A 3,000-plus mile bike ride is a big undertaking, but Tom Helbig does things in a big way.
Helbig logged 3,300 miles from Key West, Fla., to Lubec, Maine, as part of his recent Tomfoolery Outdoors Good Vibes Tour – a continuation of the 4,200-mile Southern Tier Route he took in 2016. Why pedal along the eastern coastline for 93 days? The 44-year-old Daytonian shares his reasons for the journey and the lessons he learned along the way.
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Q: What is the Good Vibes Tour?
A: I have found that the more time I spend on these adventures, the more time I want to spend on them. So, after completing the Southern Tier Route, I decided to continue riding around the perimeter of the United States. I wanted the journey to be about the people and projects that are making the world a better place. I was seeking out good vibes leaders.
Q: What is a good vibes leader and how did you find them?
A: A good vibes leader is community minded – they care about people, they care about the environment. When you have an interaction with them, 99 percent of the time, they make you smile. On this journey, finding them happened completely organically. I literally let the energy of the journey dictate who I met with and where I stopped. I'd meet these unique people doing amazing things. It doesn't always have to be a life-changing moment – it's probably more valuable when it's a little thing you notice.
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Q: What prompted you to do this?
A: That's one of the questions I get most often – why? When I shared with a group of kindergarteners about my trip along the Buckeye Trail, I wanted to come up with an answer that was super succinct. I told them I liked to play outside, I care about the environment, I wanted people to know Ohio is cool and I like to make friends. My answer now is pretty much the same – I like to be outside, I care about the environment, America has great people and I want to make new friends.
Q: How much has current events played into that need to demonstrate that America has great people?
A: It's a huge part of it. A lot of the comments I hear that are negative or hate-filled come from people who haven't interacted with immigrants or anyone who is different than them. They are basing their views on what they heard from someone else or from social media. When you go out and experience things for yourself, you get the truth. And I'd say that 98 percent of my experiences with other human beings are extremely positive.
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Q: How important to you is it to get that message out?
A: In a world where the negative gets so much more attention, I think the good should be celebrated. And with what developing voice I have, I feel an obligation to share what's good about this country. I'm hoping that can be an example for others.
Q: How much of a physical toll does a 93-day ride take on you?
A: There's always the first couple of weeks that the saddle sores are bad and you need to get used to it, so it's a big challenge. But the East Coast is more flat than my last route so that was easier. A lot of people will say, 'I'm not in shape for this kind of ride' and I'd say 'you will be when you're finished.' And honestly, I do get stronger as the ride goes on.
Q: If there was one takeaway from this adventure you’d want most to share, what would it be?
A: I was seeking out good vibes leaders and if you looked in the mirror and asked yourself if you were a good vibes leader, what would the answer be? Are you a positive person? Do you surround yourself with positive people? Do you accept others, regardless of differences? If the answer is 'no' or 'I'm not sure,' I think some reflection needs to be done.
Q: With this leg of the Good Vibes Tour in the books, what’s next?
A: So, my goal is to ride through every state along the perimeter of the country. My next ride will be along the Pacific Coast – from Washington State to Mexico – probably in the fall. But I'll be in the Dayton area through the fall for Tomfoolery Outdoors events like Canoegrass (Aug. 2) and the Beer Miler (Aug. 18).
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