With a global pandemic disrupting all aspects of life and protests erupting in cities and towns in every U.S. state, it might not seem like an obvious time to bike across America.
But that’s what lifelong friends Isaac Sullivan and Justin Rice set out to do when they began pedaling from Tillamook, Oregon, on May 13. The men, both 25, are traversing the United States on two wheels while raising money for charities. Sullivan, who served in the military, is raising money for the Night Stalker Foundation. Rice, who was raised by a single mother, is fundraising for Warrick Dunn Charities.
The pair passed through Wyoming this week, visiting Old Faithful, camping near Lander and pedaling through the sagelands of the southern part of the state.
They started planning their trip before the COVID-19 outbreak hit the U.S., and say the pandemic has made some aspects of travel tricky. They couldn’t find open hotel rooms when they began, for example. But it has also brought benefits — parks and campgrounds are less crowded.
The men say they’ve only encountered warmth and openness. Strangers have given them meals, opened their homes and gone out of their way to support them.
“Everybody’s been loving, everybody’s been caring,” Sullivan said. “They want to help. It’s been a great experience.”
Sullivan said the slower pace of life, time spent outdoors and exploration of small American towns they’d never heard of has been eye-opening.
Just weeks after they started, protests began unfolding across the U.S. in response to the police killing of George Floyd, sparking a national conversation about racial justice, police reform and racism in America.
Rice said the protests have given new purpose to the ride. That is to expose other African Americans to the idea of not being afraid of going into areas of the country they’ve never been, he said — “To go out and be adventurous, to go outdoors.”
Rice feels that the situation has led to “a lot more compassion,” he said. “A lot more hearts are open right now to receiving and giving.”