6 over 60 60 pedals across America to aid veterans
WORTHINGTON — On June 20, Pat Cavanagh, Ed DeMar, Dale Lawrence, Tom Nelson and Jim Webber, all of Irvine Calif., dipped the tires of their bicycles into the Pacific Ocean in Astoria, Ore.
Fifty-five days and more than 3,600 miles later, they plan to dip their front wheels into the Atlantic Ocean in Portsmouth, N.H.
All over the age of 60, the quintet is using the cross-country trek to raise awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization that helps veterans and their families.The five cyclists, plus RV and equipment driver Dave Arnesen, arrived in Worthington on Saturday to spend the night in Olson Park and Campground before continuing their journey east.The members of the group have been friends for more than 25 years. They all live in the same community and attend the same church in southern California.“We all at one point took up cycling as a sport and a hobby,” Nelson explained. “We’re all somewhat frustrated athletes that, over time, our bodies said no more running and no more jumping, so we took up cycling and really enjoyed it.”As they began to retire, each cyclist began dreaming about his bucket list.“And before you know it, wewere talking about riding across the United States,” Nelson said with a laugh. “After we got our wives over the shock of the idea, we started thinking maybe we should have some kind of a cause.”The group quickly settled on the Wounded Warrior Project. Lawrence, Webber and Arnesen are all veterans, and the others have strong connections with the military.“It’s a very large non-profit that has a focus on helping the veterans that have been injured in the line of duty but also assisting families,” DeMar said. “There are a lot of physical injuries that veterans have, but there are also a lot of mental and emotional injuries that often are unseen until years later.”“The whole idea of supporting veterans made a lot of sense to us and resonated with us,” Nelson added.
Originally, six cyclists planned to make the trip across the country, but three weeks before they left, cyclist Darryl Miller broke his hip when a driver pulled in front of him.“He is planning on flying into Green Bay and joining us for a couple of days, though,” Arnesen said.By the time it arrived in Minnesota, the group had been on the road for 31 days, averaging 75 miles a day. They had cycled through four states with temperatures as high as 106 Fahrenheit and were just over the halfway mark, but already had countless stories to tell.“We helped a Wyoming rancher and his two kids herding cows across the highway,” Webber remembered with a laugh. “We helped stop traffic with our blinking lights on our bikes.”Pedaling across the northwest has also allowed the group to see the beauty of the country in ways they wouldn’t be able to if it were driving.“We’ve seen some amazingly beautiful scenery — the Grand Tetons, Mt. Rushmore, rivers in Oregon — and it’s exceeded our expectations,” Cavanagh said.In spite of the natural wonders the cyclists have seen, it has been the people that have impressed them the most.“The people and just the amazing number of delightful serendipities have been amazing,” Lawrence said.“We jokingly refer to it as ‘falling out of the sky’,” Cavanagh added. “People keep falling out of the sky to help us — people have opened their houses to us, fed us, giving us lodging.”The veterans that the group have encountered have also been supportive and often expressed “how much this means to them,” Arnesen added.While the group hasn’t been actively promoting its trip, its trailer — emblazoned with the map of its route — makes it hard to miss as it rides down the road. Many people have stopped the fivesome to learn more about what is members are doing.“Just the other day, Dave got stopped on the road by some guy that handed him $60,” Lawrence remembered.The group also has a website that it has used to share the process of its journey and to direct people interested in donating to the Wounded Warrior Project.Before the cyclists left, their goal was to raise $25,000 for the non-profit, but “the bulk of it came in before we even started,” Arnesen said.“We’ve had to adjust our goal,” Cavanagh added. “We started thinking $25,000. Then we jumped to $50,000, and then we raised it to $100,000 and now we adjusted the goal to $120,000.”As of Saturday, the group had raised $98,000.“It’s blown everyone away,” Lawrence added.The journey has been so impactful, that Arnesen said he wished more people could experience what they have.“About three weeks into this, I thought, ‘I wish every politician could see and participate in what we’ve seen and who we’ve met instead of just sitting in Washington, bless their little bony hearts,”‘ he said. “It’s been eye-opening to see the average, hard-working guy doing the best he can.”For more information about 6 Over 60 or to donate to the Wounded Warrior Project, visit their website at www.6over60raa.com.