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A ride to remember

Maui's Wilcox embarks on cross-country cycling odyssey

Ryan Wilcox, a 2010 King Kekaulike High School graduate, is cycling across the country, having started his approximately 3,600-mile ride in Sandy Hook, N.J., in early September. He plans to reach his ending point in Santa Monica, Calif., next month. Photos courtesy of Ryan Wilcox

With just a bicycle and backpack, a Maui man set out to cross the United States in hopes of challenging himself and sharing his message of peace, adventure and healthy living.

Ryan Wilcox, a 2010 King Kekaulike High School graduate, began his trek from Sandy Hook, N.J., on Sept. 3 and plans to finish his approximately 3,600-mile bike ride in Santa Monica, Calif., at Crescent Bay Park in November.

“Part of what I’m doing too, I recognize that I am a little more than an extremist than most people,” Wilcox said via phone last week. “So what I’m recording on Instagram, I’m just talking about the challenges, talking about the strives to do well, and just showing up and giving people permission to do their version of what this bike ride is.

“Not everybody wants to bike across the country, but there’s something that you can do to push your edges and get out of your comfort zone.”

Wilcox already reached the halfway point on Friday — he planned to take a few days off in Austin, Texas, after riding over 100 miles the day before.

Ryan Wilcox snaps a photo of his bike by the Tombigbee River in Alabama, a quick pit stop in his cycling journey across the U.S.

“It’s been incredible, I’ve been learning a lot about myself, I’m learning about the country,” he said. “Weather is unpredictable — I’ve been through two thunderstorms, two hurricanes. I just peddled 163 miles yesterday just to avoid being caught in another hurricane.”

Although the long distance journey started on the East Coast, the adventure really began when he had to downsize and sell his belongings and van in Minnesota. From there, he biked and took trains and buses to get to the starting line.

“So it’s been a long journey,” he said with a laugh.

Besides dealing with unpredictable weather, mosquitos and planned and unplanned pit stops, Wilcox said one big challenge was getting his body to adapt to the daily mileage.

The extent of his cycling experience includes using the bike as a form of transportation here and there during high school and commuting to work. Prior to his cross-country trek, Wilcox said he hadn’t cycled anything farther than 30 miles at once. Now he finds himself traveling an average of 60 miles a day and burning thousands of calories.

According to an update last month on his Go Fund Me page, Wilcox covered 365 miles and climbed 12,335 feet in the first week, which totaled about 35 hours and 41 minutes on the bike.

“The first week was really tough on my body; I’m not a cyclist by nature,” he said. “I actually took a break in Virginia, I took a stop in some town I wasn’t meant to stop in and just bought a hotel room for the night so I could just soak in the bath and really relax.”

In addition to contacting friends scattered throughout the U.S., Wilcox has been utilizing WarmShowers, a hospitality app for cyclists that locates any available hosts in the area.

Otherwise, he is traveling with a tent, spending many nights camping in permitted areas like state parks and churches. But on occasion, the bushes have to suffice.

When asked if he’s been training and preparing for such a feat, Wilcox said “the short answer is no, not really.”

Besides enjoying the occasional long bike ride and doing some research to prepare, he explained that “most people who have done it say that you really can’t train for it.”

“It’s like someone training for a marathon: the only real way to know if you can do it is if you run 26 miles,” he added. “I’m a simple guy, like some days I’ll be out pedaling for six to eight hours and I’ll catch myself grinning for hours straight.”

Much of his inspiration behind this journey came after a four-day retreat in Death Valley last year with the Rising Man Movement, a program that Wilcox recently started working for. The experience inspired him to push himself even further.

So with the support of the program, Wilcox decided this past summer to embark on a new challenge.

“What I learned for myself is the act of self-discipline and self-love and it’s taken me a year to kind of articulate how I can face my fears,” he said. “It was a way for me to get out of my comfort zone and push myself mentally and physically.”

So far, some of his favorite moments of his journey include riding through New York City, the Blue Ridge Parkway — the nation’s longest linear park at about 469 miles — and the Great Smoky Mountains, which goes along the Tennessee and North Carolina border.

He also highlighted meeting and riding with other cyclists along the way, as well as being sent off by a group called the Modern Renaissance Men, who rode with Wilcox for the first mile of his trek.

“Essentially all of the people and all of the nature has been really amazing,” he said.

Wilcox said that riding through Venice Beach on the bike path will be his “victory lap.” In the meantime, those interested in following his journey can do so on his Instagram page @rywilcox8.

To support his trek across the country, donations can be made via Go Fund Me at gofundme.com/f/coxwil1-cycle-cross-country.

* Dakota Grossman is at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

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