Since he began long-distance cycling 15 years ago, Joel Press, MD, dreamed of doing a major ride to celebrate his 50th birthday. Last summer, Press got his wish--and then some. Starting June 12 in San Francisco, Press pedaled across the country, arriving in Boston on Aug. 14. Medical director of the Spine and Sports Rehabilitation Center at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Press recounts his 3,780-mile journey and how he parlayed it into a fundraiser for both his clinic and his specialty association, the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
On why he did it. The more you ride, the more you realize the beauty of the country. So I started doing longer rides, including Seattle to Montana. I figured that one of these days I'm going to ride cross-country. I wanted to make something productive out of it. So I used the ride as a fundraising event for the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, where I was president, and the Rehabilitation Institute, where I work. The goal was to support research of rehabilitation techniques. One patient donated $1 million to support an endowed chair in the sports rehab center. In total, I raised $1.1 million for the Rehab Institute and $150,000 for the academy.
On his route. I put my route together using maps from different bike groups. I began in San Francisco, went to Lake Tahoe, went down to Southern Utah to see Zion and Bryce [national parks], and cut over to Telluride, CO. I crossed the mountains in Colorado. I went through the middle part of Kansas and the Katy Trail in Missouri, a 225-mile off-road bike path. I went through southern Illinois, and then headed up to Ohio and across to upstate New York. I rode with a different group of people every week. My son met me in Cleveland and accompanied me to Boston. Out of 54 days of riding, I did 10 by myself. I took 10 days off.
On the most difficult aspect of the ride. The first few days were the hardest. I wasn't used to riding with all that weight [his clothes and gear]. But I thought, "Oh my God, I'll be doing this for the next two months." It plays a funny game with you. But you just take a deep breath and realize you are doing the journey hour by hour, day by day, and not overnight. As the days went on, you get stronger and stronger and stronger. My son and I did 106 miles on the last day from Springfield, MA, to Boston. We looked at each other and said, "Now what do we do?"