Cycling 1300 miles in 13 days is an ultimate grind and Ogdensburg’s Robert Paradis took up the challenge knowing he would suffer physical and mental hardships. But his inspiration carried him through the 2019 Great Cycle Challenge where he rode from Ogdensburg NY to Fernandina Beach Fl in 13 days to raise awareness and donations to the Children’s Cancer Research Fund.
The retired New York State Correctional Officer carried out the plan on schedule but according to Paradis “it surely wasn’t what I expected.” And when it was done he was ready for some rides across tranquil water in a bass fishing boat.
After receiving a family send off on Saturday June 1st, he completed first leg of his journey to Hastings NY on a sunny and cool day. A good start to what ended up being an overall wet challenge. His wife Mary departed hours later with a car filled with luggage and supplies.
The first day’s ride took 9 1/2 hours....an hour and 1/2 more than planned. It quickly was apparent that terrain wasn’t something he gave much thought about in the planning stage. An error that was going to extend his ride times.
“It’ll probably take a couple of days before my body realizes that I’m not torturing it any longer. I again would like to thank Mary, this challenge would never have even gotten off the ground without her and certainly wouldn’t have been successful! Driving by herself, loading and unloading the car (24 times) arranging dinners, hotel rooms, washing my smelly shorts and jersey daily, even drying my wet sneakers with the hair dryer and a million other things she did,” says Paradis.
“Thanks to Brad, Shawn, Sherry, Em, Gab and Sandy. Helping with fund raising, watching the house when we were gone, feeding tinka, getting the mail and nightly calls of encouragement! To all my Sponsors..... what can I truly say to express my gratitude? You all are the true heroes. Through your donations you’ve given these children hope and that is the most precious gift of all. I thank you on behalf of all of these children. To all my followers on social networks.... thank you for the kind words of encouragement. Many days they were what got me literally over the hills.”
Paradis got over the hills and his 2019 challenge is over but not the ultimate campaign to support and ally with kids fighting cancer.
It’s been an experience and hopefully a successful one. All I wanted to do was raise awareness to children’s cancer and I hope I’ve done it. I guess I’ll have to wait until next year to see if I run into a few more GCC jerseys on the road. Remember, it’s free to register for the challenge and only hood❤️ can come out of it,” says Paradis.
“Bicycle, stationary, a block, a mile .... it’s all good. Make it a family challenge.......It would be awesome if my ride to Florida generated participation in next years Great Cycle Challenge......One Month/One Goal/Fight Kids Cancer.
Day two’s ride was in an all day’s rain, destination Watkins Glen! Again the hilly terrain in addition to the weather turned this into a 9 hour day.
Day three is done with only 10 to go. (Williamsport PA) Today’s wind wasn’t exactly what I hoped for, but it was an improvement and trust me, I needed it. I can handle an 8 hour ride, but these 10 hour rides are rough and are beating me up. The tip of the day, don’t ride a bicycle on Route 14 from Elmira NY to Williamsport PA! I don’t know what criteria is used to designate a road as a bike route, but I do know cyclist safety can’t be one of them.
There are long stretches of that highway where the shoulder is less than 1 1/2 ft and some of that is chewed up. Heavy heavy truck traffic and fast. I had tandem dump trucks pass me with inches between us. Three times I drove into the grass to avoid possibly getting hit. It was crazy! This really was my initial issue with vehicles. While crossing one of the bridges, the driver of a Jeep was driving aggressively and chose to pinch me against the side of the bridge and I received my first “battle scar” of the trip! In the end I raced up another 101 miles in 9hrs 42 min.
Day -4 Century is in the books (a little south of Mechanicsburg PA) and only 9 to go! What was I thinking? Big surprise that today’s ride was against a headwind. The bright side was after immediately climbing 3 enormous mountains at the beginning of today’s ride, it seemed as though the rest of the day was all down hill.
So the wind certainly slowed me down, but I was making the same speed without burning my legs up! Yes, everything hurts. My legs when I first wake up are so stiff, it’s like I don’t even have knees. Thankfully after 3 or 4 hours of pedaling they loosen up. Unfortunately tomorrow is bringing rain! Not a fan, but I cross into Virginia, so that should fuel tomorrow’s grind!
After today’s ride we met up with a fellow GCC cyclist and her son from PA and they treated us to dinner. How awesome is that. So thanks so much Cathy Guerriero Lee and Will for reaching out and making our adventure even more special.
My total today was 100.06 miles in 9 hours 34 min. I love watching the video, it really makes you realize how far 100 miles is!
Day five Century of 13 is done and in the books! (ended 10 miles south of Leesburg VA) Today was a nightmare. By far the worse of the 5 days and hopefully of the remaining 8. The area where I started out this morning was all back roads and was just one climb after another. Then the south headwinds again.
I couldn’t get more than 8 mph no matter how much I willed it! Then on top of that my route had not 1 but 2 road closures (bridges) that I had to detour around. I spoke to Mary on the phone when I had 6 1/2 hours in and I hadn’t broken 50 miles yet. I was in this hole from the start and going ever so deeper as the clock ticked.
