TRAVEL FEATURE - - LOUIS LA PLANTE
How to Bike 2,000 Miles Across America
Chase Treadway knew how to party. In 2009, the University of Mississippi grad went to what he expected to be a perfect pool party to celebrate the Fourth of July: Bikini-clad twentysomethings would mingle with their bronzed, shirtless counterparts. Every hand would find a red plastic solo cup. Music (likely Southern rock) would play softly on an iPod hooked to a sound system.
Twenty minutes into the festivities—before anything reassembling the party described in the previous paragraph could even have a chance to begin—Treadway dove into the shallow end and landed on his neck. The impact paralyzed him.
“That [accident] led to a couple of years of really heavy depression,” he says. Overcoming depression was a long and difficult process, but in the end, Treadway, now confined to a wheelchair, came to this conclusion: It was time he went skydiving.
“Once I got that feeling in my bones, it was all good stuff from there,” Treadway says. “I decided at that point more people needed to feel this way, especially those who have lost this much.” He looked to launch his own charity, the Chase Your Dreams Foundation.
Though his nonprofit launched this year, Treadway’s first fundraiser—a 2,000-mile bike ride on American trails—has been years in the making.
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From Hiking to Biking
A month prior to Treadway’s accident, his friend Jeff Steckler was going through a different, much more mild life crisis. He felt trapped in his hometown in Southwest Indiana, and at heart, he was a hippie who needed to hike trails, climb mountains and feel at peace with the world.
Steckler called his buddy Charlie Wildman, another Ole Miss alum and friend of Treadway’s, on a Tuesday. “He said, ‘Charlie, I need some mountain time,’” Wildman recalls. Steckler was in luck; Wildman, who was living in Oxford, Miss., could head to the mountains with him. But, he stressed, it had to be the upcoming weekend. Three days later, the two met in St. Louis and drove 17 hours to Telluride, Colo., in the Rocky Mountains.
The Southwest Colorado town is known for many tourist attractions, including phenomenal skiing. (One travel writer asked on Forbes.com, “Telluride—My New Favorite Ski Resort?”). But it is also a hiker’s paradise. It is tucked away in a canyon, and the peaks surrounding it rise 13,000 feet into the air. The friends hit the trails, climbed and explored.
Three months later, Steckler moved to Colorado, and Wildman vowed to visit once a year for mountain time.
That “mountain time” always occurred during the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in June, and while musicians picked at their banjos on stage, Wildman turned to Steckler and joked that it would be an amazing experience to bike from his favorite bluegrass festival on the East Coast, DelFest in Maryland, to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in the Rockies.
Steckler and Wildman had been teasing an idea for an epic bike trek for years where they would ride from Wildman’s East Coast home to Steckler’s in Colorado. Excuses had always stopped them.
Furthermore, riding from one music fest to the other was a preposterous idea, Wildman thought; more than 2,000 miles separate the festivals, and they are scheduled less than a month apart. It was impossible.
But this time, their friend Treadway had earned 501(c)(3) status for the Chase Your Dreams Foundation, and Wildman and Steckler were reminded that nothing was impossible.
A 2,000-mile Bike Ride for Dreamers
The goal of the Chase Your Dreams Foundation is “to inspire a sense of dignity and re-fulfillment for those who may have suffered a traumatic injury or illness.” From career assistance to, yes, skydiving, Treadway’s foundation aims “to provide a chance for people with a disability to experience something that they never thought they could due to certain limitations.”
What better way to raise funds for a charity that helps people achieve the seemingly impossible than with an event that is seemingly impossible?
So on May 25, 2015, Steckler and Wildman are moving out from the Maryland music fest and will bike 2,000 miles in less than 25 days to arrive in Telluride for the bluegrass event. Also alongside the group: Treadway.
The trip is called The DelURide, an event aimed at raising funds and awareness for the Chase Your Dreams Foundation. Steckler and WIldman are paying for their own rides, but they are encouraging donations which will go to help fund Treadway’s nonprofit.
Since moving to Colorado five years ago, Steckler has never missed an opportunity to hike or bike the surrounding trails. He currently works at an outdoors sports shop, The Gearage, where he has learned the art of packing light.
They’re still finetuning the route, but it will be a variation of the Trans-America Trail, says Steckler, who can’t stop thinking about the event that is still months away. “This has become something so much bigger than us,” says Steckler.
For a young charity, Treadway is thrilled to have found fundraising support. “We want to give hope to people with mobility impairment, including their friends and family, and nothing better to prove that point than with these guys who are chasing their dreams of going on this awesome bike ride.”