Bikers pass through DL on way across U.S.
Thomas Hall and Rick Stiles aren’t riding bike to raise awareness for anything. They are simply riding their bikes across the United States to inspire others.
“June 20, we dipped our back wheels (in the ocean) in Gearhart, Oregon,” Hall said. The two men plan to reach Bar Harbor, Maine, on Aug. 27.
Stiles said he and Hall met a few years ago at a seminar for Methodist churches. They got to talking, and Hall realized Stiles was an avid cyclist. They talked about doing a trip together.
“It was to celebrate my years as a pastor,” Hall said of his retirement. “Some people take cruises,” he added with a laugh.
“I was so tired my mouth said yes before my brain could say no,” Stiles said of agreeing to the ride.
He said he’s ridden 500 miles before and has had some heart issues, but he’s healthy now and thought there was no better time for a trip like this one.
“I’m loving every minute of it,” he said.
Wednesday night, about half way through their trek of 3,600 miles, Hall and Stiles stayed in Detroit Lakes.
“Minnesota is just awesome,” Hall said.
The two men, both from Montana, get up at 4 each morning and are on their bikes by 4:30 to beat traffic and heat — though they haven’t had to worry about heat much since hitting North Dakota and Minnesota the last couple days.
“Oddly enough, it was like someone threw the air conditioning on,” Stiles said once hitting North Dakota after riding through 100-degree days in Montana.
“The wind is the most difficult thing to deal with,” he said. “It’s mind over muscle.”
They ride about 70 miles a day on average, and hit the town they are staying at in the early afternoon. That gives them time to explore the area and meet new people at each stop.
“It makes the time more enriching,” Stiles said of meeting people. It’s meeting those people that Stiles has enjoyed the most about the trip.
They ride six days a week, leaving Sundays for going to church and resting up “so we can start the week out refreshed,” he said.
The bikes they are peddling are “like lawn chairs on wheels. It’s kind of fun,” Hall said. “You have to fight to stay awake. It’s hard not to fall asleep.”
The two men keep each other laughing and going strong though, with no need for napping.
“When the going gets tough, we’re making each other laugh our heads off,” Stiles said.
When they started, they did some tenting, but between weather restraints and the constant packing and unpacking, they weren’t enjoying the trip much. Now they stay at churches along the way for the most part. They have also found places to shower, or even sleep, through the Warm Showers Program, where people open their homes to people passing through.
“They just pump you up,” Stiles said of the kindness of people.
Hall said the most majestic area they’ve passed through so far was in Idaho, following the Lewis and Clark Trail.
“The climb up huge mountains, seeing the rivers. We saw elk and moose.”
They try to follow less traveled highways for safety reasons, but once into North Dakota, they actually stuck to the interstate to avoid the oil fields.
“It’s very dangerous for bikers to be on those roads,” he said.
Once they get to Wisconsin, they plan to take a ferry across the Great Lakes and into Michigan, even reaching into Canada a bit.
Hall said they did some training for the trek, but nothing can prepare someone for 3,600 miles on a bicycle.
“The first few days, your muscles are screaming,” he said.
After several days, their bodies got more accustomed to the journey. Getting out of the mountains didn’t hurt either.
“Mountains are evil. Flat is good,” he said.
During their time on the roads, they run into people biking, walking and other sorts of transportation across the U.S. as well. It’s fun to meet that network of people, Hall said, that most people don’t realize even exists.
They met one man who has been walking for three and a half years.
While it is a large feat the two men are accomplishing, Stiles said they also want to show people not to be intimidated by it.
“It’s not about speed, it’s about endurance,” he said.
Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.