Retired Sylvania history teacher Alan Thompson has extensive bicycling experience which began in 1980 when he took his first tour through Europe. Later, during a sabbatical from teaching, he biked the U.S., Europe, Africa, Asia, and New Zealand. No stranger to long journeys on his bike (which he has nicknamed Floyd in honor of Charles Floyd of the Lewis and Clark Expedition), Thompson, at 67 years old, planned a daunting trip, a 12,000-mile trek along the perimeter of all 48 contiguous states. “Around 2013, I thought I should do one more long trip,” Thompson said. “I decided to do it for (the benefit of) a couple of causes.”
Now or never
Thompson raised proceeds for Habitat for Humanity, where he has volunteered for years, and also for Save the Children, a charity assisting children in over 100 countries with nutrition, education, and disaster relief.
“That was the seed for the trip,” Thompson said. “I’d had some health issues—a hip replacement and a couple of bouts with skin cancer.” Feeling like it was now or never, Thompson left Toledo in August 2015, traveling east along the Lake Erie coastline into New York along the shore of Lake Ontario, before following the St. Lawrence Seaway, then enjoying the early fall weather all the way down the East Coast.
“Part of my mission was to volunteer with Habitat affiliates along the way,” Thompson said. By the end of the trip he had volunteered at 19 sites and raised a total of over $32,000 for both charities. Though he sometimes traveled with cyclists he met along the way, the trip was mostly done alone. The mental challenges Thompson faced while traveling on long, sparsely populated stretches of highway, like those in Texas, Montana, and North Dakota, were significantly more taxing than the physical aspects of the long ride.“You see the highway in front of you and it just extends as far as the eye can see. I took it one day at a time. If I thought about the whole thing, it became overwhelming.”
One day at a time
After being hit by a car in the Mojave Desert at dusk, Thompson seriously considered quitting.
“She never even saw me,” he said. “Luckily, she plowed into a pack on my bike. It was just a matter of inches (and she would have hit me).” After recovering his bike, tangled in a cactus, he had to wait a week for it to be repaired. “I was very lucky to walk away from that,” Thompson reflects.
When Thompson rode into Portland, Oregon after 9,000 miles of cycling in May 2016, he told himself, “I think I’m done.” He began his journey back to Toledo, traveling part of the way by train, and later finished the trip during the summer of 2017.
The most important factors motivating Thompson was his dedication to the charities that would benefit from his trip.
Donate to the charities on Thompson’s website, usperimeterride.org, and listen to him speak about his incredible journey at the Franciscan Center.
10am-11am | Friday, December 14
Franciscan Center | 6832 Convent Blvd, Sylvania
419-824-3707 | lourdes.edu
Free for members of the Lifelong Learning Series and first-time visitors.