The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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Al Thompson is once again adjusting to the mundane life of a retired history teacher.

Still, he thinks there must be something more. Some mission. Some goal bigger than he is. Something to top the nine months he recently spent bicycling around the perimeter of the United States to raise funds for Habitat for Humanity and Save the Children.

Al has spent the last three months doing yard work, playing tennis and golf and riding his bike for short jaunts on Northwest Ohio’s many trails. He is also preparing a program about his latest adventure to be held this Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. at the Carranor Hunt and Polo Club in Perrysburg. (See below for details).

Al’s U.S. Perimeter Ride began last August 17 when he left Northwest Ohio and headed east. When he hit the coast he rode south to Florida, west to California and North to Portland, Oregon where he decided he had had enough and took a train back to the Midwest.

When he arrived in Toledo on May 23 he had pedaled 9,040 miles and raised more than $28,000 from donors who followed his exploits on his website and in The Press.

The physical challenge was one reason Al cut his trip short. He was pulling 90 to 100 pounds of gear on a trailer and he faced the Rocky Mountains and its harsh unpredictable spring storms. Besides, if you followed his adventures on his website, you know the challenges he faced climbing and descending the steep mountains along the California and Oregon coast line.

It’s not just the stress on his body—he is 65 and has an artificial hip--there’s the danger inherent in cycling on roads without bike lanes.

“I spent a lot of time on highways with no berm. It was quite dangerous. I was always listening for traffic and had my eye on my rearview mirror,” he said.

You would think when riding on such roads you would keep to the narrow paved shoulder. But, Al said the better strategy was to “hold his spot on the road” forcing traffic to slow before passing him.

His fear was not unfounded. Despite flashing LED lights, flags and bright riding apparel, Al was hit by a car in southern California by a motorist blinded by the setting sun.

“She hit the left side pannier which knocked the bike out from underneath me. I kind of flew into the middle of the roadway and the bike flew off to the right.”

Al emerged with only scrapes and bruises, but his bike was damaged and his spirit nearly broken. The bike, a Koga-Miyata made in The Netherlands, cost $2,300 new. Locating parts in the U.S. would not be an easy task. It would also be expensive. Al resigned himself to ending his trip short, but, well-wishers, who had been following his blog, encouraged him to continue and a disabled veteran, inspired by Al’s journey, paid the $1,200 to repair the bike. That was done at a shop in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. And, like he ended all his weekly posts from his long and winding road, Al wrote his followers he would be “Proceeding on.”

Al says he misses the excitement of being on the road and seeing new things every day. What he doesn’t miss, however, is not knowing if he would run out of daylight before setting up camp. On fortunate nights, he found a warm bed and shower with members of the Adventure Cycling Association.

When Al ended his trip in May, he believed he had raised about $17,000. He had also raised awareness for both causes by volunteering at numerous Habitat sites along the way and conducting television and newspaper interviews. His morale received a boost when he later learned an anonymous donor had contributed $9,000 to the Save the Children Fund in his honor. Donations are still coming in bringing the total to date to slightly more than $28,000.

The U.S. Perimeter Trip was Al’s third major long-distance bicycle trip. At age 35, he took a 9,000-mile solo trip around the world and at age 55 he followed the Lewis & Clark Trail from St. Louis to Oregon, some 3,800 miles.

What’s next?

Al’s not sure, but he said this, “Everyday on the trip you know what you have to do. Get on the bike and pedal. Or volunteer at a Habitat site. Or see something new. Of course, in retirement you have more time and you don’t feel the pressure to be doing things. But, then you think, ‘I should be doing something more at this moment, but I’m not sure what it is.’”

Stay tuned.

Reservations for Al’s program at the Carranor Hunt and Polo Club were mandatory by Sunday, August 21 so some of you may be reading this after reservations are due. A dinner will be served and the cost is $25. Al will also present his program free to community groups and civic clubs. You can reach him at 419-517-3438 or, for more details, go to www.usperimeterride.org

 

 

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