WHEN the Irish team take the field for their opening Euro 2016 game against Sweden on Monday, June 13, a Letterkenny IT expert will be setting out from San Francisco on the first day of his epic 3,750 mile Trans Atlantic Charity Cycle.
Roger Holmes (43) from Drumardagh has set himself a sixty day target to complete his fund-raising cycle from San Francisco to New York for The Irish Cancer Society. On his return to Ireland he will then cycle from Letterkenny to Dublin.
Roger, who flies out to the States on Tuesday, is undertaking this fund-raising challenge in a bid to show how thinking positively, as opposed to self pity, can lead to great things happening.
Speaking to the Donegal News this week, Roger explained that he has had a very long and frustrating 18 months trying to get over a bad fall from a bicycle. During his recovery things just seemed to go from bad to worse.
Working for an IT company in Derry, Roger did mange to return to work three months after his accident before being made redundant. He then endured many delays with getting treatment, given that he was a cross-border worker, while he was also declined social welfare because he had been working in another jurisdiction and had made no recent contributions.
“Self pity was definitely a factor. That’s around about the time I discovered that meditation helped to ease the worry and stress I was going through. Also at this time, I came to realise that there are an awful lot of people out there in a much worse position than I was in, and so instead of seeing everything as a negative, I started counting my blessings,” Roger explained.
With help from Dr James McDaid in Letterkenny, Roger was referred to a counsellor called Philip O’Rouke who helped him to get back on his feet.
“Philip has survived cancer and while he was ill received some very welcome support and assistance from the Irish Cancer Society. I thought it was just amazing that a man who had gone through cancer was helping me to get back to full health again. Philip and I discussed the possibility of celebrating that I am back on the bike again – something, which for a long time I couldn’t even consider – and so I very quickly decided to face my fears and get back on the bike to do a fund-raising cycle for The Irish Cancer Society,” he said.
Initially, Roger explored the possibility of riding Route 66, but given the time of year he had in mind, the Arizona desert was a big stumbling block due to heat. He then considered the Trans American bike trail which runs from Astoria, Oregon to Yorktown, Virgina, but again there were deterrents. The route goes near Yellowstone, and he didn’t much like the prospect of cycling through bear and wolf country.
Eventually, he decided on a more central route, which avoids the hottest parts of the desert and the highest parts of The Rockies. It isn’t without difficulties, but he hopes these hardships won’t be insurmountable. The biggest stumbling blocks are some large stretches of roads through Nevada and Utah with very little services, particularly the road from Baker, Nevada to Milford, Utah. There is a 75 mile stretch on this road with no services or even houses. But with enough preparation in terms of water and food and spare bicycle parts it is achievable.
Roger’s journey will take him over Monarch Pass and to compensate for the steep climbs he will be reducing the distance travelled on those days. On one particular day he admits that he will be happy if he cover 8 miles!
After crossing Kansas, he hopes to get on The Katy Trail; a 240 mile stretch of old railroad which is now a dedicated bike trail. It crosses much of Missouri and stops just short of St Louis. From St Louis he a few options regarding routes, as there are more roads and more services.
“I will probably make it up as I go along at that point,” he said.
Roger plans to arrive on the east coast at Philadelphia, where he will to meet up with family and then take the coastal route north to Staten Island and cross into Manhattan on the ferry.
“I will be very happy to see the mid section of Brooklyn Bridge which is my final destination on the American leg of Trans Atlantic Cycle,” he said.
Once back in Donegal at the end of August, he will be having a coffee morning in Cafe Blend on High Road, Letterkenny, before setting out for Dublin, where he will end the trip at the offices of The Irish Cancer Society.
“So far the response to this challenge has been very encouraging. It is amazing how a good deed inspires other good deeds, and how thinking positively as opposed to self pity can lead to great things happening. That’s exactly the outcome I would like to see – a demonstration that positive things can happen when trying to find positives where there only appears to be negatives, and I hope that Trans Atlantic Cycle raises decent money for the Irish Cancer Society because they do great work,” he said.
One of the many positive things that have happened in Roger’s life since the accident was meeting his fiancé Yesie Zea.
“I wasn’t feeling great so I took myself off to Galway to visit my sister and, while there, I met Yesie who was on a visit to Ireland from New York,” he smiled.
“The French have a saying that the rest of the world live to work and they work to live. Your job isn’t your life. It’s a way of earning a few pounds to enjoy your life. Thanks to mediation, I’ve learned that you can be busy and more relaxed at the same time because you have to put things in perspective,” he said.
Roger will be trying to carry a few messages while he is on the road.
“I would encourage everyone who rides a bike to wear a helmet. I suffered concussion and other issues because I wasn’t wearing a helmet.
“And lastly, I will be encouraging men of a certain age, to go and check up on signs of cancers which are prevalent in men, particularly testicular and prostate cancer. Women are generally very good at checking and talking about how to do so. We men tend to get embarrassed or negligent. Maybe it is down to pride. But whatever it is, it is not good. A delay in picking up on early signs could be critical,” he said.
Letterkenny based GP Dr James McDaid said that an ‘awful’ lot of people across Donegal were using benzodiazepines.