Garri George and his son were on a short bicycle ride, from Indianapolis to Tennessee, when they stopped in Seymour to take a break.

A store owner in the rural town warned them of an approaching storm.

“The lady at the store said, ‘Maybe you should stay all night,’” George said. He waved his hand dismissively. “I said ‘ah, it’s not that bad.’”

So he and his son went back on the road. It didn’t take them long to realize something was not quite right about the weather.

“The sky looked dark and wicked,” George said. “And sure enough, there was a tornado right there.”

They turned around and pedaled faster.

Quite a bit faster.

High wind blew several signs to the ground and scattered tree limbs across the road. George and his son sped over the limbs and rode back toward the town.

They skid their bikes to a halt in front of a small hotel and dashed inside. The hotel’s power was out, so they had to lie down in the dark until the weather cleared and the lights came back on, which happened about 30 minutes later.

“It was a real gully washer,” George said of the storm.

The trip was one of 21 long-range bicycle tours George has taken. Now he is planning his first bicycle trip from coast to coast, from California to Florida.

He is taking the trip with his son, 24-year-old Garri George II. They plan to leave at the end of the month and take about eight weeks for the trip.

Their goal is to raise money for the Youth for Christ Ministry, which needs funding for additional staff members, George said. He is the director of Youth for Christ in East Central Indiana, based at Anderson University.

George has always enjoyed music and bicycling. As a teenager, he played steel guitar in a gospel quartet, and as a kid, he had a newspaper-delivery route.

He would ride his bicycle up and down the hilly streets of Nashville, Tenn., every morning to deliver the paper.

He became interested in bicycle tours when he joined Youth for Christ in the 1970s. The thought of traveling long distances with nothing but muscle power was appealing and sounded like an interesting way to serve the ministry, he said.

Faith has been a part of his life since he was a child.

His parents were not regular churchgoers, but his grandparents were devout Christians who frequently attended church. They would take George with them to services.

And when George was getting shipped overseas during the Vietnam War, his grandparents knelt with him and prayed, because they did not know if he would make it back.

George served in Panama for 15 months during the war. He would often play the harmonica for his fellow troops.

During the cross-country trip, they will stop along the way to perform musical acts. George and his son play the harmonica. And George plays steel guitar.

“I heard a steel guitar roaring on the radio when I was a kid,” he said. “Most people, it’s like noise to them, but I loved it.”

At a glance

Youth for Christ cross-country bicycle trip

• Youth for Christ Director Garri George and his son Garri George II are planning a cross-country bicycle trip from California to Florida.

• The goal of the trip is to raise $50,000 for the ministry to hire new staff members.

• The trip route runs west from east so George and his son won’t ride against the wind.

• They plan to travel 60 miles a day, from the end of March for about eight weeks.

• A Youth for Christ board member will follow in an RV that George and his son will spend the nights in.

• Individuals and businesses can sponsor the men on the trip. People wanting more information about sponsoring should call (765) 608-3059.

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