John F. Whelan-President, Strongbacks LDRC
I co-founded the Strongbacks Long Distance Riding Club two years ago with the intention of creating a community of long haulers who are driven by the club’s charitable mission. We are a growing riding club of 7 patched members and 50 participating riders. In response to the increasingly predatory nature of the higher education market, Strongbacks LDRC is a 501(c)3 organization raising money to offer trade school scholarships to disadvantaged youths. More importantly, we seek to change the conversation among young people about their future in the industrial world. ( www.strongbacks.org )
I’m now on my fourth bike, a 2014 Indian Chief Vintage, and this is my forever bike. My 2018 long haul from Boston to Denver was the greatest accomplishment of my life. I cleared 2,000 miles in 43 hours and 50 minutes – despite the unrelenting maelstrom of Hurricane Gordon. I left at 4:00 AM EST on a Friday, the rain began at 7:00 AM and did not stop until 3:00 PM EST when I was halfway through Kansas the following day. Achieving this time trial was both physically satisfying and spiritually fulfilling. This kind of endurance ride fills my body with a good kind of pain. It’s the only kind of pain that can distract from the greater suffering across the globe. When I finally lay down my kickstand, and slowly drag my lag off the saddle I can honestly say that I am (in that moment) devoid of desire. It’s like experience enlightenment if only briefly.
When I arrived in Denver, I was greeted by my best friend and the club’s chairman. We set out the next morning for my first tour through the Rocky Mountains. Never in my life have I used terms like “breathtaking” or “majestic”. What I witnessed for the following 5 days had me uttering those exact words countless times each day.
My return trip was intentionally slow paced. Rather than back-tracking the way I came via the southern route, I decided to roll north through Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois. I was lucky enough to have an uneventful cruise through Nebraska’s crosswinds. After Iowa, I met another rider at a gas station who convinced me to indulge in a minor detour into Chicago. This is where I met Chicago United Riders at their annual Doomsday event. Hundreds of stunt riders gathered to show off their skills and throw their bikes on the ground like they were disposable. It was a very impressive sight. I left that afternoon gunning for Niagra Falls. I spent the next morning completely awestruck by the power and majesty of Niagra Falls. If you ever find yourself there, I highly recommend spending the extra $20.00 to explore “Cave of the Winds” – you’ll surely witness nothing like it. That afternoon I ran my final stretch confronted with New England’s slow paced and ill maintained I-90 only to be greeted home by close friends wielding cold beer, open arms and broad grins. Icing on the cake.
Although I am subjectively young, I can feel each year wearing me down little by little. In other words, I may be a newer model, but my odometer has clocked a lot of mileage. That’s why I’m left wondering if I am even capable of earning my final patch: Coast to Coast in 48h. If any who are reading this have advice on how to get through this trial, please feel free to reach out: firstname.lastname@example.org