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Rhoades pedals east

"It's payback time for Bainbridge Island cyclist Steve Rhoades.He's leaving Saturday morning for a cross-country bike marathon to Washington, D.C. And his objective is to raise $100,000 for the social-service agencies that rescued him from a life of homelessness and substance abuse.I want to give back to all the charities that helped me, Rhoades said.Rhoades came to Seattle in 1992 with a plan to land work on an Alaska fishing boat. But the job didn't materialize, and Rhoades drank away what little money he had.Fate intervened in the person of Nyer Urness, a Bainbridge Islander who was pastor of Compass House, a Seattle homeless shelter. After a chance meeting, Urness persuaded Rhoades to go to Compass House, where he kicked his drinking and drug habit.Rhoades got a job with ABC Legal Messengers in Seattle, and developed a passion for cycling, his mode of transportation on the job. He began competing in local cycle races against riders half his age.Then in 1996, he was rear-ended by a hit-and-run driver on the road to Suquamish. Because his badly damaged left leg might need skin- restoration treatment, he was placed in the burn unit at Harborview Hospital.The whole time I was lying there, I was thinking that if I could get out, I wanted to help the burn victims, Rhoades said.He made it back onto his bicycle. Impressed with his determination, the Bainbridge Human Performance Center made Rhoades a part-time instructor.Even though he is nearing 50, Rhoades still envisions a professional bike-racing career. The cross-country ride is one of his training steps.Rhoades plans to ride the 3,250 miles from Seattle to that other Washington in 20 days, and hopes to average 150 to 200 miles a day.That's a self-imposed pace, Rhoades said, and not any kind of a record.Rhoades' route will take him to Yakima, then east through Washington and Oregon, across southern Idaho and Wyoming, then across the Great Plains and midwest, passing through his native Indiana.People tell me the hills in West Virginia are the killers, Rhoades said. But I'm in good enough shape I don't think that will be a problem.He will be accompanied by Andrew Mooth, a masseur, who will drive an accompanying van and try to keep Rhoades in road-worthy condition.Rhoades is trying to use the race as a vehicle to raise money for Compass House, the Harborview burn unit, and Helpline House, the island's one-stop social service agency.Anyone wishing to make a contribution may contact the HPC for a pledge form. All money raised goes to the beneficiary agencies.I need to give the credit to HPC, which is paying my salary, and all the staff there, and to my sponsors, Rhoades said. I'm the one who's pushing the pedals, but they are the ones making this possible. "

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