By Angela Peacock
Since 1996, Reza Baluchi has been biking and running across the world with this message:
“I would like for Muslims, Christians and everyone to come together. I’m running for people, peace and freedom,” said Baluchi as he stopped for a breather just past mile marker 333 outside of Tucumcari on Interstate 40 Friday afternoon.
Baluchi, who fled Iran in 1996 on his bicycle, was detained Nov. 10 in Arizona after he crossed the border illegally. He was held at the Immigration and Naturalization Service detention center in Florence, 50 miles southeast of Phoenix until his recent release.
Baluchi now plans to complete the last stage of what he said to be a 46,000-mile trek. He has pedaled over six continents and at least 54 countries, clutching newspaper clippings and photographs that document his voyage while pushing for peace, according to his Web site and his attorney, Suzannah Maclay.
The 30-year-old wanderer said he was in Mexico waiting for a visa and got lost while riding near the border when he was arrested. After convincing an immigration judge in February that he would be persecuted for his political views if deported to his native Iran, Baluchi was released and immediately returned to his voyage.
“I want to become a citizen and to win an Olympic gold medal for the U.S.,” said Baluchi, whose final destination is Ground Zero in New York.