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UK firefighters bike cross-country in fundraising adventure

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe United Kingdom firefighters (from left) Matt Hancock, Tony Sullivan, Ray Molyneux and Mark Lingard stand outside the Worthington Fire Hall with their bikes after stopping in Worthington Friday afternoon on their cross-country journey, USA Coast to Coast Bike Ride.

WORTHINGTON -- Shortly after they pedaled their way into Worthington on Friday afternoon, three of the four bicyclists jumped back onto their bikes and headed out to a local store to purchase "new shoes and milk for a cup of tea."

The shoes were a necessity because one guy's shoes got ruined by the rain. The "milk for a cup of tea" was a necessity because these bicyclists are British.

Matt Hancock, Mark Lingard, Ray Molyneux and Tony Sullivan are firefighters from Cheshire, England, who are pedaling cross-country -- from Astoria, Ore., to New York City -- on a trek lasting 49 days and covering approximately 3,586 miles. They are traveling without any support vehicle, consequently carrying all their gear with them, and are staying at fire stations across the country. By taking on this arduous journey, they hope to raise $45,000 for the Fire Fighters Charity, which helps widows and orphans of injured firefighters throughout the United Kingdom.

"Every penny we raise goes to it," stressed Molyneux. "We pay for all our own expenses, the flight, the meals."

The ride was initially broached by Sullivan.

"It's all his fault," the rest of the group said almost in unison.

And although the men had all done some cycling for pleasure, this ride is much more challenging than anything they've undertaken before. They chose the U.S.A because of the vast distance they could cover.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience," said Molyneux. "Our chief is letting us take all our holiday for the year all in one block."

At the end of the journey, they will be met in New York by their wives and will spend five days in the Big Apple.

But they've still got a lot of pedaling to do to get there. When they reached Worthington, the quartet was a little over halfway in their journey.

"Sometime tomorrow, we will go over 2,000 miles," noted Hancock.

Much of the journey has been a blur, although they have taken some time along the way to enjoy the U.S. sights and recuperate a bit. They sidetracked to see Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse monument -- as well as their first bison -- in the Black Hills. They had another rest day -- one is built into the schedule every nine or 10 days -- in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Thursday, before they struck out for Worthington.

"Because we're unsupported, the rest days are bit of a failsafe as well," said Molyneux. "If we should run into some trouble, we might have to travel on our rest days."

So far, mechanical problems have been minimal -- one wheel and a tire chain -- the men noted as they looked for a bit of wood upon which to knock. Weather, however, has been more of an issue. They encountered snow in a 10,000-foot pass over the Teton Mountains and have also endured rain, wind, hail and a tornado.

"It was the first tornado Boise (Idaho) has ever had," noted Molyneux.

"We don't have tornadoes in England," added Lingard.

But the weather issues have been overshadowed by what they all said has been the best part of the journey -- the people they've met along the way. They have been warmly received everywhere they've stopped.

"I didn't expect the generosity of the people," said Lingard.

"The people you meet on the street, they'll just stop and ask what it's all about," said Hancock. "People taking a genuine interest in it."

This morning, the four Brits will climb aboard their bikes and head out of Worthington, bound for Mankato and with 20 more days of pedaling and 1,500 miles in front of them.

On the Net:

To donate to the Coast to Coast bicycle ride:

For more information on the Cheshire Fire & Rescue Service and the bicyclists' itinerary :

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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