orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

February 13, 2013

Cycling for a cause

Tommy Mann Jr.
The Orange Leader

ORANGE — One revolution at a time, Chris Nicholas is peddling his way across America.

Michigan resident Chris Nicholas is cycling his way across the United States and entered Orange County, Texas on Wednesday afternoon as he crossed the Sabine River escorted by local law enforcement.

In 2012, Nicholas, 33, became the 30th person to complete a solo run across the United States as he ran approximately 3,000 miles from The White House in Washington, D.C. to Santa Monica, Calif. in just under three months.

In October 2012, he began the difficult challenge of becoming the first person to ever cross the U.S. twice within 12 months. This time his trek would take him more than 6,400 miles as he began in Portland, Maine and traveled down the East Coast to Florida then west to California and then north to his destination in Portland, Ore.

However, an unexpected knee injury derailed his bid to run across the country. Not to be deterred, Nicholas decided a bicycle was the next best option and has continued his goal of crossing America to raise funds for three worthwhile charities - St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Wounded Warrior Project and Make a Wish Foundation.

Shortly before 3 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 13, Nicholas crossed the Sabine River Bridge from Louisiana into Texas escorted by Senior Patrol Officer T.P. Pruitt of the Orange Police Department.

“I don’t have a direct connection to any of these charities, but other people do,” Nicholas said during a quick interview Wednesday at the Texas Travel Center in Orange. “It’s the people I’ve met during my run across America last year which have those connections. They have family members and loved ones who have those connections, and that really made an impact on me.”

When Nicholas began his first run across the United States in 2012, it was a goal he personally wanted to accomplish. He later added the goal of raising funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and then it expanded into the three organizations he attempts to assist now.

“My goal is to raise $25,000 for these charities, and people can donate through my website,” he added. “And 100 percent of the donations go to the charities. I have a very small budget of my own money that I use for my personal needs on this journey. A lot of hotels are kind enough to donate a room to me at night, when they find out what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, and that saves me a lot of money.”

Awareness of each organization and its needs is also a secondary objective Nicholas has.

“Awareness is definitely a goal too,” he explained. “If they donate through my website, then that’s great, but, say if someone is in the grocery store and they see a donation jar for St. Jude Children’s Hospital and want to donate that way, then I’m OK with that too.”

Nicholas’ knee injury slowed him down a bit at the beginning as he quickly realized cycling is a difficult sport in its own right.

“I’m not a cyclist. I’m sore everyday,” Nicholas said with a laugh. “The first two weeks I was riding the bike were tough. I thought it was worse than running.”

While making his journey across the country, Nicholas has experienced his share of excitement and adventure. He was “stuck” in New York for a few days as Super Storm Sandy plowed across the Northeastern U.S. and, most recently, less than favorable weather conditions held him over for four days in Lake Charles, La. just in time for Mardi Gras.

“No matter where I’m at I try to enjoy myself and see the country,” he continued. “I like to experience the feel and flavor of each region, it’s food, its sights, and the people whenever I can.”

Each day has its own challenges. One such day, recently, Nicholas had four flat tires in the same day.

“There are days you just want to quit,” he explained. “But you just have to keep pushing on. I’ve never served in the Armed Forces, but those guys who are in the military and are overseas don’t get to go home just cause they have a bad day. If they have to go through that on a daily basis for us back here (in America), then I should be able to suck it up and ride my bike.”

Nicholas said another pleasant aspect of his journey across America is being able to speak to students whenever he has the opportunity.

“I tell them to set big goals. They can do whatever they dream of,” he added.

The students can keep up with his journey through his website, which updates his location approximately every 10 minutes through a GPS unit Nicholas carries on the front of his bicycle.

“I’ll get texts from time-to-time asking questions or words of encouragement,” Nicholas said. “I enjoy being able to interact with them when I can.”

Nicholas made it to Beaumont late Wednesday and was planning on traveling U.S. Highway 90 to Houston. He will continue to San Antonio and towards San Diego, Calif. before turning north to his destination in Portland, Ore.

People wishing to keep up with Nicholas’ trek and make donations to help the charities he seeks to assist, may do so at www.crossingtheus.com.

“Whether it’s being welcomed into a new town by law enforcement, like (Wednesday), or making my journey on my own, it’s a great experience,” Nicholas said. “And it is definitely a journey. Everyone I meet and who helps me along the way and the charities is part of my story.”