Rotarian to ride coast to coast for charity

When Torrey Pines (La Jolla) Rotarian Bill Irwin dips his rear tire in the Pacific Ocean on March 8, he’ll begin a cross-country fundraising trek benefiting his service club’s charitable foundation.

Forty-two days and 2,468 miles later, he hopes his odyssey will culminate when he dips his front tire in the Atlantic Ocean in Jacksonville, Fla.

“Let’s get on these bikes and get out of here,” joked an anxious Irwin, always “edgy” before a long-distance ride. “I’m trying to raise $24,680 — $10 a mile,” he said of his goal that, judging from early returns, will be hugely successful. Three weeks before setting out, he’d already raised $1,500, mostly in small contributions.

Tax-deductible donations to Irwin’s ride, flat rate or per-mile, can be made with a credit card at www.torrey

None of the money Irwin raises on his cycling jaunt will go toward his travel expenses. All of it goes to Torrey Pines (La Jolla) Rotary Club Foundation, which is in keeping with the organization’s mission of providing humanitarian service and building goodwill and peace in the world.

Foundation President Don Yeckel talked about programs that proceeds from Irwin’s ride will benefit.

“It will go for a variety of projects, most local,” he said. “For the third year, we’ve supported Alternative Breaks @ UCSD, a program where students, instead of going to vacation spots on their spring breaks, go instead to some Third World country and do service projects.”

Yeckel said the foundation also supports international humanitarian relief.

“We’re helping people in Haiti by contributing to ShelterBox,” he said of the program providing shelter and lifesaving equipment in disaster areas.

During a recent weekly Torrey Pines Rotary luncheon, Irwin filled his colleagues in on plans for his trip, talking about what it’s like to bike cross-country, which he’s done twice before.

“We’ll go seven days, then take a day off,” he said, adding that weather conditions will have a lot do with the progress in, and comfort of, the ride. “If the wind is in your face, it’s horrible,” he said. “And if it’s behind you — it’s wonderful.”

It’s a different world out there, noted Irwin, citing a long stretch of rural Texas he went through once before as a case in point.

“We’ll ask people where their ATM machine is, and they’ll say, ‘We don’t have one.’ Some towns don’t have a bank. You have to go to a gas station on the highway to get to an ATM. Some of these people have never been 20 miles (away).”

Irwin added that he and his handful of traveling companions would try to stop along the way to meet and greet fellow Rotarians wherever possible.

Current Torrey Pines (La Jolla) Rotary Club President Gordon Shurtleff said Irwin’s cross-country fundraising ride demonstrates the cohesiveness of their club and symbolizes the enterprising and expansive spirit of Rotary.

“Ours is a very close-knit group that believe in the community,” he said. “Our club members have visited over 50 countries. We’re like ambassadors.”

Torrey Pines (La Jolla) Rotary Club meets from noon to 1:30 p.m. Wednesdays at Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery, 8980 Villa La Jolla Drive.