The DIRT Dad Fundo Across America—Day Minus-20 Years to Day Minus One

“A bicycle ride around the world begins with a single pedal stroke” – Scott Stoll

Nope! Sorry, Mr. Stoll, but if you believe that statement to be accurate, I question whether you took the trek. Sure, I’m not planning to ride around the world, yet my ride began well before the first single turn of the pedals. About twenty years before, the best I can recall.


That is about the time the mental transition from “I’m a guy who rides a bike” to “I’m a cyclist” occurred. When the unwitting and undescribable click in my head opened a flood gate of passion for pursuing the perfect ride, rarely has my thought window not had a bike in its frame since.

I’m a Cyclist

It’s also about the time I lost my Dad, 53, sudden victim to the only heart attack he ever had, and the ominous fulfillment of the destiny that befell his father and his father too. He never met my Son, now 22-years old, and I was determined to become the master of my destiny and break the unpropitious congenital curse.


The romantic concept of riding my bike across the country was a dream, one I never honestly believed would come true in the back of my mind. The stars of circumstance needed to align over two decade’s time to go from fantasy to reality. A lot has happened in those twenty years, and I’m grateful to be in the fortuitous position to take the first single pedal stroke. A place I’ll never take for granted.

Friend Ship (forefront)-The First Balloon my Uncle Piloted and Sewed Himself!

I Decided To Dream

I’ve always been a decisive person, and when I decided to do it, to realize my dream, I set forth in the only way I knew how to give myself the best chance at success. The first step was to assemble a team that made me better than I was. Then create a plan for anticipating and accounting for the challenges standing in the way and delegate the duties.


The initial strategy meeting was around a year ago at the home of my father’s oldest brother, Uncle Rudy. I needed him on board. He is always a self-effacing presence in the room, at 6’4″ and the quiet confidence of a man distinguished by the richness of life experience. His teddy bear countenance and soft-spoken manner belie his tenacity for adventure.

Assembling the Team and Preparing For Success

Uncle Rudy and Aunt Faith have visited 85 countries and seven continents (including Antarctica), sailed a yacht across the Atlantic Ocean before touring Europe and Asia for more than five years by boat, traveled throughout North and South America for two years by RV, and ridden across the US to Alaska by motorcycle. An impressive list for even the most accomplished diminutive daredevil, but not his top exploit.

In 1973, he became one of the first licensed hot-air balloon pilots in the United States while flying a vessel he sewed himself. He named that balloon “The Friend Ship,” and it took him all over the World, including the opening ceremonies of the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY. At the whim of the variable layered winds, flying a hot-air balloon requires a well-coordinated interplay between pilot and chase vehicle on the ground.


Back when Uncle Rudy did most of his flying line-of-sight communication with a walkie-talkie was the height of technical sophistication. Once that line was broken, driving the chase vehicle became more of an instinctual art than navigational science.

The skill-set would come in handy with my horrible sense of direction, but not the main reason why I needed him there. My Uncle is a mentor to me in my Dad’s absence and stepped in as surrogate Grandfather to my children. He’s also a big fan of my cycling and fed his appetite for adventure while chasing me around the hilly backroad courses of New England stage races.

My Son Conor and his surrogate Grandfather Uncle Rudy!

Planning For Being Better Than I Am

My wife Kristin also had a spot at the table. I needed her on board too. It’s easy to be decisive with the confidence of knowing there is always someone standing beside you. It’s easier to be confident when that person has unshakable faith in your ability to succeed—a trust borne of nothing more than unconditional love.


She makes me better than I am, and a dream without her is a hollow memory. Sharing the life-changing experience will make us both better and add to the richness of our relationship. I don’t take that for granted either.

Realistic Expectations of Tomorrow

Beginning to plan a year in advance proved to be judicious judgment. It took about that long to temper Kristin’s expectations of our accommodations for the 60-day adventure. She set her bar at nothing less than a tour bus fit for Johnny Cash. After singing the praises of prudent resource allocation, WE settled on a 30-foot Cruise America RV and scheduled a pickup in San Francisco for June 7.


Kristin assumed the duty of stocking the RV and handling the crew’s nutritional requirements. Uncle Rudy agreed to book the places where we would be parking the Schwenk Tank on wheels—a daunting task for even the most seasoned of World-travelers in this societal climate.


Unsettling for me is that I’m at the mercy of my Uncle’s judgment of how far I can handle riding between overnight destinations. I unconditionally trust that his belief in my ability to pedal a bike is grossly overrated. Here is the route he chose for me. Wish me strength!


I hope he and Kristin continue to make me better than I am. I’ll have to sleep on it. We fly out tomorrow.  

Any questions?

Fire them off! I’ll do my best to get to them in between cell towers and tractor-trailer trucks.


To support Chris in his effort to raise awareness of The DIRT Dad Fund, the non-profit he created to assist members of the worldwide cycling community, check out this link to learn more.


Find out where you can pledge a donation and subscribe to The ZOMs newsletter to follow along on the journey.   

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7 months ago

Thanks for sharing the story. Very inspiring. Too bad I didn’t see or read this post before meeting all of you. 😉

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