Chuck Campbell of Poland Township is taking it easy this week after completing a month long bike ride to Pensacola, Fla. The trip took four days longer than expected, but the purpose was fulfilled.
Campbell chose to make the trip to help raise funds for hospice in his wife's honor. His wife, Carol, passed away on May 8, 2008 and never got to make the trip to Florida to visit her grandchildren.
In Florida, the Campbell's daughter Carolyn Styranec, decided to do her share for the ride. Both Campbell and Styranec are hospice volunteers in their respective communities.
Photo special to the Town Crier
Chuck Campbell of Poland made it safely to Pensacola, Fla., on Saturday, June 2. He was welcomed by many friends and his daughter and grandchildren after a month on the road.
Campbell left on May 3, expecting to arrive on May 27. At age 62, he stayed in shape by riding his bike, a Trek Model 7100 almost daily. In inclement weather, he worked out on stationary bikes. With all the training and fitness workouts, he still wasn't sure what to expect as he had never before ridden such a distance.
"The weather was good, but hotter than I expected," Campbell said. "So much for an early spring. The temperatures were my biggest surprise, rising to the mid 90s during some days."
Another unexpected part of the trip were the rolling hills. He said the course he laid out was up and down all the way into Florida.
"There were a lot more hills than I thought there would be," he said, "right up to within 50 miles of my destination."
He did have a support crew traveling the same route. They stayed with him at each planned checkpoint all the way down. He only had to leave the course once when he ran into a rainstorm. The support crew picked him up five miles outside of Huntsville, Ala., and drove him and his bike into town. The next day the rain moved out and the crew took him back to the spot they picked him up and he started from that point.
He said one of the biggest problems were the dogs along the way. In the southern states, dogs run loose and he was chased four times. He was carrying mace just in case.
Another item he was carrying was a Flat Stanley from his granddaughter, seven-year-old Jordan. Her classroom was doing a Flat Stanley project, and the rest of the class had already turned in their Flat Stanleys. Jordan's was approved for a later date and to make it more interesting while she waited her grandfather's arrival, Campbell would send letters to her classroom explaining where Flat Stanley had been and what had happened that day.
Jordan didn't wait around doing nothing either. She began a penny drive for Covenant Hospice in Pensacola. She managed to raise $416.
At 10:36 a.m. Saturday, June 2, Campbell clicked over mile 1,000 on his bike's odometer and arrived in Pensacola. He was then ready to rest up, but that wasn't in the plans. He was invited to be in a local parade and got to spend a day in Jordan's school classroom talking about Flat Stanley's trip.
"I tried to pick up post cards and memorabilia at every stop I made," Campbell said. "I presented all of it to the class."
He also told the class that when he left Poland he was 61 years old. When he arrived in Pensacola, he was 62.
He also was honored last week for his efforts by throwing out the first pitch at a Blue Wahoos (Cincinnati Reds farm team) game as a way of welcoming him to Florida.
He did get to spend some time with his family, enjoying a day at the beach before returning home over the weekend. He said when he arrived at the airport, his friends drove him directly to Knoll Run for dinner. Everyone wanted to hear his story of the adventure he had completed, but he cut it short and headed home.
"I ended up staying up till 2 a.m. going through mail," he said. "It was fun and challenging. It was an experience of a lifetime, but I won't do it again."
He said it was hard being away from home for five weeks. He confessed that along the route he grew tired of eating in restaurants and opted for some lunchmeat and bread.
As for hospice, he said the money raised is still coming in and he hopes it will make a few thousand before it's over. Those who donated via the computer will be sent thank you letters from Hospice of the Valley. For funds he collected along the way, he collected names of the donors and will send out letters of thanks himself.
Hospice of the Valley employee Terri Windsor said at the end of the big ride, "His ride has ended but his dedication to Hospice continues. It's great to think a 62-year-old man can ride a bike over 1,000 miles in honor of his deceased wife and to thank everyone at Hospice for what they did for his family."