If I wasn’t so bullheaded today very well could have broken me, but I was determined to finish my 100 even if I finished in the dark! I traveled through Maryland and ultimately took a $2 ferry across the Potomac into Virginia. Now tomorrow will be another day and I’m sure that I’m going to pay for my stubbornness. My ride today was 102 miles and just short of 11 ½ hours long.
Day six’s destination was Mineral VA. Unknown to me at the time, this was going to be my last day without rain for the next several days! The highlight of my trip happened at the 80 mile mark this very day. While rounding a hill and curve on a Virginia back country road , I came across an older woman with two younger girls who were just starting to deal with a flat on their SUV. I stopped my bike and asked them if they would like a hand and one of the younger ladies said yes.
I got off my bicycle and started to jack up their vehicle and one asked me where I was heading. I replied Mineral today, but ultimately Florida for Children’s Cancer. They asked me where I started and I told them in Upstate New York. They asked where in Upstate New York and I told them Ogdensburg.
They told me that they were originally from Massena. When the tire was taken care of, one of the young ladies went inside the house and brought out an infant girl named Eleanor. She told me that her daughter was diagnosed with a type of cancer and that she has already gone through two procedures. I put my hand on baby Eleanor’s foot and told her that she was who I was riding for. Before I left the mom asked me if I would get in a photo with her and her daughter and the photo was taken. After almost a week on the road, I experienced my first emotional ride.
Day Seven was the start of a 6 day stretch of downpours and all day rains, with occasional thunderstorms and flash floods. My destination on this day was South Hill VA and I encountered my first loose gravel roads today. These were county roads that started out paved and without warning went to stone. It caused havoc to me, at times they were extremely deep and unpacked. It extended my days ride considerably not to mention wasted so much energy.
Number eight Century of 13 (Apex NC). I waited for 6:30 a.m. for a hot breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express only to find out that it didn’t open until 7 because of it being Saturday. Damn....so cold breakfast it was. Headed out in the rain, plastic bag over phone, fogged up glasses ..... missed my first turn and had to back track. (Waisted energy) and 45 miles into the trip while going up a huge monstrous hill, the chain came off the smallest crank sprocket and wedged itself between the crank casing and the back of the sprocket.
I ended up taking the chain apart to get it out. (and it still was difficult to get) Needless to say, I was all grease! At the 62 mile mark I ran into a road closure (Bridge) .... not a big problem in a car, but who wants to pedal an extra 10 miles to get around that? (C’mon DOT help me out here).
I stopped and chatted with a few locals along the way and handed out a few of my business cards. Matter of fact, when we arrived at the hotel the local PD were doing a bust and I introduced myself as a retired LEO and handed out my cards. (Opportunist........guilty!) The highlight of my day which made all the bad go away was the last 23 miles spent on the “American Tobacco Trail” ! That was awesome.....18 miles paved, 5 miles hard packed. I almost didn’t route myself through it, but ultimately took the chance and I’m glad that I did.
Twenty three miles with no traffic....you gotta love that! So when all is said and done I rode 105.37 miles in 10 1/2 hours.
Number nine Century of 13 (Bennettsville SC). Rain was spotty all day, when it came down...IT CAME DOWN and shortly after crossing the NC / SC State line I hit one of the many washed out roads. I got a wee bit creative and made my way across. The weather was not only making the cycling miserable it was also causing a lot of work for Mary.
She’s got the hairdryer shoved in my sneakers, pants on the air conditioner and my shorts on the fan! She’s a champ.
I had absolutely no trouble with the bike today. Last night I replaced the chain with a new one that I brought with us. I had a hunch that it stretched, probably doing the climbs in PA and VA.
It was great not having the chain today jumping the sprockets, falling off or plain old not going into the right gear when I wanted it to. It was a typical 100 miler .... looooong plus it was a very hilly route. My thighs seem to have given up fighting me (good thing because I’d win) but something is going on with my left leg.
I have it elevated right now. It’s very swollen and extremely tender near my shin. Mary’s forcing me to ice it! (Ice is not my friend). I showered, ate and Iam in bed for an early night! So even though I have absolutely no proof .....I ended up riding 101.5 miles in 9 hours 52 minutes.
Number 10 Century of 13! (Manning SC) 1000 miles Down with 300 to go. So so tired! There’s not enough time from when I stop to when I start again. Today’s ride brought me to 3 sand roads! Yah .... sand, how crazy is that. One was so deep I had to walk my bike. Then the lightning storm, where the guy wouldn’t let me in the garage to take cover but said I could get under a metal carport type building.
The best though is when I pedaled my last 14 miles to find out that google map lied to me and that it is a dead end! I was directed by a truckload of construction guys to see the gray haired man in the marina store...because he knew everything. So that’s where I went and he said that I wasn’t crossing here. He also said that his son has leukemia and has been in remission for the past three years. He then thanked me for what I was doing, shook my hand and donated $20.
