Cyclists riding across the country to raise cryptocurrency for charity

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 6, 2018

Just a few months ago, Joel Velasquez got a call from his friend Jason Berlin inviting him out to eat so he could share a new, exciting idea that he had come up with.

At the meeting, Berlin pitched the idea of going on a cross-country bicycle trip to spread awareness about cryptocurrency awareness for charity.

“One day, he called me up and said let’s meetup I’ve got a great idea that we can do together,” Velasquez said. “We started to have coffee and then he was telling me let’s ride bikes across America.”

Neither of them were experienced cyclists. Both of them had jobs and a life in Long Island, New York.

But it only took Velasquez 10 minutes to commit to a new challenge and the Tour de Crypto was a go.

The novice riders learned a lot about themselves and their lofty goal as they began training for the ride. They began working out in the gym to build leg strength and improve their cardio, but once they got their bikes and started training on them, they quickly realized it wasn’t the same.

“The journey is definitely not what we expected it to be,” Berlin said. “In terms of training for this event, a lot of people had this misconception that Jovel and I were experts or had been professional riders in the past, and that’s false.”

The two months in the gym and practicing on the actual bikes was not the smoothest transition.

“When we got the bikes, we noticed that it was a completely different thing than training in the gym,” Berlin said. “You end up using different muscles. You start to realize that there’s a whole different rhythm to it.”

The new experience on the bikes didn’t discourage the riders from their original mission, which is to spread awareness about using cryptocurrency for charity.

“We are trying to make awareness about theses cryptocurrencies by taking action,” Berlin said. “Cryptocurrency is basically a digital form of what we have now as a currency. There’s a lot of benefits to that and the one thing we’re looking at is associating it to non-profits. As a charity, it’s very important to understand where that money is going to. A lot of cryptocurrencies are transparent in their accountability. They’ll explain where the money is going, but with the block chain adoption, we could all see that. We could see where that money is going, where it’s being spent and who is receiving it.”

Berlin also highlighted that cryptocurrencies aren’t limited by geographical location, and that it can be sent and moved from all over the world.

Berlin and Velasquez have been pushing their message to as many non-profits as they can, and have met some resistance along the way. Charities that remain skeptical of cryptocurrencies weren’t eager to jump on board, but the Houston Area Women’s Center (HWAC), a non-profit organization that works to stop domestic and sexual violence, bought in to the idea of accepting cryptocurrency as donations.

“The majority didn’t want to be associated with cryptocurrencies, even though we were telling them our goal was to raise $1million, they were like ‘That’s nice, but we don’t want to do this” Berlin said. “The HAWC in Houston, Texas, had an understanding of what cryptocurrencies and Bitcoin is, and they had the entrepreneurial mindset to understand that this is something that will become more mainstream in the next few years.”

HAWC coordinator Blake Rizzo worked as the median between the organization and the Tour de Crypto ride to help his organization understand how to track and receive the donations.

As of this past Wednesday, Berlin and Velasquez have raised nearly $200,000 in cryptocurrency for HAWC.

The Tour de Crypto’s goal is to raise $1 million in cryptocurrency for HAWC, and they have been building a following as they ride through the country.

The traveled South first because they wanted to hit the more densely populated areas while also spreading awareness about the benefits of cryptocurrency along the way.

They have averaged approximately 80-100 miles per day and have had plenty of adventurous moments along the way. Berlin got chased by a dog. Velasquez ran over a copperhead that nearly bit him when it struck out toward his bike. They’ve managed to hold a straight line while sandwiched between ditches on the side of the road and the speeding cars and tractor trailers on the highways.

They particularly enjoyed the paved and shade covered path of the Silver Comet Trail coming through northern Georgia, and eclipsed 1,300 miles before pulling into Selma, where they treated themselves to a day of rest.

Neither Berlin, Velasquez nor any of the Tour de Crypto crew members documenting and organizing their trip had been to Selma before, and they took advantage of their time in the city to learn more about the voting rights movement and the march on Bloody Sunday that brought the national spotlight to the Queen City.

After their visit to Selma, Berlin and Velasquez still have many more miles to cover. As a symbol of how far they’re going, they left a rear tire back in Long Island and plan on leaving a front tire at their final destination in Huntingdon Beach, California. They’re documenting their trip on social media through Facebook and Twitter, and making people aware of how this currency of the future can help charities.

“As we’re riding, people are following us and getting a better understanding of what we’re trying to achieve,” Berlin said.