Hanna's dream ride heads to Spartanburg
Churches across the country are going to be asking themselves, “Why didn’t we think of that?”
For the first time in her two-year, pedal-powered journey around the country, 74-year-old Lions International member Hanna Elshoff spent the night in a church. Hurricane Baptist Church, near Clinton, was her home base for a visit last week and through Easter Sunday, at the invitation of the Joanna Lions Club.
Elshoff rode into Clinton last Wednesday and promptly generated a buzz along Broad Street, met up with Lions, went out to eat, spoke to Thursday evening’s meeting of the Joanna Lions, visited Joanna-Woodson Elementary on Friday, participated in Hurricane Baptist’s Easter Sunday service, and set off for Spartanburg.
There, this coming weekend, she will attend the South Carolina Lions Convention. Then, she sets sail for Chicago and the 100th Lions International Convention; then, she will pedal her solar power-assisted tricycle back to her hometown in Rochester, Minn.
She is not resting while she’s home. “I don’t get tired while I’m pedaling,” Elshoff said. She used the solar power for assistant on steep grades, and rarely travels 20 mph - most of the time it’s pedal-power at 10 mph. She’s never experienced an angry motorist.
“If it’s a construction zone, sometimes they get behind me. But I’ve never had a problem. They see my vehicle and they slow down, or if it’s safe, they change lanes,” Elshoff said.
She is in this part of the country because a while back she had to get repairs done on her egg-shaped ELF three-wheel vehicle at its manufacturer in Durham, N.C. She stopped briefly at Wicker’s Nursery between Newberry and Clinton, and bought a plant for her host in the Clinton-Joanna area - whoever that might be.
Elshoff found her way to uptown Clinton, made copies at L&L Office Supply, and asked her usual question.
“Do you know a Lion?”
From there, a connection was made to the Joanna Lions Club. Elshoff pedaled to the bench beside the Veterans Monument at The Depot, sat a while, then pedaled down South Broad Street to Maple, saw a back parking lot at Presbyterian College and spent time there last Wednesday.
By then, Clinton was a buzz with the word, “Did you see the lady in the funny car?”
“I’ve been on this thing for two years,” Elshoff told the Joanna Lions. “I have story after story.” She told them about one of her first experiences. Two bicycle riders joined her early on in her journey, and fell behind. They wound up staying with a lady in a town they came across, and the bicyclists wanted to camp out. That didn’t work out, so the bicyclists stayed in the lady’s basement.
They wanted to take their hostess out to dinner. “No, no,” the lady said, ‘I have a pot roast in the oven.’”
Turns out, the hostess was widowed a few months before, and this was the first meal she had cooked since her husband died. “We broke her out of the rut she was in,’ Elshoff said. “This whole three years (one year planning, two years pedaling), I’m right where I need to be.”
Elshoff is pedaling the country to say “thank you” to America.
Her family survived Nazi Germany because the Americans and British liberated her town while an order to seize and transport her family was in place. The former SS agent who had the order, on his death bed, told Elshoff’s father about what was in store for her family.
Elshoff arrived in the U.S. sponsored by a family in Iowa, was inspired to become a citizen by former President Jimmy Carter, who she later met with help from the Plains, Ga., Lions Club, perfected her English through Toastmasters, and was set on her journey - at age 72, she’s now 74 - by a stroke she suffered just before was to compete in a national contest for humorous speech.
She had a drive to pedal the country when she was 80 years old. Recovering from the stroke convinced her to bump up her timetable. Then, she encountered former Lions International President Barry Palmer, whose platform was “Follow Your Dream.”
Everybody in her hometown and in her home Lions Club said she was crazy. Goggling “solar powered vehicles” she found her ELF, flew to Durham to buy it, and took off. Anybody who gives her money along the way learns that the donation is going to Leader Dogs for the Blind, a Lions International charity.
The Joanna Lions donated $117.
“The bike makes my journey,” Elshoff said. “People come out of the woodwork to see it. Some talk to me, others are shy and eventually start talking. They ask me the reason I am doing this, and I say, ‘Lions.’ Let them know who you are. As I have been traveling, I have met only good people.
“I gave a talk to the Rochester, Minnesota, Club, and after that, a member sold a lot of signs, ‘A Lion Lives Here.’ Let people know the good you do in the community.”
Joanna Lions are traveling this Friday and Saturday to the state convention in Spartanburg, where one of the activities will be dedication of a special playground at the SC School for the Deaf and Blind.
Later this spring, Joanna Lions will take a charter bus, and some will fly, to Chicago. Lions from all over the world will be there, and if the Joanna members look around, they likely will see the ELF and the feisty and funny, pedal-pushing lady who slept at their church, Hanna Elshoff.