Bowman native Syd Sparks and his cycling mate Stephen Roise rode between Miles City, Mont., and Baker, Mont., and in the process passed an imaginary line that signified half their 2,425-mile trip were behind them.
As of their May 27 arrival in Bowman, the two have put over 1,000 miles on their bikes as they have passed through three different states.
Sparks and Roise arrived in Bowman on May 28 and left the next day. They went down Highway 12 and then turned through Scranton on Highway 67 to New England. They turned on Highway 21 and turned north on Highway 22, stopping in Dickinson for the evening. They then headed east on I-94 on May 30.
“It’s been good,” Sparks said.
The day they began their journey, May 7, roughly a dozen people gathered to send them off. They dipped their wheels in Puget Sound, Wash., giving their tires a taste of the Pacific Ocean’s saltwater before heading on their journey. They wanted to be able to say they went from one body of water to another.
They will end their journey on the shores of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin.
“We wanted to start in water and end in water,” Sparks said.
Roise said “finally” when asked how it felt to first push the pedals in Washington. “We’ve been anticipating this for months now,” Roise said.
Though they anticipated aches and pains from the strenuous ride, they both said their journey has been better than they expected.
“I expected the first about week or so to be just agony, and being sore and not wanting to be back on the bike,” Sparks said. “But it really didn’t happen that way.”
Both said it usually takes 10 to 15 miles for their legs to get acclimated each day, then they get into a rhythm and the day goes by fast.
“You find a rhythm and you’re able to get past it,” Roise said. “Then the day actually goes pretty quickly.”
There have not been many bumps in their road; the weather and construction situations have been easy to manage on their trip. They have only ran into one day of heavy rain and on another occasion they needed to walk their bikes through an area of dense fog.
Even construction isn’t stopping them.
Typically when they run into construction they are able to find an alternate route, however one day an alternate route was not going to help them. They ran into the construction site and discovered that the alternate route was gravel, and their bikes are not equipped to go over that kind of terrain.
So what did they do? They walked.
They pulled over, put on their hiking shoes, and carried their bikes through the construction. The walk was eight miles and it was a testament to their determination for this excursion.
Two individuals in a “support car” follow Sparks and Roise along their trek—Gary Wood, president of New HopeUganda, and Doug, Roise’s father.
“They’ve been very helpful,” Sparks said.
Sparks also added that if it were an unsupported trip it would be vastly different.
The support car plays a few roles in the trip. They act as a scout and go ahead of the two bikers to examine the next few miles, the gather what the terrain might look like and look out for any other hindrances they might face. During nights when the group has to camp, the support car goes ahead and sets up the camp and they take it down in the morning, allowing the two riders to get on the road.
The two also help with raising the awareness. The constant Facebook updates are provided by the two in the support vehicle. They are also quick to send out tokens off appreciation. During the interview, a thank you note was being signed and sealed for someone.
The support car also carries equipment and parts necessary for bike repairs. Having the support car the riders only need to carry food, water, a small air pump, and jackets with them. This allows the riders to gain ground at a faster rate than if they had to carry everything with them.
But one thing they can’t help with is the wind.
Sparks calls it “demoralizing” when they get a nasty head wind. Sometimes it can blow the life out of them when they’re mid-ride, and the excruciating part is that sometimes it is seemingly never ending. Sparks added that he would rather ride up the side of a mountain, because at least then there is an end point.
The bike ride, Cabins for Kids, is seeking to raise $166,000 to add 10 cabins and two shower houses for the camp in Uganda. They have already raised nearly 50 percent of that goal. To date, they have raised $79,000 and have built the first cabin and have started on the next two in the African country.
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” Sparks said. “I am pleasantly surprised and happy with what has happened so far.”
Awareness for the adventure can also be measured by an increase in ‘Likes’ on their Facebook page. They have doubled the number since the bike ride started.
Roise also said there have been some unexpected donators, people he knows in his personal life that he wouldn’t have expected to give have pitched in.
Through the trip they have had their ups and downs, but one of the best parts that both riders recognized was meeting new people.
During one of their stops in Ritzville, Wash., they had to mail something. They stopped at the post office and struck up a conversation with the postmaster. He happened to be the pastor of a local church. Roise and Sparks had planned to camp that evening and when he heard they were going to sleep outside, he made some phone calls and lined up a place for them to stay. Through a few exchanged words the two riders were able to secure a warm place to sleep for the night.
“It was just a really neat connection,” Sparks said.
Through all of this the two are still trying their hardest to keep up with the regular jobs. Roise even joined a conference call when they were riding in Washington. Joining the call were people from Uganda, Tanzania, California and Colorado; there Roise was, riding down a highway and making sure it was business as usual.
With half of their trip behind them, they look towards the finish line. After getting to Fargo they will connect with highway 10 in Minnesota, and avoid the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Cyclists are not allowed on the interstate in Minnesota.
They will park their bikes for the last time on June 13 in Racine, Wis., though not permanently as both indicated they will continue to ride after the journey is over, just on a smaller scale.