Josh Crenshaw, MN League parent volunteer, standing far right, during his 2014 ride.

Josh Crenshaw is the parent of a Roseville/Mounds View Area Composite Cycling Team rider, and a team coach. By all measures he’s an ordinary father, husband, mountain biker, and League volunteer. However Josh decided to take his love of cycling to make a difference in this world. On May 22 He departs Minnesota to link up with his group of like-minded cyclists for a seven day, 500 mile ride through Rwanda. Their goal is to create awareness of the plight and raise funds for one of the poorest places on earth,  Burundi. And no, this is not a typo: they anticipate approximately 48,000 feet of climbing during their charity ride.

Here are Josh’s responses to our questions about his trip.

How did you get involved in this?

Back in 2013 I became aware of Great Lakes Outreach (GLO), an aid organization working in Burundi, Africa. Burundi is Rwanda’s southern neighbor and suffered many of the atrocities of the genocide in the 90’s, while Rwanda has seen some progress since then Burundi has not and is currently ranked as the second poorest country in the world.  Some friends and I raised money for a program called Milk for Transformations (as well as a few others) and in 2014 joined up with a dozen other cyclists to ride around the country for 7 days. We went to the orphanages and school that they supported and heard the stories of a number of people who had lived through the darkest days and now worked for peace and reconciliation. My goal this year is to raise 15k, I am paying my own way so all funds raised go directly to support the work of GLO. Burundi is so unstable at the moment that we will be riding around Rwanda, and its no easy ride. Over 7 days we will travel over 500 miles and climb over 48,000 feet in elevation.

How do you train for a ride with 48K of climbing?

I have been committed to go since late last fall so training over the winter was a lot of indoor cycling and the occasional run in the cold. Lately I have been trying to ride a couple times a week and mix in a run for variety, plus some weight training. I rode 60 miles yesterday (April 29) and signed up for a 100 mile Gran Fondo on 5/6. The most challenging part is going to be the hills, with a total of 48,000 ft. of climbing including a 90 mile day, with 11,000 ft.  It’s going to be brutal. In 2014 our toughest day was 9000 ft. and the grades were so steep that I was riding back and forth across the road to get up the hill. …I will be right back, I need to go in the corner and do some squats!

Where do you eat?

We have a breakfast of pancakes and fruit and hit the road. For the day, it is tiny bananas picked off the bunch and a smorgasbord of energy bars and gels.  This gets old after day 3. Dinner is cooked for us by a chef well versed in proper food hygiene. It consists of potatoes, rice, beans, fresh avocados and other fruit and vegetables, usually two or three heaping plates-full.

Do you have a support crew?

Each night we stay in a different town. The hotels range from pretty sketchy to pretty nice, there are some pictures of one of the nicer places we stayed were we each got our own private “hut” and the pool overlooked lake Tanganyika. I think rate was under $20USD for the night. Usually we have electricity. Showers are generally cold and from a bucket. Occasionally we fare better.

Since we are staying in a new place each night we travel with a van that carries our gear and a pick-up that transports 5 gallon jugs of water. We stop every 10-15 miles so we didn’t get separated. I won’t carry anything more than I do for a ride around town.

Are the people friendly?

The people we met were very friendly and curious. Imagine for a moment a group of 20 or so spandex clad white dudes riding through your village on exotic bikes. There were always people walking or biking on the road, so anytime we stopped a crowd would gather. There were a couple of people in our group who spoke the language, including Simon who is white (British) and he would occasionally surprise them with his responses.

What impact has this made on your life?

There are so many ways, big and little, in which my life has been impacted.

  • People are the same wherever you go and we all want pretty much the same things: to have a little security in which to enjoy family and friends and to have some opportunity to pursue our God-given passions and enjoy what life has to offer.
  • As Americans we are an incredibly wealthy country and with that comes opportunity and responsibility. The portions of our income that we consider ‘disposable’ and use to entertain ourselves with, or blow on worthless things, could be used to have life changing impacts. We could do truly amazing things and create dramatic change if we chose to, and for most people it would not even be a sacrifice to their current living standard. This is not the job of governments or aid organizations to figure all this out.  This is everyone’s job.
  • Perspective. I am simply lucky to have been born here. Nothing I did or deserved or karma or fate put me here instead of there, and any sense of pride is misplaced. Approach the world with humility.
  • Say yes to things. It had never occurred to me to go to Africa and I had never heard of Burundi but when the moment came it was exactly what I needed to do. We are better people for the experiences that we have outside of our comfort zone and we come back changed.

If you would like to sponsor Josh on his ride you can do so here.

Good luck Josh! Keep doing those squats!

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