Man bikes from California to Delaware throughout pandemic
REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. (AP) — Erik Andrews’ cross-country bike tour was the product of a worldwide pandemic and a trigger.
If the brand new coronavirus hadn’t halted baseball video games, holidays or the group Andrews has volunteered at for greater than twenty years, the 60-year-old Ohioan wouldn’t have hopped on his bike and pedaled 3,351 miles from southern California to Delaware.
Andrews rode into Rehoboth Seaside on Thursday, Aug. 20, after 60 legs spanning 74 days. His proper boot heel was falling aside, and his eyes had been pink from crying.
He’d helped increase greater than $50,000 for Appalachia Service Mission.
Andrews is one in all hundreds who volunteer for the Tennessee-based nonprofit yearly, constructing new homes and offering crucial dwelling repairs for low-income households.
This yr, within the midst of a well being disaster that has killed greater than 170,000 People since January, Appalachia Service Mission’s volunteer service program went darkish. The pandemic additionally halted fundraising, placing subsequent yr’s summer time volunteer program in jeopardy.
So Andrews determined to grow to be a cellular fundraiser.
He checked out his bike, then went to his spouse of 32 years, Michele. She wished two issues: He wanted to come back dwelling for the Fourth of July weekend, and he wanted to name her usually.
“I simply have to ensure you’re not useless on the aspect of the highway,” Michele stated wryly.
CYCLING ACROSS A PANDEMIC-RAVAGED COUNTRY
Andrews set out June 7, three days after he determined to make the journey.
He wasn’t positive if California would even let him. A number of cities had been nonetheless within the early reopening phases, and a few had been nonetheless below shelter-in-place orders. However on June 4, he referred to as ASP anyway along with his plan.
Donations got here from his household and prolonged household, then others who hadn’t heard of ASP till his journey.
There was an internet site too, www.paa4asp.org, the place individuals might comply with Andrews’ journey daily.
His cross-country wardrobe consisted of three outfits. So each three days, he made positive the lodge he the place was staying had laundry facilities — “I’ve achieved extra laundry within the final 75 days than I’ve my whole life,” he laughed.
Some days he’d go greater than 100 miles. Different instances he’d battle to make 40, collapsing on his lodge mattress with out shedding his “pungent” garments.
Not one of the lodge served breakfast because of coronavirus restrictions.
“I needed to make a meal out of meals I didn’t have,” he stated. “I’m exhausted, I’m in a spot I don’t know, and I’m making an attempt to get in 4,000 to five,000 energy.”
Andrews, a rocket scientist by day, has been primed for journey since he was 8, when he noticed Neil Armstrong take these first tentative steps on the moon, 238,000 miles from Earth.
His 11-week journey could have been a number of thousand miles nearer to dwelling than Armstrong’s, however biking throughout America marked an epic journey for him, one flanked by lengthy, barren stretches of highway, seemingly limitless daylight and parched earth.
From June 7 to July 15, California by means of Texas, it didn’t rain as soon as. Andrews had no timber to bike below for shade, as an alternative counting on early morning rides earlier than his thermometer surged previous 100 levels.
“Not solely did it not rain, there wasn’t a cloud to rain from,” Andrews stated. “Noah went 40 days of rain. I went 40 days with out even a cloud mainly.”
He discovered to by no means understatement the worth of an overpass, the place he’d cease for shade — and to take a selfie.
He determined to not watch any TV throughout the journey. He missed the each day loss of life toll of COVID-19, nationwide protests introduced on by George Floyd’s loss of life on the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, the loss of life of Rep. John Lewis.
Human contact was additionally scarce. Throughout his 74-day journey, Andrews noticed solely two different cyclists who had packs much like his. Few individuals had been taking lengthy journeys, as some governors issued 14-day quarantines for out-of-staters, closed nonessential companies and requested residents to remain dwelling.
On the long-lasting Route 66, nicknamed “the Essential Avenue of America”, Andrews noticed the financial devastation COVID-19 delivered to small cities depending on thru-traffic and tourism.
‘A LOT OF WONDERFUL PEOPLE IN THIS BIG COUNTRY’
Nonetheless, he got here throughout people who helped preserve him transferring. There was the bike repairman in Elk Metropolis, Oklahoma, simply after his twenty eighth leg. Andrews’ bike had some screws free from the bumpy asphalt roads, which made him shake like a high-powered drill.
It was Sunday when he highway into Oklahoma, and the one bike store on the town was closed. He left a message, not anticipating a reply.
Twenty minutes later, a man was on the telephone asking Andrews, “The place are you? I’ll come choose you and your bike up.”
He took them to his bike store, the place he tightened the screws and did a tune-up, ensuring Andrews had a secure journey. He didn’t cost a dime.
“There’s a human component to it,” Andrews stated of the journey. “There are numerous fantastic individuals on this huge nation.”
Then there have been the individuals who had no cash to offer however gave anyway, for the trigger. Andrews had ASP stickers and indicators on his bike, which people at fuel stations would squint to see after which ask Andrews about.
He advised them in regards to the roofs he’d put in, the leaky pipes he’d fastened, the houses he helped construct. He wore the identical 3-pound boots he’d have on whereas “pounding nails,” to remain linked to ASP.
Andrews tears up when he talks in regards to the individuals who would hand him a greenback or two. He holds these donations closest to his coronary heart.
There have been the moments of solitude.
In Texas, a truck carrying hundreds of water bottles crashed, affording him the uncommon alternative to cycle on Interstate 40 with no different automobiles round, as visitors had been halted for cleanup. .
In Arizona, Andrews took a detour north to the Grand Canyon, which felt made much more empty and huge by COVID-19. The Grand Canyon Village, normally spilling with vacationers, was a short lived ghost city, paying homage to the pink rock canyon tens of millions of years earlier than human contact.
Andrews stood alone, dealing with the earth, carved by water and time.
“It was you and the canyon,” he stated. “You’re simply there and there’s nobody else.”
By way of the Sierra Nevada, the Rockies, the cruel Texas warmth and thru Tennessee, the place he visited ASP Headquarters for the primary time.
And at last, Delaware.
THE FINISH LINE
Andrews completed the final leg of the journey along with his daughter, Sarah Stafford, using from Georgetown to Rehoboth Seaside on a morning that promised solar and 70-degree climate.
Twenty-four miles later, Andrews walked his bike to the sand and touched his tires to the water, simply as he had achieved within the Pacific Ocean to suggest the start of his journey.
Andrews’ recommendation for folk seeking to make an identical journey?
“You may all the time get off your bike,” he stated. “You may all the time preserve pedaling.”