525-mile trip brings cyclists to Andalusia

Published 1:08 am Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Yesterday, 34 cyclists pedaled into the Holiday Inn Express and went straight to the pool, after riding 100 miles from Selma to Andalusia.

“I started this trip when I was in a very difficult season of my life,” founder Chuck Bolton said. “So I told two of my friends that I was going to get on my bike and ride to Rosemary Beach. Immediately they said that they were going to join me.”

It must have been a great experience, as this is the eighth year the group, WINGS Ride 2 Rosemary, has repeated the 525-mile trip over five days from the West Cancer Center in Germantown, Tenn., to Rosemary Beach, Florida. The original group of nine cyclists has grown to 34. “This is truly a brotherhood,” Bolton said. “We needed to unplug and really have a bunch of guys to love and support us through the hard times.”

Bolton said that almost everyone on the trip has been touched by cancer in some way, so he knew that that was the reason for the bike ride.

“My mother-in-law and mother passed away from cancer, and my wife had breast cancer a year ago,” Bolton said. “We knew that we had to do something to show support and fight for the people that are so brave to fight this battle every day.”

Since the formation of the team, they have raised more than $800,000.

Bolton said that the journey itself was a complete God thing.

“I think if we tried to sit down and plan this trip then it wouldn’t have ended up like this,” Bolton said. “I truly believe this is a God thing. I am a believer saved by grace.”

Another of the founders, Todd Tillmans, a doctor for the West Cancer Center, said that he keeps on riding because of the brotherhood.

“It is truly a men’s retreat,” Tillmans said. “It is really a way to bind us all together.”

Tillmans said that he thinks of a quote when he rides.

“’Pain plus reflection, equals progress,’” Tillmans said. “Ray Dalio said that and I think that is one thing that this ride means for a lot of people.”

Another reason why Tillmans rides is to fight cancer.

“We are riding for a wonderful cause,” Tillmans said. “Throughout everywhere we are fighting cancer. We fight cancer as we ride.”

Another of the original nine cyclists, Tim Nicholls, said praying helps him get through the ride.

“Every morning we have a devotional before we head out for the day,” Nicholls said. “We all huddle together in a big group and pray. I usually pray a lot during the ride as well.”

Nicholls said that the physical toll of riding 100 miles every day is pretty intense and it is hard to train for.

“You have to just put on as many miles as you can leading up to the ride,” Nicholls said. “Most people don’t think about this, they usually only think about your legs hurting, but your wrists, shoulders and back are usually dead by the time you finish.”

Nicholls said that the journey is not open to everybody.

“It is by invitation only,” Nicholls said. “Any one can reach out to us and express interest, but we try to be very thoughtful into who gets to ride with us. We think about people who would really benefit from the ride.”

Today is the last day of cycling for the group as they make their way from Andalusia to Rosemary Beach.

The charitable cycling event promotes cancer awareness, encourages a healthy lifestyle, and raises funds for the WINGS Supportive Care Division within The University of Tennessee/West Institute for Cancer Research.

For anyone interested in getting involved with or donating to the group, visit www.wingscancerfoundation.org.