Gran's pedal of faith
GRANDMOTHER Carmel Gilson is not about to let age stop her from doing what she knows is important.
The 53-year-old resident of Vincentia, NSW is heading to Evans Head in late April, but not until after she has covered 1800km on her bicycle starting from Phillip Island near Victoria.
From there she will cover another 1600km until she reaches Townsville, Queensland.
"I am doing 'Pedals of Faith' which is a solo, unsupported, unassisted bicycle ride up the east coast of Australia," Ms Gilson said to The Rivertown Times from Bairnsdale, Victoria, only five days into her epic journey.
"The purpose of my ride is to raise funds to assist the 'Alms of Love Mission Inc.' founded by Stephanie Verne of Bomaderry and Pat Collins of Cambewarra.
"The mission's ongoing financial support saves orphans from dying of starvation in two villages in Uganda."
Ms Gilson said she hopes to raise $100,000 to buy a grinding mill for the villages concerned.
"A grinding mill will help the villages become self-sufficient as maize is their staple food and it's often ground by hand," she said.
"They can earn a living by grinding maize for other people as well as their own."
Ms Gilson has been cycling for the past six years and has been in training for her ride for a number of months.
"When I first told my family what I wanted to do they were astonished but not surprised," she said.
"I think my grandson Josh's first words will be 'Go Nan Go'."
In preparation for her ride Ms Gilson contacted many churches along her route and was overwhelmed by the response.
"Everyone is so excited that I'm coming," she said.
"Out of the whole trip, at the moment I only have a few gaps of places to stay."
Riding solo is a big commitment for a woman on her own but Ms Gilson isn't concerned.
"I have a CB radio and my iPhone with GPS tracker," she said.
"My faith and positive thinking helps me through as well.
"I am a safe rider whether I'm on the main roads or the back streets."
Ms Gilson said cycling was a visual and spiritual pleasure for her, despite the hills and straight roads with no shelter.
"I am at real peace when I'm cycling," she said.
"I have my good sense, training and I'm with God.
"Every day I ask Him for mercy...especially when going up the hills."
Depending on weather Carmel Gilson will arrive in Evans Head on April 16, staying overnight before heading off to Ballina.