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Photo courtesy: Jim Czarnowski

A True Solo Ride for the Rotary’s ‘End Polio Plus’ Campaign

Oceanside CA— “If you were to draw a line on a map from Massachusetts to Tijuana Mexico, I’ve been in jail in every state that line would pass through.” It’s a statement that doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in someone preparing to ride his bike from Oceanside to St. Augustine Florida for charity but that is how Nick Hall introduced himself to a meeting of the El Camino Rotary Club on Tuesday.

Nick Hall

Nick Hall at the El Camino Rotary Club meeting prior to the start of his ride to Florida

Nick explained that in the 1960’s, when he rode his bike cross-country, people were allowed to check into local jails for lodging or “If they caught you sleeping in a city park, they would give you the option of being taken in as a vagrant, or voluntarily as a lodger.” continued Nick “I would ask if they served breakfast and what the checkout time was. After riding 120 miles in a day you can sleep just about anywhere including a steel slab in a jail cell.”

The 67 year-old, a professor of anatomy and nutrition at the University of South Florida, in Tampa, is riding to raise money for End Polio Plus, the Rotary’s anti-polio campaign.

“A lot of people say; Polio I thought that was like small pox. It doesn’t exist anymore.” Nick said regarding the End Polio Plus campaign. “As long as there is one case in the world, it’s only one plane ticket away from the United States.” Nick used the recent measles outbreak at Disneyland as an example. “People are not getting their kids vaccinated and it spread very, very quickly across different states.”

Nick has goal of raising $10,000 during his ride. He also has the backing of Bill and Melinda Gates who will be matching 2 dollars to every 1 dollar raised.

Cross country rides for charity are no longer a rarity. This time of year you can read about another ride leaving the west coast for the east just about every week. Many are billed as solo rides. They are in fact usually one bike rider but with a support team in a motor home towing a trailer full of spare bicycles and parts. Nick’s ride is a true solo ride. It’s just him and a used Raleigh 10 speed he bought on e-bay.

Nick knows from previous experience, it’s the 50th anniversary of his first cross-country trek,  there are several obstacles to overcome on a solo journey. “The biggest impediment will be motivation. The temperatures are going to be extremely high in Arizona and New Mexico.” continued Nick “It’s going to be very tempting to check into a hotel room, buy a plane or a bus ticket home and abandon the trip.”

Nick said there are three factors he needs to be cognizant of while riding alone.  Number one; when attempting any type of endeavor like this, it’s important to maintain control. Number two, having the ability to predict and number three. Maintaining a sense of optimism that things will get better.

The Raleigh bike Nick purchased on e-bay is a similar model and color to the bike he rode on his first cross country trip.

The Raleigh bike Nick purchased on e-bay is a similar model and color to the bike he rode on his first cross-country trip.

Nick explained that in terms of control, he’s not going to set a goal of 120-140 miles per day. “Although if I don’t average 120, I may not have a job when I get to Florida because the fall classes begin in late August.” Nick said he can’t control the terrain, the wind or when a mechanical failure may occur but he can control the amount of time he rides each day. “I’m going to pedal 10 hours a day. I plan to be on the road 15 hours a day. That means I’ll have five hours to spread out for breaks.” He believes he will be averaging 12 to 13 mph on his bike fully packed with gear and water.

As for predictability. “I’m deeply indebted to, the Adventure Cycling Association. They have mapped out tens of thousands of miles across the United States.” Nick will be taking the Southern Tier . “I have practically memorized those maps.”

In terms of optimism “I’ve done it before, I’ll meet people and I’m going to have fun on this ride.” said Nick. “It’s extraordinary the amount of support I have. No other ride I have done has had this amount of publicity.”

Nick said the publicity is something he doesn’t like and has put some added pressure on him for this ride. “The idea of the ride was just a lark at first. If a hurricane came up through Texas and I had to abandon the ride, store the bike and continue it at Thanksgiving or Christmas, I could do that.” Nick continued “There are a lot of eyes on me this time.”

Nick left Tuesday afternoon shortly after the Rotary meeting. He hopes the trip will take three to four weeks to complete. Although he will be sleeping next to his used bike by the road side, for the most part,  you will be able to follow his progress on his Facebook page where he will be adding frequent updates with photos.

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To learn more about the Rotary’s End Polio Plus campaign, visit their website [Link]