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Two years after traumatic accident, I'm back on my bike for charity

Roger Holmes is cycling from San Francisco to New York to raise money for the Irish Cancer Society.

Roger Holmes

IN AUGUST 2014 I fell from an electric bike, doing approx 25-30mph. I wasn’t wearing a helmet and hit my face off the road.

I had dental damage and facial cuts and a very bad gash on my hand which caused nerve damage. I was concussed for several weeks afterwards.

Months later I returned to work, but I still wasn’t right. I was unable to get good sleep and was having nightmares. I was just generally very jittery. At that point I was diagnosed with PTSD.

My recovery was slow. It took time to find someone who could help. The man who helped me to get over my accident is a cancer survivor. I am feeling good now but it was definitely a slow and frustrating process.

Facing fears

While recovering, I couldn’t even look at someone else on a bike, let alone contemplate getting back on the bike myself.

Slowly, I realised that this was a fear that I was going to have to face in order to fully recover.

In the later stages of recovery, I started planning on something special to mark the fact that I was back on the bike. It had a two-fold effect – it gave me a sense of purpose while otherwise unwell, and gave me a goal to aim for.

IMG_20160623_121807 Peggy the bike at Lake Tahoe

Part of what helped me to face my fears was that I considered how many people would love to do something like this but can’t. For me there was a recovery – for others they do not have the that luxury.

It gives me energy out on the road when I consider the people who will get some help from this fundraiser.

Challenge

Having been off the road for around 20 months, I was itching for a challenge. I wanted something epic. Ireland just isn’t big enough and I didn’t really want to go through Europe with the language barriers. There is nowhere more iconic than America.

Nevada

I set off three weeks ago and hope to finish by the middle of August.

The cycling is actually not the most difficult part. The constant struggle to find places to stay is tiring.

Finding a balance between carrying necessities and overloading is tough. Every extra little bit of weight comes back to bite on climbs or in the heat. The constant unpacking and packing every day is difficult.

Sometimes you just want to kick back on a couch and relax for a day, but you feel guilty and have to keep going. Actually being out on the road feels good.

IMG_20160621_013115 California

If I was to do this again, I would try to find someone with time on their hands and have a motorhome follow me. That way you could cycle exactly what you feel like cycling every day, and then just get in the motorhome and rest.

Right now my progress is determined by the distances between towns. So on some days, unless you are sure that you can ride 75-80 miles, then you don’t leave the town you are in.

The Nevada desert and the canyonlands of Utah were really tough. In Moab, Utah, the temperature hit 110.5 degrees Fahrenheit (44°C).

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Right now I am in the Rockies and am resting at the foot of Monarch Pass which involves climbing to 11,300 feet. It is extremely daunting. But I will make it even if I have to walk the bike over.

Some days my body is creaking and struggling, but I have a strong motivation to complete this challenge one day at a time.

Incredible experience

I have met so many amazing people along the way. Random people have helped me and encouraged me.

My experience so far is that ordinary American people are friendly, kind and decent. I think because of TV and the media, Europeans get a twisted view of what American people are like, and that isn’t fair. Most folks are really nice and just want to help. I’ve become known as Forrest Gump on wheels.

Just about everyone I have met loves Ireland and they are all aware of the Wild Atlantic Way and want to come to our wee country which is great. I’m very proud to be Irish out here.

IMG_20160625_140223 'The Loneliest Road in America', Nevada

This is an incredible experience. Feeling pain and struggling in the heat and on the toughest climbs, and knowing that the pain will eventually help people affected by cancer is a very powerful.

I would love to make this an annual event which would benefit the American Cancer Society and the Irish Cancer Society, and possibly do it on a relay basis. For now though, I’m just thinking about the present and each daily challenge as it reveals itself.

My bike fall was a negative experience, but I’m trying to prove that it can have a positive outcome.

You can track Roger on Twitter and Instagram with #TransAtlanticCycle, or by check out his blog, www.theparismethod.com. You can also donate at https://www.gofundme.com/TransAtlanticCycle.

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