Two Blind to Ride was an amazing adventure

Where to start?

At the end, limping into Deadhorse, Alaska, with their crippled tandem bicycle and wading into the Arctic Ocean after 19 months on the road?

At the beginning, fighting powerful Patagonian head winds and unforgiving rough gravel roads with 16,000 grueling miles ahead?

A month at the southernmost tip of South America, waiting for their bike to clear an infuriating customs tangle? The harrowing transfer between tiny boats in the stormy Pacific Ocean so they could safely enter Central America? Person after person, family after family, welcoming them into their homes and their hearts? Children with disabilities, inspired by their story? Challenges overcome? Deserts? Mountains? Storms? Illness? Pain?

Or long before, with a visually impaired Lehigh Valley girl who couldn't even ride a bike, learning to compensate with her hearing, her memory and her indomitable spirit — and becoming a top student, a rock climber, a world traveler, a sky diver, a teacher … an inspiration?

In the face of such a story, I'm at a loss for the best way to begin. So let's just start with the basics:

Southern Lehigh High School graduate Christi Bruchok, 32, an alumna of Carnegie Mellon and Arizona State universities, is blind in one eye and has severe myopia in the other. She can't drive a car or see road signs. To read or make out other detail, she has to hold objects within inches of her face.

Tauru Chaw, 43, who was born in Vietnam and came to the United States as a small child near the end of the Vietnamese War, has the hereditary disease retinitis pigmentosa, also known as tunnel vision. He has been progressively losing his peripheral vision, so now it's as if he were seeing the world through a shrinking toilet paper roll. At night or under gloomy skies, he's pretty much blind. One day his vision will be reduced to a pinhole if he doesn't lose it altogether.

Since meeting on their jobs at Intel in Chandler, Ariz., Bruchok and Chaw have had amazing adventures all over the world. As Christi's mother, Tina, explains it, "They're living their retirement before they start working."

This story is about their longest, most ambitious adventure, which they dubbed "Two Blind to Ride!" After traveling across the United States on their tandem bicycle — Chaw had the front position because he could see more clearly and because Bruchok never had steered a bike — these two legally blind people decided to ride from the southern tip of South America to northernmost North America. They would travel roughly 16,000 miles through 15 countries to raise awareness about the abilities of the sight-impaired and to inspire other people with disabilities to follow their dreams.

As Bruchok explained on one of the many terrific videos they posted on their website throughout the journey, "Our mission is to get out there and spread the word that even if you have a disability, there are many many things that you can do, and you don't have to give up on your dreams."

They delivered that powerful message as they traveled slowly through the Americas on their tandem bike and told their story to people they met. But they went further than that, speaking at schools for the blind, visiting service clubs and organizations for people with disabilities, telling their story to TV crews and newspaper reporters.

Bruchok told me about a father in Portland, Ore., who brought his visually impaired 10-year-old daughter specifically to hear them and be inspired. Bruchok explained, "He wanted her to see other people with visual impairments doing things, to make her world more normal."

That's the message they delivered, over and over, in Spanish and in English. And just by being themselves.

As you might imagine, a trip like this requires a lot of planning, although it became "organic," as Bruchok calls it, once they started traveling. I encourage you to visit their website, for great information about their preparations, their visual impairments and all their travels. They also have a Facebook page.

They set the website up in December 2010 from their apartment in Busan, South Korea, where Bruchok was teaching English. They announced a partnership with the nonprofit group Research to Prevent Blindness in February 2011 and made their first introductory video in March.

Their Nov. 19, 2011, journal entry shows the bike parts and provisions spread out on their front lawn in Arizona. Assembled, the bike and trailer stretched 11 feet 6 inches and weighed a daunting 145 pounds.

They had been assured months before by AeroMexico that they could take the oversized bike on the plane with them to Buenos Aires. But when they arrived at the Phoenix ticket counter for their flight, they got an entirely different story and had to rebook.

Eventually, they shipped the bike via UPS and flew to Argentina Dec. 12. Then they flew to their starting point of Ushuaia, capital of Tierra del Fuego, and set up their tent to await the bicycle's arrival.

Instead, they got a monthlong bicycle hostage crisis. I'll finish their story next time.

bill.white@mcall.com 610-820-6105

Bill White's commentary appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

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