by April Scheinoha
Jack Day felt like the king of the road Tuesday, June 6 while riding westbound on Highway 2. Leg power, electric power and wind power combined for a pleasant bicycling experience as he traveled from Itasca State Park to Thief River Falls.
Day is bicycling about 4,400 miles from Hilton Head Island, S.C., to the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco. He began his trip May 1 and expects to arrive at his destination in mid-August after a short detour to a family reunion at Lake Tahoe. Day, 73, said he tried to convince his relatives to superimpose his likeness in photos of the festivities. They declined.
Day stayed overnight Tuesday with Warm Showers hosts Glen and Darby Kajewski in Thief River Falls. Then he planned to hit the road for the Northwest Angle since he wanted to be at the northernmost point of the 48 contiguous states. He has already been at the southernmost, westernmost and easternmost points.
Day arrived here on a bike outfitted with an electric motor on the front tire. “It has really changed the whole ballgame,” he said.
This is his first trip with the electric motor. Day tries to keep the motor on its lowest level. “It feels like someone’s giving me a gentle nudge,” said Day, who noted it provides a confidence boost when he sees a large hill up ahead. It is also a safety net for those instances when a dog decides to chase him or he is biking within inches of semi trucks.
On this trip, Day also enjoyed the luxury of hitching a ride with neighbors camping next to him at Itasca State Park. He rode in their vehicle from Itasca to Highway 2. Day typically travels a maximum of 60 to 70 miles per day, and the trip from Itasca to Thief River Falls is about 90 miles. Day figured it would enable him to arrive earlier in Thief River Falls since the Kajewskis planned to host two other out-of-town bicyclists the following day.
Road trips are nothing new for Day. This is his sixth long-distance trip since retiring from the corporate office of a convenience store chain. When he turned 70, he biked 7,000 miles.
The long-distance bicycle trips started after the Des Moines, Iowa, resident encountered a man traveling from Indiana to Salt Lake City. The man, who was pushing a two-wheel cart, was traveling in memory of his great-great-grandmother. Day thought the man was crazy and didn’t think he would make it over the mountains. As Day continued to think about it, he realized he, too, was up for such an adventure. However, he decided to use a bicycle.
His three adult children worried about his sanity. “They thought it was the onset of something,” recalled Day. “They just gave me that look and kept talking about what they were talking about.”
Before long, his children realized he was serious. They were planning a family event, thinking he would be able to attend. Day informed them he would be on his bike trip from San Francisco to New York City.
They were concerned, but Day was soon on his way. That’s not to say his kids didn’t routinely call him to make sure he was safe and to find out if they needed to pick him up somewhere. Once Day arrived in Denver, he said his kids realized he would be able to make the rest of the trip.
The trip was a life-changing moment for Day. He arrived at Times Square, realizing that, at age 67, he had finally found the first fun activity he had ever done.
Day hopes to inspire people to become more active, particularly seniors. He said many seniors sit on the porch and never get up again.