At this time last year I was coasting by bicycle across Kansas during the inaugural Bike Across America for Mental Health. Looking back on that trip brings about bittersweet feelings, as it was one of the most rewarding and difficult endeavors of my life. I knew that going into the epic journey from sea to shining sea was going to be grueling. What I failed to foresee was the road that followed.
In the fall of 2015 I had just completed the over 3,200 mile long trip and was heading off to graduate school at the University of Washington in Seattle. I saw this opportunity as a rebirth, a time to start over, and with that came the all too common thought that my mental health was under control; that I no longer required the self-care or support to which I had grown accustomed. Continue Reading
3,282 miles, 11 states and the District of Columbia. That’s how far I traveled over the last 43 days. It has been, without a doubt, an adventure of a lifetime and I can’t believe it’s over.
Yesterday morning began like so many others on this trip – up at dawn, getting my gear ready, eating breakfast and then hitting the road. But yesterday was different because I only had about 20 miles to go before reaching my final destination: The Lincoln Memorial. I chose the Lincoln Memorial because Abraham Lincoln battled depression all his life but is still considered one of our greatest presidents ever. Pretty powerful.
I biked across some quiet roads as I left Centerville, Virginia yesterday morning, and then the scenery transitioned into huge McMansions as I got closer to Washington. For the last 15 miles or so, I traveled on the Rock Creek Park bike path, weaving through joggers and baby strollers. The bike path took me right to the Lincoln Memorial where my parents – who flew in from Minnesota – where waiting for me. Best. Feeling. Ever.
This has been the toughest week for me so far. Besides being exhausted from having biked 2,360 miles in 30 days, cycling through Kansas and Nebraska hasn’t been very exciting. There’s not much to see while riding — you know it’s a long boring road when you start singing all of your thoughts.
It’s hot and humid, there’s a ridiculous amount of bugs and it smells like manure everywhere — but most of all, it’s really frustrating to bike into the 30-40 mile per hour winds, even when going downhill! I never would have thought I would be longing for the mountain ranges of Utah and Colorado.
The physical and mental pain of this journey has truly reached its peak. I hit a low point the other night, but talking to my family really helped. They reminded me what this ride is all about: hope. Continue Reading
I’ve been on the road for about three weeks now and sometimes I wonder how my legs are still peddling. The fact that uphills can outnumber downhills about 25 to 1 is preposterous. Every time I look up, there’s another hill! But I know I’m doing this for a good cause, and that keeps me going forward. Support my ride!
I’ve traveled through Colorado, Nevada and Utah, some of the largest states in the U.S. I recently learned from a local guy that those states cover almost 300,000 square miles — that’s about the size of Austria, Germany and Italy combined. While these states may cover a lot of territory, the population in most of the areas I biked through was sparse, with cows and bulls greatly outnumbering people.
This experience has taught me that I am a bit of an adrenaline junkie. Despite the tough bike rides uphill, flying downhill is the most exhilarating feeling ever. The unbelievable views of mountains, cliffs and canyons all right in front of and below me has also made the pain, cold and discomfort of ascending thousands of feet worth it.
I’ve been biking in the name of mental health awareness for about a week now. Some days have been long and hard, other days have been more merciful. But I’ll be honest: This ride has been pretty tough. However, I made it 560 miles so far and in one piece – even after my run in with a rattle snake!
I have cycled on some beautiful nature trails, biked alongside rabbits and turkeys, and passed through the breathtaking Sierra Nevada mountain range. I’ve also been on some winding, narrow roads with no shoulders, and cars and trucks racing by at 60 miles per hour.
My name is Dave Romano and today I’m setting off on a West-to-East coast Bike Across America ride to raise awareness for mental health. My journey will span more than 3,200 miles and 12 states. I am taking on this challenge to raise money for Active Minds, an organization that is very close to my heart.
I have a diagnosis of depression. As a male athlete in high school, I struggled with the stigma and shame associated with mental illness. But after many difficult years, I finally reached out and got the help I needed. Since then, I’ve been committed to letting others, especially men, know that it isn’t weak to ask for help. And as a member of the Active Minds Speakers Bureau, I travel the country sharing my story and challenging these harmful stereotypes.