This time, Jim Hansen found a better reason to put himself through the rigors of a cycling journey across the United States.
He’s doing it for his military comrades to raise awareness for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries, both of which are major contributors to an astonishingly high suicide rate among veterans.
On April 1, Hansen, a 1969 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, joined fellow classmate and alumnus Rick Olafson and a group of 15 other cyclists for a 49-day, 3,037-mile voyage that started in San Diego and will come to an end May 18 in St. Augustine, Fla.
The Save-22-a-Day Trans-America Bicycle Tour is promoting veterans’ charities to suicide prevention — a 2013 VA study concluded that each day, 22 American veterans take their own lives.
“I rode in this two years ago and was interested in doing something like this again,” Hansen said. “But I figured instead of making it a joy ride, it would need to have a purpose to it. There was an idea of doing something to support veterans, and one of the leaders from a previous ride was in the military. So, we decided to dedicate our spring tour to supporting veterans.”
The tour is broken up into 46 stages, ranging from 30 to 96 miles, with three rest days built in, taking the riders through the desert Southwest and the Texas Hill Country before transitioning to the Gulf Coast and eventually to the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean.
The tour has chosen Train a Dog Save a Warrior (TADSAW), a charity committed to veteran suicide prevention, to benefit from the ride. The nonprofit service organization arranges for a suitable dog and provides training needed for the veteran and dog to become an accredited warrior/service dog team. Although the dog is trained at no cost to the veteran under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the cost of training one veteran service dog team is estimated at $2,500.
“A lot of our vets got PTSD or a TBI when they were active duty, and when they come home, a lot of them are pretty non-functional,” Hansen said. “They’re going to the store in the middle of the night to avoid contact with people. When they get involved with a dog, they develop a social bond. Later on, they can reconnect with people. It’s amazing how it can change a person’s life.”
Prior to the start of the tour, Hansen estimated more than $100,000 was raised for TADSAW and other veterans’ charities.
“That’s much more than I ever imagined.”
Just hearing those numbers is enough to take the edge off the daily rigors of this endurance race.
At least he knows what to expect now.
“You have to train some beforehand and get enough hours in the saddle so the saddle sores aren’t that bad,” Hansen said. “That can be a killer if you don’t do that. Your body actually gets acclimated to the daily riding, so you get stronger as you go along. The first bit is the toughest, getting through the mountains in California and Arizona. When you get to Texas, then you have it made.”
To keep up with the race, follow the event blog at save22aday.blogspot.com.