Chesterton resident Peter Wilson returns home Wednesday from biking 1,626
miles across the U.S. to raise awareness and funds for orphans in Africa. A
long trip, indeed, but small in comparison to his next journey this October
when he and his family will leave their home to be with the House of Hope
Orphanage in Uganda.
Wilson, who embarked from Valparaiso on June 10, calls his travels on the
road as the “Ride to Hope,” and it is a literal one. He is riding solo on
his bicycle to Hope, Ark. and back again over the course of 24 days.
The targeted fundraising goal of $80,000 will be used to finish three
orphanage buildings, build an outdoor kitchen and to install a septic
It may sound exhausting bicycling 70 to 90 miles per day but Wilson said his
legs have held up “pretty well” thanks to the weeks of conditioning he did
before the trip. But no amount of conditioning could have prepared Wilson
for the real experience -- braving triple digit temperatures, high winds,
steep hill climbs, four-foot-long snakes, a couple of missed turns, broken
spokes and six flat tires.
“I’m getting pretty good at getting (the tires) fixed quickly,” Wilson said.
Despite the cons, there are plenty of pros for Wilson to enjoy and he keeps
a daily blog about them. Highlights of his trip have included a three-mile
police escort across a steel bridge, gorgeous views of rice fields in
Missouri and Arkansas, riding through an 800-foot tunnel on the Tunnel Hill
State Trail in Illinois, and crossing the Arkansas and Ouachita rivers.
But he said the biggest takeaway is the generosity complete strangers have
shown him. Wilson said staying with people he didn’t know was the biggest
concern his friends had about him traveling by himself, but most of the
folks Wilson’s encountered have been touched by his journey. Over the past
weekend, one motorist offered Wilson some lunch and a dip in his pool to
“I would say less than one percent of the people I’ve met have been rude in
any way. Typically they are very sweet and nice,” Wilson said.
After three weeks pulling a small trailer carrying his tent, clothes and
other belongings, Wilson said he’s looking forward to seeing his wife
Natalie and their four young children whose ages range from two to seven
“It’s been a fun journey but I’m ready to be home,” he said.
This is not the first time Wilson has done something like this, however.
Shortly after college, he biked from Chesterton all the way to the Atlantic
Ocean with a few friends. When brainstorming with his wife on ways to raise
money for the orphanage, the idea for a second bicycle journey, “Ride to
Hope,” was conceived.
Natalie Wilson said there will be a welcome home celebration for her husband
whose time of arrival is estimated to be 5 p.m. on Wednesday. The public is
invited to join the Wilsons’ friends and family at the Bethel Church
property near the intersection of Sturdy Road and CR 100 N. in Valparaiso
starting at 4 p.m. A few will bike with Wilson on his last mile.
The entire family will live in Northern Uganda for initially two years or
even longer depending on how the kids respond, said Peter Wilson. Both he
and Natalie have been to Uganda before and felt called to move there when
they became more acquainted with the House of Hope organization a little
more than a year ago.
“We have been completely enthralled,” said Natalie Wilson. “The need out
there is so huge. We felt we needed to do something.”
She said Uganda has more than 2.5 million children living as orphans. Though
many of them have experienced great personal difficulties, they still have
“such a rich amount of joy” and love to share.
Peter Wilson said House of Hope is home to 33 orphans currently. Considering
the area does not have electricity, he said his family expects plenty of
changes in their daily routine but believes making lives better for these
orphans will make their anxieties quickly fade.
“There are going to be a lot of changes, but when you are doing something
that you are passionate about, all those (worries) kind of fall by the way
side,” he said.
The fundraiser will still go on after the bicycle ride has ended. You can
sponsor one of Peter Wilson’s miles for $50. Donations can be made through
the websites www.ridetohope.com
The sites feature more information on the Ride to Hope journey, the orphans
in Uganda and the Wilson family.