Two deaf college students hope that their cross-country bicycle ride will help deaf or handicapped people aspire to greater goals.
Kansas City native Kevin Clark and classmate Stefan Goldschmidt from Wuppertal, Germany, spent Sunday and Monday in Lawrence. Their began their trek in Yorktown, Va., on June 6 and hope to reach their final destination of San Francisco by the first week in August.
"We want to be role models for handicapped and deaf people," Goldschmidt wrote during an interview. "They can do it, no matter what kind of handicap."
Clark and Goldschmidt met at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., the only university for deaf students in America.
"This has always been one of Kevin's dreams," said Carol Mlak, who is coordinating their trip for McDonald's Corp, a corportate sponsor of the ride. "He contacted us because we do a lot to help handicapped people. There was just no turning him down. He has a real strong conviction about this."
The two cyclists are traveling without a signing interpreter, but wrote that they have had few difficulties communicating as they travel.
TO GET directions Sunday evening, they flagged down Kansas University police officer Bob Linzer, who was patroling campus. Linzer and KUPD Sgt. Randy Kern called area motels and then escorted the cyclists to the Westminster Inn where they were offered a room free of charge.
To make business transactions easy for the cyclists, they are carrying a letter from the McDonald's Corp. that explains the goals of their tour. The letter also asks motels and stores to donate services and supplies.
Clark wrote that the biggest problems he has encountered on the tour have not been related to communication, but rather mechanical. Worn out gears forced him to exchange his first bicycle for a new one after crossing the Appalachian Mountains.
The Sunflower Bike Shop was their first Lawrence destination Monday morning. Through a few notes and simple signs, they were able to replace worn out equipment and stocked up for the next leg of the journey, which will take them to Denver.
HEART OF America McDonald's, USAir, Interstate Brands Corp., and Deaf Interpreters clubs across America are sponsoring the cyclists and footing the bill for their equipment.
In return, the cyclists have been collecting donations as they travel to support the Ronald McDonald Houses, where family members of sick children can stay while a child is hospitalized.
The goal of their tour is not just to act as role models for people with disabilities.
Goldschmidt wrote, "We also want to see, taste and smell beautiful America."