9/2/2014

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Travel & Outdoors

Cross-country trek for wounded warriors: 'It was an amazing journey'

Cross-country trek for wounded warriors: 'It was an amazing journey'
Photo courtesy Doyle Doss.
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BOISE, Idaho - Despite 14 flat tires, the uneasiness of biking alongside traffic and the government shutdown throwing a wrench into things on the last leg of their journey, a retired couple from Boise completed their mission.

Darrel and Roseann Mooney have spent the past four months traveling across the country on a tandem recumbent bike. They started their journey June 30 in Fort Lewis, Wash., and finished Oct. 6 in Lorton, Virginia. They rode 3,800 miles to raise money for something close to their hearts - helping our wounded warriors when they return home.

"It was an amazing journey," Roseann said. "And we've talked about this - we don't have one specific thing that really stood out above another. It was just that every day was unique and we met so many wonderful people."

The two were riding for Comfort for America's Uniformed Services (Cause), which provides services for military men and women who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. Cause has been around for a decade and is well known in the Washington, D.C., area, but not so much in our neck of the woods. They help wounded warriors during their recovery process by providing entertainment, recreation and relaxation.

The Mooneys are both military veterans - they served as dentists in the Army and Darrel is also a West Point graduate. They had heard about Cause through some friends and knew they wanted to get involved.

This was the first time Cause attempted a fundraiser like this and they picked the right couple to do it - with the Mooneys help, they raised more than $92,000.

"It's pretty incredible," said Tyler Gately with Cause. "Especially when some of the towns they hit were relatively small and they were there on late notice. People put events together and that was really the backbone to the ride - small town America."

Of course, you can't go on a long journey like this and not have a few troubles along the way. The Mooneys did have a number of mechanical issues with their bike, including those 14 flat tires we mentioned. And then there was the traffic.

"That was probably the most disappointing thing in the ride was having to watch out for traffic," said Darrel, who added that they did have some close calls.

"Not really close," he said, "but enough to get your attention."

"We just feel very fortunate that we made it safely across," Roseann said.

Photo courtesy Comfort for America's Uniformed Services' Facebook page.

And then, just as they were preparing to ride into the National Mall for a big finish, the government shutdown happened and the National Mall was closed.

"That was really disappointing that we couldn't finish at the Mall," said Roseann. "I think that as far as raising awareness for Cause, it would have been a lot more significant."

The celebration was moved 20 miles away to Occoquan Regional Park in Lorton, Virginia. But a group of wounded warriors from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center that was supposed to ride with the Mooneys on the last stretch weren't able to make it because of the shutdown.

"At first, the wounded warriors offered to ride from Walter Reed to the park, which is a long ride," said Gately. "But it turned out that a lot of the parkways they would need, the bicycle ways, were all closed down because they are federally owned. It was really crazy. And the sidewalks have been closed in downtown D.C. We tried all kinds of alternate routes to get them involved and they finally had to give up. So unfortunately, they couldn't be a part of this."



Despite the shutdown troubles, Cause was able to hold a nice celebration for the Mooneys in Lorton. And the Mooneys said all in all, the entire trip went rather well. They didn't get sick or hurt along the way and the weather was pleasant for most of the 3,800 miles they biked.

"We had one day that we rode in the rain about 40 miles," said Roseann. "Other than that, we did not ride in the rain at all. And we had all this rain gear with us. There was rain that we would chase and rain that would chase us or rain that would start as soon as we got settled in."


Photo courtesy Comfort for America's Uniformed Services' Facebook page.

Roseann said the best part of it all, though, was the people they met along the way.

"I think the thing that was most inspiring is how much we really inspired others," she said. "The feedback we got was really incredible and all of the people that traveled with us in spirit were amazing - the comments from the blog and the basic cheering along."

"We did not have one bad experience or run into one negative person," she added. "Everyone was just so supportive."

The Mooneys said they don't plan on riding across the United States again, but they do plan to continue to support Cause in other ways. The organization is also already planning a second annual ride next summer. They're working with a husband and wife team from West Point's class of '69 on a plan to have them bike across the country and pick up classmates along the way.

"We're 90 percent sure it's going to happen and the rest of the details will fall into place," said Gately. "So it might be Warrior Ride Version 2."

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