Bicyclists on grueling trek to help others who are feeling pain
By Joe Napsha
Published: Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
A dozen area bicyclists are putting their bodies through a grueling 300-mile trip this week from West Newton to Washington to raise money for disaster relief efforts.
The participants in the fifth annual Bike for Life ride left West Newton on Monday morning and pedaled on the Youghiogheny River Trail and the Great Allegheny Passage, with the goal of reaching the nation's capital by Friday.
In addition to getting exercise and testing their endurance, their trip is raising money for the programs and services of the American Red Cross Westmoreland-Armstrong Chapter, said Lauren C. Ashley, a spokeswoman.
“We expect to raise $34,000 this year” for the American Red Cross, said David Mickley of Sewickley, a primary organizer of the Bike for Life event.
“All of the proceeds from the event have gone back into the community through Red Cross services ranging from disaster relief to preparedness classes to service to the armed forces,” Ashley said.
Mickley, a bicycling enthusiast, said the 2007 movie “The Bucket List” inspired him to join efforts with fellow bicyclist Dr. Michael Green in organizing the first bicycle ride in 2009.
“I had seen the movie ‘The Bucket List' and I said I would like to go to D.C. on the trail for my bucket list,” Mickley said.
To make the ride more meaningful, Mickley, a longtime Red Cross board member and volunteer, decided to make it a fundraiser for the Red Cross.
The Bike for Life events have raised more than $60,000 for the local American Red Cross chapter since the first ride along the popular recreational trail.
“Every year, Bike for Life strives to raise vital funds and awareness for the local Red Cross and its lifesaving work in Westmoreland and Armstrong counties,” Mickley said.
To get riders in shape for back-to-back-to-back days of 60 miles riding a bike, Mickley said he helps organize training runs in the spring.
“We offer training rides twice a week, beginning in April,” Mickley said. Even somebody coming in as a novice, we can help get them ready, get their bike ready and help them prepare for what they are going to see on the trail — being on a bike six hours a day,” Mickley said.
Their plans were to stop in Confluence Monday night and then reach Cumberland, Md., by Tuesday night.
The riders ranged in age from 26 to 70.
The honor of being the oldest rider went to Richard Callan, 70, of Saxonburg, who was using a tandem bike with his partner, Connie, 67.
When asked what motivates him to take the challenge of bicycling 300 miles this week, Richard Callan quickly responds that, “I'm doing it because I'm 70 years old.”
“Whenever you get to this age, any day you can ride, you take it,” Callan said.
Elise Etelamaki, 26, of Greensburg was the youngest rider.
A student at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Etelamaki said she just bought her bike in May and has been training for about a month. She survived her longest training ride of 64 miles in decent shape, she said.
“I was OK afterwards. I was expecting worse,” said Etelamaki, a native of Naples, Fla.
Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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