I want to introduce you to Bill Fowler. I went to school with his daughter, Deanna and I found out about her dad’s inspiring adventure from a recent facebook post. I immediately messaged her to see if Bill would be willing to be interviewed. His answers will inspire and encourage you to make a difference however you can.
Why are you bicycling across America?
Many years ago, I lost my wife and soul mate to cancer. It devastated me. Faith, friends and two small children that needed a father even more than before were the only thing that pulled me through. Years later, God blessed me with another wonderful wife and soul mate. I have even more children and nine grandchildren. Even with all of these blessings, I carry a scar on my heart that is tender beyond belief.
As much as my loss hurt, I cannot imagine what the loss of a child would be like for a parent. Now my son and daughter-in-law face the very real probability of the loss of their son, Logan, to Duchenne muscular dystrophy. I cannot not sit idly by, facing the loss of my grandson.
Why is your cause so important to you?
There are approximately 30,000 youth that die each year from Duchenne muscular dystrophy and they often die before they are mature enough to have a voice. If I do something bold and daring enough, maybe I can help in being in voice for them. We have cured many diseases. Duchenne’s can be cured also.
Where did you get the idea to cycle solo across America?
There are walks, runs, rides and such all the time for good causes. I wouldn’t begin to know how to organize one of these. However, I thought that if I did something bold and daring enough, it could fire the imagination and accomplish something useful in the fight against Duchenne’s. An old man riding 500 miles? That seemed too short! Ohio to the east coast? Half of a continent still seemed too short. I decided to go all the way across – and to add to the challenge – to go solo.
How did you prepare for your trip?
I began training in January, six months prior to departure, using a three-phased approach. Phase One was conditioning. I used a cross training workout, with a heavy emphasis on cycling. At first, I trained one hour a day, three days a week. Eventually, I increased this to two hours a day, five days a week. I knew that I wouldn’t be as strong as I needed to be, but I planned to start slow and increase my efforts as I built up my strength. Phase Two was knowledge. I read numerous books, blogs, and articles from others who had done similar trips. Phase Three was putting a plan together for the journey based on what I knew and what I wanted to accomplish. Phase Three has changed numerous times and continues to evolve even as I travel.
How long do you plan on being gone?
My original plan was to be on the road for about 8 to 9 weeks. At my current rate, it looks like it might be more like 10 to 11 weeks, but I’m getting faster and the road conditions are improving.
What do you hope you accomplish?
My hope is to raise over $100,000 for Duchenne muscular dystrophy causes and to raise awareness of this disease that affects over a quarter of a million people.
What obstacles did you have to overcome to start your journey?
I had to find the courage to say to the world that I was going to do this, even though I wasn’t sure I could. And I had to leave my wife with a heavy load and tremendous anxiety. I worked hard to leave her with as light a burden as possible before my departure.
What challenges have you encountered on the road?
I’ve encountered hours of physical exertion so intense that it left me unable to eat. Cycling up mountains in 100 degree temperatures with no ability to stop, put me close to heat exhaustion. I’ve had several incidents where I ran out of water and didn’t know where or when I would find more. I’ve had hundreds motor vehicles passing too close for safety. I’ve experienced loneliness such as I haven’t felt in years. Finally, I’ve worried about whether I’m a worthy voice for the thousands afflicted with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
What have been some of your most memorable experiences so far on your trip?
- Finding numerous encouraging messages waiting for me after a particularly difficult 2-day ride.
- The smell of the cool air while I ride towards the sun as it slowly lights up the eastern sky.
- The view from mountain tops that I felt I might never reach.
- My grandson saying I was his hero.
What have you learned about yourself during this journey?
I have learned that even though age has softened my body, mentally, I can be as strong or stronger than I have ever been. It has also reinforced my knowledge that, with God’s blessings, nothing is impossible when people pull together.
What have you learned about the people you’ve met along the way?
I knew that I would meet some wonderful people during the course of my cycling trip. However, the kindness and generosity of people that I’ve met has been unbelievable. One person responding to my blog said that my stories had restored their faith in the goodness of people.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to raise awareness for a cause?
Even at my advanced age, I feel more confident in my ability to meet the physical challenges than in my ability to raise awareness for a cause. With that said, I’d recommend having a good story and sharing it far and wide. It’s important to recruit and use help – friends, family, organizations and such. It’s also helpful to have a website and a blog and to use social media, flyers and business cards. Last, but not least, prayers.
How can someone connect with you on social media?
Easy! People can read more about the trip on my website grampsbicyclingamerica.com. They can also find me on Facebook and Twitter or can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.