Crazy how things work out. So before I hit the bed I have to reroute tomorrow’s ride! So as I see it I rode 100.6 miles in 9 1/2 hours!
Number 11 Century of 13 ( Yemassee SC ) So my day started by getting a ride by Mary to the south end of Lake Santee Cooper to pick up my route. My day started so awesome, best speed this trip! I was hitting 13.5 ave mph! No hills with a tailwind..... a cyclist’s dream. Then without warning.....BAM, the back road that I was on just ends.
No signs, no warnings..... nothing? Not only does it end , but a trench was dug, with standing water and on the opposite side a pile of dirt with a locked gate! ( I’ll post the video of my encounter ) I walked through the water in the trench, pushing my bike and the up the other side and lifted my bike over the gate.
On the other side of the gate was over 12 miles of a logging road and I was in the middle of nowhere. The road was full of ruts and puddles. I labored heavily to get through this road and was sweating profusely! The gigantic horse flies were apparently attracted to me and I was fighting them off and failing occasionally.
I had no choice but to continue on.... After a few more miles I came around a corner and ran into a bear rummaging around someone’s hunting camp. I had a burst of energy and quickly racked a round into my glock, then pedaled as fast as my legs would go. I also paid a little more attention to my surroundings.
It was the longest 12 miles in my life. I finally hit tar again, but I am extremely gun shy now with my route. So at mile 79 I passed the hotel where Mary was and had to do 21 miles more before I could call it a night. Then low and behold the skies once again opened up and it poured. I continued on like a trooper and road all 21 miles in the rain.
Sent Mary my coordinates , she picked me up, already had a hot bath drawn for me ❤and had dinner. Bottom line, my day sucked and more than once I had to remind myself that it wasn’t about me, it was about Kids/Cancer/Parents having to say their final goodbyes to their Children.
It wasn’t the first time I’ve cried on this adventure. It’s been physically and emotionally draining. It seems everyday is a challenge and every day I need to reach deep down inside to complete each day. Each cross, each memorial I pass along the highway, I touch my cross around my neck and pray that I don’t get hit by a car.
There’s been a lot of cross touching along this ride. So here I lay, with two rides left. I don’t like the highway that I’m on now. There’s no shoulder, the rumble strips are dug in the white line which means I have to ride in the traffic lane. The traffic is heavy and fast. Two rides left.....that’s what I keep saying to myself!
Number 12 Century of 13 (Darien GA) The boss made an executive decision and changed our hotel destination seeing how I’ve been over shooting the hotels all along! So instead of Yemassee we’re in Darien about 20 miles more south and I still over shot that location by 9 miles! So after 12 days of 100’s my day tomorrow looks like it’s going to end up shorter than 100.
So today’s ride was about 60 percent in rain and 40 per cent dry. After the nerve wracking 15 miles at the beginning things settled down when I turned off of Rt.17. (But only for a bit) I eventually returned to 17 and it was just as bad.
Apparently it was raining so hard when I entered Georgia, I never saw the sign. I went through Savannah’s industrial area and was waiting on the curb at a traffic light to go straight, but a tractor trailer pulling a flat bed decided he wasn’t going to wait for me and started to turn the corner.
The rear tandem tires were heading right at me when he continued to go and I had to jump out of the way and pull my bike or he would have rode right over me and the bike! In the process one side of my seat broke! I’m telling you that I would never tell anyone that cycling like this is a good idea. The roads are not cyclists friendly.
I haven’t been hit because I’ve been lucky! Any ways, the remainder of the ride was just long and after 12 days of 100’s , I wouldn’t expect anything less. No sand roads today.... that was a plus!
So tomorrow is FLORIDA! I’m thinking it’s going to be a much shorter ride than first anticipated which is a nice bonus! Thanks everyone for fueling my week with all your and I’ll see you “Live” in the morning.
Number 13: All things must end....... thank God! So my number 13 came up short of a Century by 30 miles. (Fernandina Beach FL) Shame on me for overriding on a few of those rides. Needless to say, it sure felt like a century.
It truly was awesome to ride an entire day with no rain! Traffic was as crazy as ever and I almost made the entire trip without a confrontation, but my last 10 miles led me through a construction zone with cement barriers with no where to go. I was pedaling as fast as could be expected and my right pedal even scraped the barrier several times because I was so close to it. (I always stay as far out of the way as I can).
All the traffic was handling me just fine. They were all aware that I was doing everything I could to get as far out of their way as I could. Then this knuckle head in a tractor trailer rides right up on my bicycle and continually blasts his horn. Two lanes and no one is in the other lane. I’m getting angrier and angrier every time he blasts his horn.
Then there’s this crazy guy on a bike screaming at this truck driver telling him to pull his truck over so I can shove my bike up his &%-! Sorry, 13 days on the road and it’s all coming to a head.
He didn’t pull over, which was a good thing for both of us, because I was dealing with some rage at the time and things wouldn’t have went well for him. He drove away and my rage subsided. About 4 miles more and there I was ...... at the end of my challenge.