Pair of Texans stop in Summit County on cross-country bike
On Saturday morning, up on Hoosier Pass, a pair of 70-plus-year-olds from Texas will restart a cross-country biking journey after a brief stay in Summit County.
Lewis Farmer, 74, of Olney, Texas, and Doyle High, 77, of Austin, Texas, are on the second leg of their two-part attempt to bike across the country. Farmer and High have their sights set on the finish line in Wichita, Kansas, after starting the second leg of their journey a few weeks back in Florence, Oregon.
The duo started the second leg in Florence directly after they completed a bike journey from Wichita to the Wrightsville Beach in Wilmington, North Carolina.
In his first cross-country bike ride, Farmer joined his friend High, who has biked across the country twice prior. Farmer said it was High’s second cross-country trip back in 1997 that inspired him to start biking.
“And in the back of my mind, ever since then, I wanted to do an across-the-country trip,” Farmer said. “But life gets in the way.”
“Life” was finally out of the way for Farmer in January when he retired amid the coronavirus pandemic. With free time suddenly on his hands, Farmer began planning a two-party odyssey where he’d ride 60 to 65 miles a day. After talking with High, the duo decided against biking into headwinds from east to west across the continent.
But they also decided against riding in hot temperatures back east during early summer. So they came up with the idea of splitting the trip up. The first half consisted of riding and staying in whatever motels they could find from Kansas to Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and eventually snow in Sparta, North Carolina, en route to the beach.
After a brief reunion with each of their wives in Florence on May 19, Farmer and High have trudged through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming and now Colorado. After the friends entered the Centennial State, a crank and pedal fell off Farmer’s bike, making it impossible for the duo to ride through the Blue River Valley from Kremmling to Dillon, where their friend Raymond White was expecting them.
The duo had been through hiccups before. They have had 14 flat tires — Farmer is quick to point out High has had nine of them — and even had to sleep at a motel in Kentucky that had a roof caving in. At seemingly each step, High said a “road angel,” as he put it, has been there to help the friends on their journey.
In this case, that meant a car headed to Golden was willing to hitch the bikers all the way to White’s home in Dillon.
Because they didn’t ride the final 120 miles to Dillon, Farmer and High have been busy the past few days amassing the missed miles via rides up to Vail Pass, Hoosier Pass and Keystone Resort. It’ll be at Hoosier — the duo’s fourth time at the Continental Divide on this journey — where they continue their cycling quest.
To this point they’ve churned and burned through 2,948 miles and 130,000 feet of elevation gain. In a week, they should reach the finish line in Wichita.
When the duo arrives, High will finally be able to unload from his bike his continuous positive airway pressure therapy machine — a device that makes his cycling satchel heavier than the one Farmer tows. When it’s all over, the duo will look back fondly on not only the journey, but the wide array of positive, peaceful Americans they met along the way.
Those faces include a sheriff in Kentucky who they thought was fixing to write them them a ticket. It was a $50 gift certificate to his favorite local restaurant, to which the sheriff transported Farmer and High. Those faces also include a driver who turned on his blinkers and slowed down traffic behind him while Farmer and High biked across a bridge over the Mississippi River lacking shoulders.
And those faces include White, who joked that he serves as a weigh station stop on their odyssey.
“Some people have asked what’s the reason why we are doing this,” Farmer said. “And my reason is maybe to inspire people to go live out their dreams and do it before it’s too late.”
Through the trip, Doyle said he’s thought back about all the Americans who made a cross-country trip in the pioneer days, including his grandmother who, in 1905, traveled across the plains in a covered wagon. That’s one of the reasons why Doyle feels blessed to have the chance to cycle across the country despite quadruple bypass surgery, multiple stents inserted into his body and two hip replacements.
“People shouldn’t let the little things get in the way of stopping them,” Doyle said.“
So each morning, Farmer and Doyle begin their rides singing tunes from the musical “Oklahoma!”
“‘Oh what a beautiful morning,’” Doyle said, singing a tune from the musical. “‘Oh what a beautiful day. I’ve got a wonderful feeling, everything’s going my way.’”
“It’s a life-changing experience,” Doyle added. “You find out a lot more about yourself.”
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