Some intrepid cyclists bicycle across the country. Claire Dal Nogare is going way beyond that, bicycling around the country, raising funds to help the fight against multiple sclerosis.
Dal Nogare, whose day job when she was there is working as a park ranger in Everglades City for the National Park Service, cycled north from St. Augustine, Florida in April 22 – Earth Day – heading north to Bar Harbor Maine, in the northeast corner of the United States. She is now on the westward leg of the trip, leading a group of 18 cyclists to Seattle.
From the Pacific Northwest, with barely a pause, she will lead the group, with an evolving cast of riders, south along the western coast of the U.S. to San Diego. Then the final leg commences, taking the cyclists cross country again, on a southerly route, back to her original starting point in St. Augustine. When she arrives there, she will have cycled 11,327 miles.
It’s not as if Dal Nogare, 26, didn’t know what she was getting herself into. She previously cycled across the country in 2012, although, she said by phone from a campsite in Pennsylvania, that was “more of a selfish ambition. I just wanted to bike cross country.”
This time, she realized she could help she could use her passion to do good.
“I have friends whose parents have MS,” she said. “Over the summer, we hope to raise a lot of money for the cause.”
She is also familiar with the Rocky Mountains, the massive obstacle that has challenged every west-bound explorer since Lewis and Clark, having come originally from Whitefish, Montana. On the east coast leg, though, the group stayed at lower elevations, taking a coastal route, and opting for secondary or back roads whenever possible. But after spending days in rural surroundings, the lights of the metropolis can beckon.
Highlights so far included some of the major cities they had seen, such as Washington, D.C., where the group did a little bit of sightseeing by bicycle, posing for pictures in front of the White House, and Philadelphia, said Claire.
“There are bike trails all throughout D.C. and Philly, so it feels like you’re sneaking into the city. Cities are always fun to enter – we just pedaled around,” she said.
Most of the time, though, the group is pedaling the byways of rural America, and waiting for the next country store to stock up on snacks or a cold drink, or the evening’s campsite. Wednesday, Claire and her followers had recently passed Niagara Falls, and were heading toward Cleveland, Ohio, with 527 miles of the westward leg in their tiny rearview mirrors.
Some long-distance cyclists go all in on technology, with GPS navigation and a variety of apps that calculate energy expended, but Claire, she said, is “old school. I like to keep it simple.”
It helps that theirs is a “supported ride,” with a chase vehicle in the form of a pickup truck accompanying the group, carrying the heavy gear such as tents and cookstoves, and with tools to patch a tire or perform some basic bicycle maintenance. Each rider has a cubbyhole in the truck for personal items.
It is important to her personally, said Dal Nogare, to ride every mile of the trip, fulfilling her commitment, and a source of deep satisfaction.
“On good days out on the road, when the weather cooperates and the scenery is good, there’s nowhere else you’d rather be,” she said. “People are always blown away that we’re riding for MS.” The group wears shirts that proclaim their quest, and so far, according to the organization’s website, they have raised $269,714, with donations still “rolling” in.
After she returns from the bike ride, said Dal Nogare, her plans call for more traveling. She will indulge a long-cherished desire to visit South America – but she didn’t mention she would be traveling by bicycle.
To learn more or contribute to Claire’s ride, go online to biketheUSfor MS.org.