McDaniel stopped in Kettering after pedaling from California to check in with his family and employer before launching the last leg of his ride on Oct. 22.
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“The sharp hills and narrow roads in Connecticut were tough, definitely the hardest part of the ride,” he said. “And I was delayed one day in Philadelphia due to a nor’easter that came through.”
Having taken on the desert and the Rockies, McDaniel was hoping the last leg would prove easier. “Definitely the most beautiful part of the ride was the Walkway over the Hudson River. The countryside of Connecticut and Rhode Island was a wonderful surprise. I loved the fall colors.”
As McDaniel approached the eastern shoreline of the country, he was overcome with a sense of relief and joy. “I’m not sure this has all sunk in,” he confessed. “I have been so heavily involved in the planning that the actual accomplishment hasn’t really sunk in.”
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McDaniel, who was accompanied by his father in a van, laughs when he remembers his celebratory meal in Narragansett. “Dad had picked out a crepe place but it was closed for the season. We ended up at Dunkin’ Donuts.”
Now that it’s over, McDaniel has several great memories. “The mountains in Colorado, a train whistle blown at me from a vintage railroad near Alamosa, walking at night in Herman, Missouri and seeing my wife and mother when I reached home from California.”
McDaniel’s big takeaway from his adventure is “how much kinder and supportive people are than we give them credit.” A particular character sticks out in his mind. “Catman. He was cycling the GAP in Pennsylvania. He had about 100 pounds of camping gear, food and two pet cats,” McDaniel remembers. “He spends his time cycling the country. I don’t think he has a job. He’s a free spirit.”
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HOW HE GOT STARTED
McDaniel started seriously riding a bicycle just after Hurricane Katrina.
“Gas prices rose so high and I thought I could save money and get my exercise by riding my bike to work,” he said.
He tackled the approximately 15-mile trip and discovered he liked it. He liked it so much, he decided to tackle longer and tougher rides.
He bicycled across Ohio in two days and rode to Terre Haute, Ind. to visit his son at college. This recent trek was the longest and toughest ride of his life: a ride across America.
The physics graduate of Earlham College has been a runner all his life. He ran for his college and continued running for many years, and now he’s transferring that passion to his bike.
“The great thing about cycling is that I get my exercise and get to a destination. It’s great,” he said.
The planning and preparation for his cross-country trip took more time than the actual trip. This summer, he and his wife Kristine, a chemistry teacher at Beavercreek High School, drove to the Painted Desert.
“She dropped me off, and I’d ride the desert. I wanted to get used to what it’s like to drive in those conditions, McDaniel said. “Then she’d meet up with me at the end of the day.”
McDaniel dipped his rear bicycle tire in the Pacific Ocean at Santa Monica Pier on Labor Day.
“I hugged my mom and my wife. My dad was in our van and he kind of led the way for me,” he said. “It’s been very special having this time with my father.”
McDaniel arrived in Dayton, 2,600 miles from where he dipped his tire, at the end of September.
“I had to stop in because of my job. Not many employers would let their employee just leave for four weeks,” McDaniel said of his employer, Leidos. “The only way you can attempt something like this is with a lot of support from folks. I’ve had that support.”
When thinking back to his 2,600-mile trip from the west coast, McDaniel remembers a high point.
“Sunrise. I stayed on Ohio time so I’d hit the road around 2:30 a.m. I took a picture of every sunrise I experienced and sent it to my wife,” he said. “I saw some spectacular sunrises.”
He said riding through the desert was impressive, and tackling the Rockies was tough but beautiful. McDaniel tried to average 100 miles per day but cut that back to 80 when he was in the mountains.
A challenging time was in Coolidge, Kan. when his dad hit a deer and totaled the van that carried his gear.
“We were in a pickle,” he said. “We ended up back in Colorado and then we had to buy a van. When I told people like the tow truck driver, the rental car place and the mechanic that I was cycling across America, I was surprised how much they got into it. They became my big supporters. It was a nice thing to see.”
McDaniel is ecstatic he completed this adventure but says he’ll never do it again.
“I’ve done it and now I’ll do shorter rides,” he said. “It was a lot for my wife and family and my employer.”