An 18,000-mile journey to help military veterans
August 4, 2011
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- After 15,000 miles on his bicycle, Doug Adams was finally on familiar territory. For 10 months, the retired lieutenant colonel had averaged 60 miles a day across 48 states when he turned on to East Gate Road on July 28. It was the first time on his journey Adams recognized the road he traveled on.
Adams stopped on Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Watkins Field and looked toward Mount Rainier.
It was the majestic beauty of the mountain that inspired Adams’ vision of the Duty,
Honor, America Tour two years ago.
Adams teamed with his wife, Deb Lewis, a retired colonel, and the couple mapped out a yearlong 18,000-mile bike route across all 50 states to educate Americans on how to help veterans, Soldiers and Families.
“We have people who want to help and care about the military veterans and Families, but they don’t realize how easy it is to help,” Lewis said.
The tour launched Oct. 7, 2010 at Fort Drum, N.Y. Lewis drives a 34-foot RV covered in red, white and blue, while Adams logs miles on his bicycle. Ten months and several tire changes later, Adams and Lewis are back in Pierce County preparing for the original adventure: climbing Mount Rainier.
“This is where it started from, where the vision happened,” Adams said, “where I did all my training.”
Adams spent the last weekend in July doing a practice climb on Mount Adams and he began his ascent of Mount Rainier on Monday. After his climbs the couple will fly to Alaska to ride 350 miles, return back down the West Coast states and fly to Hawaii to end the tour on Oct. 8.
The couple had been living on JBLM for seven years when Adams had his vision. He took to a yearlong training plan for Iron Man competitions and shed 55 pounds. The couple moved on to Wisconsin so Adams could compete in the Iron Man before they moved to the East Coast.
When the couple was ready to launch the tour, they used their retirement savings to purchase the RV, rented out their house in Virginia and took to the road with their Chihuahua, Daisy.
The yearlong deadline was set to honor the length of Soldiers’ deployments.
“Military veterans and Families understand new adventures and changes,” Lewis said. “But to do it every single day, that’s what you do on a deployment. You’re constantly thinking about the mission. We recognize enormous sacrifices military members and Families make.”
Along the route the couple stops at military installations, veteran offices and memorials to initiate conversation to organizations and communities, and explore ways to provide support to the past and present American GIs and their Families.
Lewis, dubbed the CEO, Chief Everything Officer, documents the tour with photos, social networking, managing the website and updating blogs. "I do everything but bicycling,” Lewis said.
A friend of Adams, Rick Funk, linked up with the duo in Colorado Springs in early July. Funk rode alongside Adams for 1,500 miles until they reached JBLM.
“Having observed first hand this is a very complex operation,” Funk said. “There are so many things to be taken care of in a day.”
A small group of riders are expected to ride the 350 miles of Alaska terrain with Adams, and the couple hopes more riders will join when he returns to the Seattle-area Aug. 15 to 17.
While the continuous schedule of physical exercise, travel, communicating and documenting can be exhausting, Adams is looking at the bigger picture.
“Yeah it’s exertion and yeah it’s intense, but boy is it beautiful,” Adams said.
The couple will have little time to relax when the tour wraps up in Hawaii as they have to be in Washington, D.C. soon after for a conference. After the tour they will spend the next three to four months documenting their experiences and figuring out where they will live and work.
“Documenting the experience will be a vital aspect of this,” Adams said. “You have the tour and then you have the legacy of the tour.”