locally before setting off on the 400 miles to Washington, D.C. However, muddy conditions on a portion of the trail system made it difficult to ride in some areas.
Trushel explained the trip on the North Allegheny Passage was great for the group, with the trail well maintained; however, some of the trails in Maryland was another story.
"When you get to the C&O Canal, you better be experienced," he said. "I've never been so muddy in my life."
Miller agreed, saying the lack of maintenance in that area made it difficult to ride their bicycles. He said he still enjoyed the trip, though, and is already making plans for next year.
"I'm thankful we made it, and thankful we're safe," Miller said, noting he appreciates all the prayers and support shown for the riders during the journey.
Noting his love for Christian education, Maze said he appreciated the opportunity to be able to take part in the ride.
"It was really a great privilege to be able to participate," Maze said.
The Freedom Bike Ride started in 2010 with Hawley and Miller riding 400 miles between Weirton and Washington, D.C. In 2011, they were joined by Trushel and rode 500 miles. This year's 600-mile goal was set as a further challenge.
For next year's ride, however, the group is talking about scaling things back. According to Hawley, Miller has suggested going 404 miles, starting with the original 400 mile goal and adding a mile in honor of each of their trips.
"I think he was afraid I would try 700 miles," Hawley said.
(Howell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)