Annalee Boulton took up cycling when she was 50 years old. That was 38 years ago, and she still has the biking bug.
It all began with a church bike trip in 1984. The folks of Arlington (Washington) United Church rode their bicycles onto a Washington State Ferry to visit Lopez Island. Lopez is the flattest and the friendliest of the San Juan Islands. Annalee and her husband, George, were hooked by the hearty exercise and fellowship with their church family.
Shortly after that trip, a church friend invited Annalee and George to ride 350 miles over the Cascade Mountain Range to Spokane that summer. Without even talking to George, Annalee immediately accepted the invitation for both of them. She rode her hand-me-down, 12-speed, men’s bike, 5,477 feet up the North Cascade Pass. She and George had such a great time that they started dreaming about where they would ride next.
George was the planner. He went to REI and purchased maps to chart their adventures. They bought proper road bikes. Eventually, they bought mountain bikes to ride in the dirt. In 1987 when Annalee was 53, they rode from Washington to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. They loved going slowly in order to soak up the scenery. They loved stopping into small-town cafés to make new friends. They loved trekking on two wheels alongside members of their church family.
Annalee celebrated her 70th birthday by riding 70 miles in one day. She scaled back for her 80th birthday, riding “only” 40 miles in a day. This year, Annalee celebrated her 88th birthday by riding 8.8 miles. She no longer has the strength or the balance to climb the Cascades or Rockies. She traded in her mountain bike for a three-wheeler shortly after George died from cancer. She keeps on riding the local bike path with church friends and says, “I’m just thankful. Even though I walk around in a walker and I walk slowly, I’m just thankful.” She still shows up at her family floral shop to trim stems and serve lattes.
Annalee was the first person at Arlington United Church, a congregation that holds a dual affiliation with the Covenant Church and the United Methodist Church, to sign up for the Paul Carlson Partnership 2022 Biking for Congo Challenge. She was troubled that sisters and brothers in Christ who live in the Democratic Republic of the Congo often must travel 50 kilometers (31 miles) on bicycles to get medical treatment. Annalee says, “We are so blessed here. I can’t imagine walking or riding 50 kilometers to get medical care. We just hop in the car and drive.”
Paul Carlson Partnership works to bless people in DR Congo by training health care professionals, improving access to clean water, providing medical supplies and medicine, and treating those who cannot afford medical care. The Covenant Church in Congo partners with the Paul Carlson Partnership to spread the good news of Jesus Christ in a holistic manner.
When Annalee told her friends and family she was planning to ride 50 kilometers to raise money for the 2022 Biking for Congo Challenge, a fellow florist sent her a check. Then her two sisters added to the campaign. Annalee’s doctor was so impressed by her goal that she also wrote a check. Annalee’s church family at Arlington United enthusiastically committed to sponsoring the ride. So far, Annalee has raised several hundred dollars for the 2022 Biking for Congo Challenge, and the Arlington United Church bike team has raised more than $3,000.
When was the last time you took your bike out of the garage? The Paul Carlson Partnership offers Covenant churches a wonderful opportunity to engage in healthy activity while promoting health care in DR Congo.
And start planning your own campaign for the 2023 Biking for Congo Challenge!