Three young college women are pedaling the coast to spread the word about human trafficking and raise money for a planned shelter called The Refuge in Austin, Texas.
The trio stopped in to a Curry County commissioner meeting in Gold Beach Wednesday morning to explain the efforts of Pedal the Pacific after County Attorney John Huttl saw them riding and took them to breakfast.
“We are not cyclists by any means,” said Grace Pfeffer of Austin, who was first exposed to the sex-trafficking industry when she lived in Thailand. “Our cause is to get people to ask why in the world would we do this? The more people ask us why, the more opportunities we get to shed light on this issue.”
Pedal the Pacific’s mission is to address the estimated 30 to 45 million people trapped in sex trafficking, forced labor and abuse of power situations, their website reads.
The ranch will accommodate 48 young women and provide holistic therapy so they can “have a life after what they’ve been through,” Pfeffer said.
They’ve surpassed their initial goal to raise $47,000 — $41,000 was raised before they even left Texas — and established a new one of $70,000. The ranch, they estimate, will cost about $3 million.
The women, Pffeffer, Sara Belmer and Savannah Lovelace, started their ride in mid-June in Bremerton, Washington, and will end in San Diego, 1,700 miles later. They expect to complete the ride in six weeks — even though one of them hadn’t even ridden her bike since March.
They remain encouraged by the people they’ve met along the way.
“We met a family that was hiking the Oregon Coast Trail, a father and son who were riding to San Francisco, and two French couples who had just retired and were visiting the U.S. for the first time,” the womens’ blog reads. “These French couples greatly emphasized the kindness of Americans. We’ve noticed that with this bike trip as well. There is so much kindness in this world. People offering meals, homes, or even just help on the side of the road.
“It’s refreshing to be reminded of the good in the world in the midst of the sadness and injustice that sometimes overpowers.”
Day 8 found them in Seaside, Day 9 in Cannon Beach. They bought ice cream in Tillamook, learned from a bike mechanic in Lincoln City all the wrong things they were doing with their bikes, and hiked hundreds of steps to the tops of lighthouses.
“The most athletic I’ve been in my entire life is exercising my fingers in my weekly piano lesson. No lie,” one wrote. “So learning how to push myself physically is very new for me. Kudos to all you athletes out there. I’m officially impressed.”
Huttl was equally impressed — with them.
“It’s very important what these young Americans are doing,” he said. “It’s impressive. It’s definitely a story to be told.”
“People want to invest in our ride because they believe in the goal,” Pfeffer said. “They believe in The Refuge, and they have hope for its future. It’s beautiful to invite so many people into this journey, and it’s easy because of their willingness to be involved. It’s what makes the impact so incredible.”
People can follow their travels and donate to the cause at pedalthepacific.com.