Nearing the finish

Jonathan Parsons
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Ontario senior cyclist nearing end of his trip across Canada

One of the most interesting things about living near the Trans-Canada Highway is seeing some of the fascinating characters who pass through town.

Armin Kluge on the bike he has ridden across Canada.

In recent weeks, another person has passed through Clarenville, traveling across the country, raising money for a cause.

Armin Kluge is from Aurora, Ontario. He is cycling across Canada to raise money for a school in Cambodia. He says he already helped build a school there and is biking for funds and awareness for the important of education.

What makes Kluge unique is that he’s nearly 74 years old.

The man, who is originally from Germany, has a thin frame and is deeply tanned by the sun. His white beard covers most of his face, except for his eyes.

Kluge is extremely friendly and talkative. After conversing with him for only a few minutes, it’s easy to see why he would donate so much of his time to help others. You can hear the passion in his thickly-accented voice.

He told The Packet this endeavour began while on a different adventure almost 20 years ago.

“I have been inspired by a gentleman in 1997 when I was sea kayaking in the Arctic,” said Kluge. “At that time he was 74, he told me, ‘I rode my bike from Vancouver to Halifax when I was 70.’ And that really made a big impression on me at the time when I was 57.”

Over time, Kluge put the project on his “to-do list”. He became involved with promoting education in South-East Asia.

“A school friend of mine, we went to grade school together some 60 years ago in Germany, he called me up in 2007 informing me he wanted to build a school in Cambodia. And I said, ‘Wow, this is amazing, count me in. See how I can help.’

“I have been hooked ever since.

“In the beginning I started to support one child, then it grew into five through my family and by now, I have 31 children going to school, getting an education every year because of my bike ride.”

The bike ride began modestly. Kluge wanted to ensure he could do it; he was 70 years old and not even a cyclist.

“I came back in 2010 from the school that I helped build at that time in Cambodia. I said, ‘Well, I’m going to be 70 this year, what about this bike ride that I have stuck in mind?’ And when I announced it to my wife she said, ‘Oh you’re crazy.’

“When I was capable of riding about 85 to 100 kilometres a day I said, ‘I’m ready.’ So I set out on my first section from Kenora to back home in Aurora, ON, in 2010,” Kluge said.

He went on to bike from Vancover to Western Ontario in 2011, and in 2012 he rode from his home in Aurora to Halifax.

He set a goal to raise one dollar per kilometre from Vancouver to Halifax, giving him about $7,000.

Kluge says he has raised around $42,000 to date.

Having finished his cross-Canada bike ride, Kluge was due for a long rest, but an email he received made him think his work was far from done.

“I got an email from an unknown person from Newfoundland and it said, “Armin, you are a fraud. You’re a liar. You have not crossed Canada, you haven’t come to Newfoundland.” And I brushed it off, I mean, I haven’t gone to the Yukon either. (But) I thought then, he’s got a point.”

This year, Kluge began his final trip, from Halifax to St. John’s.

He has already experienced plenty of generosity. Kluge only paid for a night’s stay on one occasion from Halifax to Clarenville.

But the trip has been a little difficult for him, he has encountered higher temperatures than expected, many steep hills and strong headwinds.

Kluge is also a vegetarian and admits it is hard to find the proper dietary requirements while constantly traveling.

Other than the physical limitations, Kluge’s biggest difficulty is being alone on the road.

“The best part of my day is talking to my wife every night,” he said.

Almost finished, he has plans to settle down and put away his bike after this trek. He thinks he has a pretty good story to tell and may write it down instead of spreading his message through talking to everyone he meets.

“I think I will have so many wonderful stories to tell about the people that I met. This is really the essence or the most important thing is the generosity of the Canadian people. The things that happened to me crossing this country is unbelievable and it’s worth writing a book about it. So that is probably the next thing I will do.”

As Kluge polishes off the epilogue to his journey, he finishes a legacy of selfless charity, one that many children will benefit from in the form of a good education.

And no one who meets him along the way will forget it.

To help support Kluge’s cause, visit his website at www.helpcambodianschool.org.

jonathan.parsons@thepacket.ca

Organizations: The Packet, Cross-Canada

Geographic location: Ontario, Canada, Aurora Cambodia Halifax Clarenville Germany Vancouver Arctic South-East Asia Newfoundland Kenora Yukon

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