Ron Davis, a 69-year-old Marine and Vietnam veteran from Plano, Texas, will begin a cross-country bicycling journey all by his lonesome from California to New Jersey — primarily to earn donations for the Wounded Warrior project.
But the pure adventure of it all is a nice bonus as well.
Davis will celebrate his 70th birthday on May 25, while on the road. He reckons the trip will take several weeks, but he isn’t overly hitched to keeping by a certain schedule. He’s retired, after all.
Davis only took up bicycling last June. He started training for his cross-country trek in earnest last August.
The Marine was exposed to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam; he contracted bone cancer when he was in his 30s. One of his treating doctors at the time had told him — at least Davis thought so — to avoid bike riding. So for years, he dutifully dodged it. As it turns out, Davis might have misheard the advice.
Last year during a checkup, he mentioned his fondness for riding — and how much he missed it — to one of his current doctors. Davis was thrilled when that doctor encouraged him to take up the sport in the name of health.
That was all it took. Ron Davis didn’t waste any time.
He went out and bought a bike, and the healthy addiction took hold quickly. The first bike lasted him all of three weeks before he traded it in for a speedier model. The next model lasted two months before he upgraded.
He’s currently riding a Trek 920, which he fondly refers to as an “adventure bike.” Since adventure definitely awaits him, the term seems particularly well-suited.
“It’s like the SUV of bikes — it’s a cross between a road bike and a mountain bike,” he told LifeZette in a telephone interview on Tuesday.
“A lot of people have bicycled across the United States, but almost all of them are in their 20s or 30s,” the soon-to-be-septuagenarian added. By the age of 70, “most of us are mature enough to know when we’re making a mistake! I must have skipped that class.”
The Wounded Warrior project is “near and dear to my heart,” Davis added. “I never took a hit, you know. I had bumps and bruises, but that was it.”
“I see them at the VA,” he said, referring to soldiers wounded in Afghanistan and other more recent conflicts — “and it just breaks your heart.”
The man’s goal for his bike ride is to raise money to help people like those he encounters at the VA. Every dime of donations is going to the Wounded Warrior Project. Davis is personally footing the bill for all of his expenses. He has even turned down sponsorships and has requested instead that potential sponsors simply make a donation directly to the project.
Davis would like to raise $10,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project with his ride. “If someone only ever gave $5, and I rode across America, then that $5 is going to go to some vet somewhere to help them, which is great.”
“As much [money] as comes in, comes in. And any of it that comes in will help these kids. That’s the idea.”
“I am paying 100 percent of the expenses,” he emphasized. “All donations go directly to the Wounded Warriors [organization].”
Folks have donated a total of $3,245 dollars so far.
Davis is planning a 13-stage ride. There are a number of small towns and some major cities through which he will be riding at each stage. He plans to stay in campgrounds, RV parks, and other convenient spots he may notice along the way.
Davis isn’t picky about where he’ll sleep. “Sleeping on the ground doesn’t bother me at all,” he said.
“I’ll also be ‘trash camping,'” he joked. “The proper word is ‘stealth camping’ — meaning, you’re riding down the road, it’s getting late, you see some trees, and you go off into those trees and go to sleep.”
Though he suspects he might stay in a hotel once or twice, he’ll mostly be roughing it, using a tent and camping gear that he carries on panniers attached to his bike. He also noted that police and fire departments are often friendly and helpful in pointing out options for outdoor overnight accommodations as he is passing through.
“Come on! I was in the Marines!” Davis said, laughing when asked about how it is that he doesn’t find the prospect of a loosely planned, cross-country bike tour at age 69 a bit intimidating. “It will be a great experience.”
He does admit, though, that his dear wife has some reservations. His wife of 47 years this September will be meeting him in St. Louis for a few days near the middle of his trip. She will also be joining him in Ocean City, New Jersey — where the bike journey for Davis will come to an end when he dips his front tire in the Atlantic.
Davis chose Ocean City as his end point for sentimental reasons. As a teen growing up in West Chester, just outside Philadelphia, he spent happy summers getting into mischief with a buddy at the New Jersey tourist mecca — and is eager to see what it’s like now.
After the trip, the couple will travel to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, “where we did our courting.”
“I’m an insufferable romantic,” he added.
The pair met when they were teens. Davis joined the Marines at age 19, and the couple married four years later, after he returned from Vietnam.
“You would die doing something that very few people have done, and for a good cause. And that is worth dying for.”
Davis’ two sons share his fearlessness and passion for adventure. One, a world-class mountain climber, when pondering a worst-case scenario, told his dad, “You would die doing something that very few people have done, and for a good cause. And that is worth dying for.”
“I never fell out of a run,” Davis said confidently, quoting an old expression he used in the Marines — meaning that he will fare just fine.
Davis hopes that along the way, some folks might join him for a few miles.
You can follow Davis’ satellite-tracked progress on his website — NorSivad.com — which is Ron Davis spelled backward.
He sets out on his journey from San Diego on March 31.
Davis requests that any donations in honor of his trip go directly to Wounded Warrior.
Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and regular contributor to LifeZette.
(photo credit, homepage and article images: FOX News)