Chris Downey in a rowboat. Photo by Doug Olson, photographer
Photo by Doug Olson, photographer

Chris Downey Rows His Own Cycle for Sight

Chris Downey, immediate past Chair of the LightHouse board and renowned blind architect, is a bike rider. He has ridden as part of Team Enchanted Hills in Cycle for Sight, a fundraiser to raise funds for Enchanted Hills Camp, almost every year in the past decade. As a blind rider, Chris and his tandem partners always choose to ride the hilly 50-mile route. If Chris is participating, he wants to be all in. Cycle for Sight is an event he looks forward to every year.
 
During the pandemic, Chris has had to curtail his cycling, as his tandem partners aren’t in his household, and on a bike they’d be closer than six feet apart. Thinking creatively, Chris thought of how he could take part in this year’s Virtual Cycle for Sight where participants can invent their own athletic way to exercise. In addition to bike riding, Chris is an avid rower and usually goes in a group in a racing shell with a total of two to eight rowers. Although he has done solo rowing with an accompanying vessel providing navigational input. Sadly, COVID-19 has kept Chris off the water as well.
 
But this year to take part in Virtual Cycle for Sight on April 17, Chris will be rowing the distance of the crossing of the English Channel: 33.8 kilometers. Chris won’t even have to leave his garage. He will be using his rowing machine. A dedicated athlete, Chris will be challenging himself to row this distance by rowing at 20 minutes at a time, with five-minute breaks, anticipating completing his goal in a few hours.
 
When training on his rowing machine, Chris fancies himself as an electronic “Pigpen”. Like the character in the comic strip Peanuts, Chris is surrounded by a cloud, only his is comprised of Bluetooth, WIFI and streaming data. Using his phone like a conductor’s wand and screen reader VoiceOver as the instrument, he will be listening through wireless earbuds to his rows-per-minute, distance covered, heartrate and the motivating music of his choice.
 
You can emulate Chris and create your own individual athletic event for this pandemic year’s Cycle for Sight. Support Enchanted Hills Camp on Saturday April 17 with a ride, run, hike, walk, dance, swim, skate or row for at least 90 minutes. Sign up at the Cycle for Sight website, and be part of Team LightHouse. We would be thrilled if you post photos of your virtual participation using hashtag #C4S2021 or email your photos to events@lighthouse-sf.org. The event includes a morning livestream opening ceremony, and then we will regroup in the afternoon for a virtual party. The $45 registration fee includes a goody bag mailed to your home. If you opt for the $85 VIP registration, you’ll receive a premium goody bag.
 
Even if you can’t participate in Cycle for Sight, you can support Chris Downey’s row at lighthouse-sf.org/donate and choose Cycle for Sight from the dropdown menu.
 
We can’t wait to see you at the opening ceremony.

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