central coasT classique
blind and visually-impaired ride tandem bikes By Judythe Guarnera
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go. . .” —Dr. Seuss: Oh, the Places You’ll Go.
When I read the quote above on her website, The GO See Foundation, I had no idea Allyson Buerger’s feet wanted to rest on the pedals of a tandem bicycle. Allyson relates that she has been dealing with vision loss for as long as she can remember. Her father, Gary Owens provided the encouragement she needed to make sure her vision ability was never a disability. “On a good day, I have 20/80 vision within a limited field . . . with objects in very close range. Everything else I see as though I’m looking
through a frost-covered windshield.” She is grateful for her Guide Dog, Olga, who helps her stay active and engaged with the world she lives in. Although she is visually-impaired, Allyson has been a volunteer participant with the EyeCycle Program at Cal Poly for many years. She says, “The experience has been an amazing opportunity to be outdoors and physically active.” She formed her non-profit Go See Foundation to promote physical health for visually-impaired and blind people through group outdoor activities. This year Allyson hopes to participate in the Central Coast Classique, a 30, 64, and 100-mile bike ride, which aims to showcase the picturesque coastline and valleys of the area. The ride benefits Creative Mediation (CM) and the San Luis Obispo Law Enforcement Assistance Foundation (SLO LEAF), two local non-profits which jointly promote safe, supported, peaceful communities. People who are blind develop their other senses to make up for their visual loss. Allyson won’t clearly see all the beautiful scenery on the ride. Yet on September 30th, the day of the Central Coast Classique, the air will be redolent with fall smells. She’ll feel the energy coursing through her body as she presses the pedals, and she will share camaraderie with her captain and the other riders. To top it off, she’ll be assisting CM and SLO Leaf, two organizations whose missions are to support her community. As a long-time volunteer mediator for CM and a non-bike rider, I was amazed when I discovered that visually impaired and non-sighted individuals rode tandem bicycles in the 2016 Classique.
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