Most parents worry about their kids, even after they've fled the nest.
But … sky diving? Rock climbing? Backpacking all over the world? Snowbound on the highest mountain in North America? A cross-country tandem bicycle ride?
All by a daughter who is legally blind?
As proud as they are of their daughter Christi, 32, for all she has accomplished and just who she is, Garry and Tina Bruchok of Lower Macungie Township have been put to the test more than most.
Christi has no vision in one eye and has severe myopia in the other. She couldn't ride a bike growing up, let alone drive a car. Garry says she developed her sense of hearing and memory of objects' locations to compensate. "She never gave up."
After college, Christi went to work at Intel in Chandler, Ariz., where she met another visually impaired person, Tauru Chaw. He has a hereditary condition that is popularly known as tunnel vision. His peripheral vision is shrinking, and although he can see clearly, it's as though he's seeing the world through toilet paper rolls.
The two shared more than visual impairments. Both had a tremendous thirst for adventure, which they've been indulging over the years in all the ways I've mentioned and more.
So when Christi and Tauru told her parents that they intended to educate people about visual impairments by riding their tandem bike 16,000 miles from the southern tip of South America to the northernmost point in Alaska — what ended up being a 19-month trip — they had to trust that she knew what she was doing.
"I said to her," Tina told me, "and lots of people have said this to them, 'No way I could do such a thing.' She said, 'That's because you don't let yourself pick up and go.'"
As I told you in my last column, the adventure they dubbed "Two Blind to Ride!" got off to a rocky start when they arrived in South America and discovered that their tandem bicycle was being held by customs officials in Buenos Aires, where bureaucrats were demanding documentation that the couple didn't have. They ended up stuck in Ushuaia, the capital of Tierra del Fuego, living in a tent, for more than a month before the bike finally was released.
Luckily, frustrated as they were, they had decided from the beginning that this wouldn't be a race. Their impairments make fast riding too dangerous anyway, and they wanted to give themselves time to enjoy the countries and the people.
I touched last time on some of the challenges they faced. Tina encouraged me to explore their website to find the videos about their harrowing maritime adventures as they tried to get from Columbia to Panama — they're under Nov. 4, 2012, in the archives section — and I ended up spending the afternoon experiencing the entire trip through their journal entries, photos and videos. Once I started, it was hard to stop.
The strongest impression I came away with — from the website and from talking to Christi and her parents — was of all the wonderful people they have encountered.
Other bicyclists, for example. It turns out that travelers from all over the world ride those Pan-American routes, and they made for great company. There also were friends who lived along their path.
What really was remarkable, though, was how many strangers took them in out of the blue and helped them, just because they were touched by the mission. Families fed them and housed them. Truckers carried them when their bike broke down or the road made bicycle travel impossible. Service clubs helped them arrange to visit schools and other groups.
"We only encountered warm and welcoming people," Christi said.
It still wasn't easy. By the time they approached Alaska, Tauru's tunnel vision was worsening, and they actually began preparing for the time when Christi — who always rode behind him — would have to switch positions and become the bike's "captain." Then, as they traveled from Fairbanks to their final destination of Deadhorse, Alaska, the bike began falling apart, and there was no bicycle shop to replace the damaged parts.
With 300 miles remaining, they gave up and caught a shuttle bus the rest of the way. Their final trip entry, from Aug. 2, shows them wading in the Arctic Ocean.
And there's an epilogue. They hitched their way back to Fairbanks, riding part of the way with an ice road trucker. There were public appearances in Fairbanks and Anchorage, where they cleaned their bike up and donated it to charity. By the time I caught up with them, they were on a train getting away from metropolitan Los Angeles and preparing to travel the rest of the way back to their Phoenix area home base, this time on single bicycles.
Yes, Christi finally has learned how to ride a bike by herself.
If it strikes you that the whole idea of two legally blind people making this trip was crazy, you're not alone. Christi wrote at one point on her trip that they've been described as crazy many times, but always with a smile and words of encouragement.
And why not? Consider the words they posted at the top of their Facebook page.
"We aren't blind if we can't see," they wrote. "We're only blind if we don't look."
Bill White's commentary appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.