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Cyclist embarks on life-changing journey

Claremont native Nick Guido is on the ride of his life, and he is riding so that others can have a basic element of life.

Mr. Guido, who just earned a bachelors degree in physics from Azusa Pacific University, is on a 51-day bicycle trip from Bodega Bay, California to New York City to raise awareness—and funding—for a charity that provides clean drinking water around the globe. 

With nine other recent college graduates, Mr. Guido, 23, is participating in the 2019 Ride for Water with a goal of raising $80,000 for nonprofit Charity: Water.

The team, which includes seven riders, two drivers and one support staff member, reached Chicago Tuesday night and were enjoying a rare rest day. So far they have been on the road for 35 days and are scheduled to arrive in New York, where Charity: Water is based, on July 10.

“I am passionate about what Charity: Water is doing, and with the 100-percent policy I can tell people who donate that all of their money will go directly to providing clean water to people around the world,” he said.

He was inspired by a short film, The Spring, about the charity’s founder, Scott Harrison, and his personal transformation from night club promoter to innovator with the audacious goal of providing clean water to everyone on the planet. Mr. Harrison also wants to change the way charities operate, and developed the 100-percent model that Mr. Guido mentioned.

It works like this: The company is divided into two parts with completely separate finances. All public donations go into one account and are guaranteed to go directly into water projects. The other half, financed by about 130 families, pays for the expenses of running the charity.

According to the charity’s website, 663 million people live without clean water, nearly one in 10 people worldwide, or twice the population of the United States. Dirty water carries e-coli, cholera and parasites, and 52 percent of disease is related to water and sanitation. Unsafe water causes more deaths in the world than all forms of violence, including war.

And it’s not just drinking dirty water that affects these communities. People, women for the most part, are literally breaking their backs to retrieve water, walking for hours everyday carrying five-gallon jerry cans that weigh 40 pounds.

So far the charity has completed 20,000 water projects, bringing clean water to 6.3 million people.

“For me, that was very moving,” Mr. Guido said about The Spring. “The craziest thing we could do was nothing.”

Ride for Water is loosely affiliated with APU, because the first ride in 2013 was organized by a group of graduates. In the subsequent years, the students have raised $358,000 for Charity: Water.

Mr. Guido said the experience has been both exhausting and invigorating, with long days fighting the elements while riding 80 to 100 miles. The team had to abandon the ride one night in the Sierras because of snow and unsafe road conditions. The crew hopped in the support van to escape the cold but returned to the same spot the next day, walking their bikes through the snow until they could remount and finish the segment.

The team had been looking forward to hitting the plains with a promised tailwind, but this spring the trade winds were reversed, resulting in a stiff headwind. As a result, the riders moved along at 10 mph rather than 20, meaning that an eight-hour day might stretch into the evening.

Nonetheless, he describes the trip as a “super cool” experience, even if it is physically taxing. He compared it to an automobile road trip but on a much slower pace, allowing everyone to really take in the surroundings. He’s also thankful for the people who helped along the way, providing shelter, food and even a place to do laundry.

“They were excited by our cause and that really puts the wind in your sails,” he said. “It was a treat to see the country at a slower pace.”

Mr. Guido’s mother, Diane Guido, said this past year has been a time of significant personal growth for her son, including discovering a love for adventure and outdoor activities. “He is really shining now, and has really found his rhythm,” she said. “He enjoys the riding and is excited about doing things for other people.”

His parents plan to fly out to greet him as the Ride for Water completes its mission in New York. They were not sure whether a party has been planned but said, “we will make it as festive as we can.”

Once Mr. Guido finally finishes the ride, he will have little time to relax as he must return to Southern California to take a job with Raytheon in El Segundo.

Mr. Guido performed community service before, including several mission trips through Baseline Community Church to a home in Ensenada, Mexico that provides shelter to battered women and their children. He was also involved in a class at APU that was working to digitize medical records in Namibia. However, this experience was somehow different.

“Water is so fundamental to life and we take it for granted [in the United States]. For me to take two months out of my life is completely worth it to bring clean water to a whole community,” Mr. Guido said.

Ride for Water sponsors include: Clif Bars, Nalgene, MAAP, Covina Valley Cyclery, Sun Bum, Quad Lock, Bistro Studios, Mud Love and Topo Designs.

More information can be found on the website, rideforwater.com. Ride for Water also updates its Instagram and Facebook accounts daily. 

—Steven Felschundneff

steven@claremont-courier.com