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One Man, One Bike: 3,415 Miles

by on April 30, 2012 6:00 AM

For the past two years, Larry Emigh has been training at State College's North Club for a bicycle ride across the United States, from Manhattan Beach in Los Angeles to Revere Beach in Boston.

He’s making the 3,415-mile ride to raise money for the Children’s Dyslexia Center in State College, an organization that serves children in 15 Central Pennsylvania counties.

Emigh leaves May 9 and the ride begins on May 13.

“Doing this ride is something that I’ve thought about for a long time,” he said. “I was a Pennsylvania State Trooper and then a sales representative in the toy industry. I never had the time to devote to training. Now I have been afforded the opportunity to train and to commit to the seven weeks it takes to complete the ride.

“I’m anxious to get started. I’ve ridden the local roads long enough."

Emigh, 70, retired from the state police in 1993 and his sales job in 2008. He is in top physical condition and has lost about 24 pounds in his training for the ride. He expects to lose about five to seven pounds more before the trek is completed.

Emigh believes that his age will inspire other people and garner more attention when he speaks to groups about dyslexia. He hopes to raise $250,000 for the Children’s Dyslexia Center and notes that every penny donated will stay in Central Pennsylvania.

Since the beginning of his training, Emigh has had apprehensions about one thing — mountains.

“The mountains I’ll encounter are steep," he said. "In the first two weeks of the ride, I’ll be climbing a lot of mountains. Through all my training I feel I’ll be able to keep up on the rolling stretches. But it’s those mountains I’m not sure about.”

Very early in the expedition he’ll be climbing Mingus Mountain, a grueling 45 miles.

In order to complete the ride in seven weeks, Emigh will have to average about 87 miles each day. Some days he’ll ride less. Some, like crossing the Mojave Desert at 101 miles, he’ll ride more.

Emigh will not be alone on his journey. He’ll be traveling with a group of 30 cyclists from across the nation and around the world. The group will be traveling with the guidance and assistance of Cross Roads Cycling Adventures. Cross Roads is a company that makes all of the arrangements for meals and lodging across the country.

“Their staff will take care of the route, hotels at night, breakfast and dinner and SAG stops – support and gear. There will be six members of their team in two vans,” said Emigh. The cyclists are expected to fix and change their own tires. The Cross Roads staff will be available for major mechanical failures.

Coping with difficult weather conditions is another challenge.

“They tell you to bring a good raincoat,” Emigh explained. “We’ll be riding through the rain.”

If there’s a really terrible storm, the cyclists are told to lay their bikes down and seek shelter. The Cross Roads staff will check on every rider’s well being.

Emigh’s family is solidly in his corner. His wife, Kay, with whom he owns The Growing Tree toy store in downtown State College, has been supporting his effort “101 percent.”

In addition, his son and daughter are hoping to set up interviews with local media outlets at stops along the way. To keep in touch with his family, and his supporters, Emigh has established a website and a blog.

“I’m going to update people on my progress every day,” he said.

In addition, he will Tweet when he crosses state lines and passes important landmarks.

The carbon frame Cannondale bike that he will ride weighs 14 pounds and it’s fitted with a GPS instrument as well as solar panels to keep it charged.

“The GPS will tell me my elevation, speed, cadence and heart rate. All the information I’ll need as I ride. I’ll be wearing a road ID with emergency numbers and an 800 number. If they call that number they’ll have access to my entire medical history.”

When he returns, Emigh plans to use his experience as a platform to speak about the difficulties parents and children face when a diagnosis of dyslexia is made.

“I want to bring awareness to the ways that children with dyslexia suffer each day,” he said. “By accomplishing this at age 70, people may be more apt to come hear what I have to say. Our program at the center is two years long and the tutors meet twice a week for 55 minutes each time. Tuition is free but it costs the center $5,000 for one child for one year.”

When Emigh was spotted by NBC's Al Roker outside 30 Rockefeller Plaza one morning, he had a few minutes to explain what he was doing.

“Parents from throughout the United States saw me and were impressed. Some of them hope to meet me along the way with their children. I received many heartfelt e-mails from that brief appearance (on the Today show),” he said.

Emigh is very grateful for the help he has received so far.

“Local people have been very, very supportive,” he said. “They tell me that they’ll be thinking about me and praying for me. And Nancy and Pam at the North Club have really worked with me. I do think of them and it helps keep me going.”

This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.
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