Cyclists aim to complete 1,900 mile trip from Maine to Florida

Ride will wrap up fourth long-distance trip for 70-year-old cyclists
By Ben Holbrook | Sep 20, 2012
Photo by: Ben Holbrook From left: Cyclist Bill Irwin, Edward Ott and driver Ed Martin stand outside Belfast resident Duke Marston's home during a stop in the city Friday, Sept. 14.

Belfast — Three trips and thousands of miles later, two California residents are looking to complete a long-distance bicycle ride from Calais, Maine, to Miami, Fla., to raise money and complete their goal of traveling to all four corners of the country.

Bill Irwin and Edward Ott made their first cross-country trip in 2004 when they rode their bikes from Washington to New Jersey. They followed that expedition with another trip in 2007 when they biked down the West Coast. In 2010, the two friends biked from San Diego to Jacksonville, Fla., which only left the 1,900-mile trip down the East Coast to complete their excursions to all four corners of the country.

Completing this last trip will be especially poignant, as both men celebrated their 70th birthdays this year. The two riders anticipate reaching Florida between Oct. 23 and 25, barring any major delays.

“We do about 50-plus miles a day. There are some days that are shorter and some days that are longer,” Ott said during an interview at the home of Belfast resident Duke Marston.

Both Irwin and Ott turned to biking because they enjoyed physical exertion of riding long distances and because they wanted to remain active.

“I’ve been a jock all my life,” Irwin said. “It’s wonderful exercise. The best part of the day is being in the saddle.”

Although they aren’t strangers to the challenges the road can present, Irwin said the terrain they’ve encountered so far has put their endurance to the test. When planning previous rides, Irwin and Ott would look at maps, especially the topography, so they better understood what was ahead of them. However, while they were looking at a map of Maine, the eastern portion was not included.

Without that information, neither rider knew what to expect when they began pedaling along the coast.

“I’m calling it the up-and-down East,” Irwin said. “No one talks about the fjord lands of Down East Maine,” Ott said.

Even the unfamiliar terrain challenging them, Ott said, hasn’t stopped either of them from enjoying the scenery and mild weather, which Irwin described as a “mixture of Garrison Keillor, Norman Rockwell and 'Grumpy Old Men.'”

As much as the bike trips are a source of enjoyment for both men, they also make the rides an exercise in charity as they raise money for local organizations. Irwin raises money for his Rotary Club, Torrey Pines, while Ott raises money for his church.

Between the two of them, they estimated they had raised about $55,000 over the years as a result of their bike rides. Ott said he has raised about $10,000 so far for this ride and Irwin set a goal to raise $19,000, which would break down to $10 a mile.

Even though this year’s trip will most likely be their last, Irwin said he hopes other people will be inspired by their efforts.

“I hope someone will say ‘If they can do it, I can do it,'” Irwin said.

For more information about the ride from Maine to Florida, go to www.torreypinesrotary.org/bikeride.html to follow Irwin and Ott’s trip.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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