Follow Melbourne Cyclist’s Trek Across the U.S. (Yes, All 4,000 Miles)
Ever get a sore behind after pedaling around on your bike? Consider how cyclist Jim Wright will feel after he pedals from Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine, this summer.
Google Maps shows the shortest route between those two points as 3,188 miles. But on a bike, the route will take much longer, since you cannot legally — or safely — travel by bike on high-speed roadways.
Wright, who turned 73 in April, estimates he will be on a bike for about 47 days, averaging close to 100 miles per day.
“That’s a long time I will be staring at the Lycra in front of me,” said the Melbourne resident.
He takes off from Oregon on June 1, with the goal of reaching Maine by July 16, with only four rest days along the way.
Sore buttocks indeed.
Why is this retired engineer doing this to himself?
“Because it’s there,” Wright said.
An avid cyclist for 35 years, Wright is no stranger to long-distance riding. With his then 12-year-old son, David, he participated in an event where 2,000 people pedaled 2,000 miles in the year 2000. The two of them wound their way through byways in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, South and North Carolina and Virginia.
Fellow Brevard cycling enthusiast Matt Kerr, 54, knows how tough a road Wright will face. In 2016, Kerr successfully embarked on a similar adventure, cycling for six weeks from San Diego, Calif., to Satellite Beach with two of his cycling buddies.
As a bucket list item, Kerr had initially thrown the idea out to a large group of cyclists.
“At least a dozen said yes, but when it boiled down, it was me and my two buddies, with my wife in the chase vehicle,” said Kerr, owner of 321 Boat Club.
An automobile would have clocked 2,000 miles on the route from California to Florida, but Kerr and his team had to meander for 3,300 miles.
“You’re not allowed on expressways and there is no direct route,” Kerr said. “We were literally snaking all over the country.”
Wright will be traveling with 20 or so cyclists in a structured ride organized by the travel arm of Trek Bicycle Corporation. Like Kerr, he will be winding his way across the country. For Kerr, the desert proved a formidable challenge. For Wright, the mountains will test his mettle, but that won’t stop him from enjoying the surroundings.
“We’ll be going through some beautiful scenery,” he said.
The view may be nice, but the weather could make things miserable. Kerr remembers riding through rain and sleet during a cycling odyssey where participants can’t just sit back and take it easy.
“You have to keep riding to make it to the next destination,” Kerr said. “We rode through 115-degree weather and through sandstorms that needed plows to clear the roads.”
He had his share of mountains, too.
“We hit 50-mile headwinds climbing mountains when even cars were being warned not to travel,” he said.
Embarking on such a ride takes planning and plenty of training. Kerr had been training six days a week for months when he got thrown a major wrench — he crashed his bike along the Eau Gallie Causeway during a routine ride.
“It affected my training in a major way,” Kerr understated.
Knocked out cold for 15 minutes, he ended up in the trauma unit for three days. He broke his hip, shattered teeth, lost memory and had to relearn many tasks. But that didn’t stop him from taking part in the ride as planned. Against doctor’s orders and when his wife was out on errands, Kerr resumed training on a stationary bike. Seven weeks later, he was at the starting point in San Diego, as originally planned.
“I was not going to let my buddies down,” he said.
Wright is currently training by cycling every day through neighborhoods and along River Road in Rockledge and working with personal trainers at Club Performax.
“He wants to get in the best shape of his life and be as resilient as he can be,” said Club Performax owner Rod Stewart. “It’s a tremendous feat.”
Wright cycles an average of 50 miles on Saturdays and Sundays and pencils in three 30-mile rides during the week. He also challenges himself with 88-mile “jaunts” from Titusville to Sanford, cycling close to 20 miles per hour and stopping only at the midpoint of the 4-plus-hour ride.
In addition to participating in workouts that will help him build and stabilize core muscles and maximize mobility, Wright is also undergoing rigorous mindset training.
“You have to get through the day-to-day grind and always think about finishing the process,” Stewart said. “I call it priming one’s mind. It’s easy for negative thoughts to creep in. That’s why people give up and throw in the towel.”
Wright also wants to trim as much weight as possible.
“The less excess baggage you carry across the country, the better,” he said.
When Kerr finally arrived in Satellite Beach after cycling across the country, he led his pack of three. Wright would like to finish first, too, but he will be content as long as he is not last. In the end, that finishing spot seems irrelevant, since completing such a challenge is a victory so few people ever experience.
“It’s something you never forget,” Kerr said.
Jim Wright plans to record his cycling adventure at JimRidesAcrossAmerica.blogspot.com, where he will post photos, videos and comments as he pedals across the country. You also can cheer him on along the journey.