Russ Oliver: Cycling Across America

Published 7:49 pm Friday, June 3, 2022

Russ Oliver talked excitedly about his upcoming summer “vacation” as if he were off to Maui or Bora Bora or Bali.

The smile on his face was no indication that on June 8, he would begin a journey of 4,000 miles across the United States …. on a bicycle?!

On Wednesday, Russ Oliver will leave for San Francisco without much local fanfare but the sendoff in California will be a big event as starting gun will signal a bike ride across America.

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Russ and his chapter brother, Jair Cabral of Pi Kappa Phi at Troy University, will participate in a two month, 4,000-mile cross country cycling trip call Journey of Hope.

“The journey raises money and awareness of people living with physical and intellectual disabilities, Russ said. “The trip, the actual 3,735-mile journey, is hosted by our national fraternity’s non-profit organization called The Ability Experience. Along the miles, we’ll stop at many different disability organizations where we will have opportunities to interact and build friendships with people with disabilities. I’m looking forward to the ride and experiencing our great country up close but I’m especially looking forward to the interactions with those with disabilities that we meet and the friendships that we will build.”

Russ said at the site stops the bikers will interact with each other and those they ride to serve with games including kickball and basketball and even dances.”

Russ, a junior at Troy University, is studying Music Industry. He considers himself blessed to have the opportunity to cycle across America in support of people living with disabilities on the Journey of Hope.

“The best part about Journey of Hope is that my team and I will get to build ourselves as men, become servant leaders and build lifelong friendships with each other and people living with disabilities,” Russ said.

There are many opportunities that the Journey of Hope provides to the bikers. Russ said he is looking forward to experiences that he cannot even begin to imagine.

And, he cannot imagine the challenges of riding 3, 735 miles across America.

“I’ve train every day as best I can train in Troy and Pike County,” Russ said, with a smile.  “I’ve ridden my bike, a road cycling bike, short distances and long distances. I’ve ridden to Montgomery but…”

And the “but “is big.

Oliver will ride the Journey of Hope North Route.

“My first choice of the three routes was the South Route because I’m a Southern boy,” he said with smile. “But, I was advised to consider the summer heat and, after thinking about it a lot, I decided on the North Route.”

Russ will travel light with his bike and a couple of extra tire tubes on the plane to California. Then, he will form friendships that will not end in Washington D.C. on August 13.

“We’ll be in San Francisco for three days and on day-one of the ride, a Sunday, we’ll ride 70 miles from Napa to Sacramento,” Russ said with all confidence. “From there, 45 miles to Jackson and 90 miles to Lake Tahoe.

“The biggest challenge will be the Lake Kirkwood Pass. It will be a 50-mile climb and, once I make that, everything won’t be downhill but it won’t be 50 miles up.”

But there will be two days with 125-mile rides and “those will be challenging.”

“We’ll stay a day at Lake Tahoe and all along the way, we’ll have rest days and that’s when we’ll have greater opportunities to visit with those with disabilities, many of them children and young people.”

Russ said the bikers will overnight at churches, recreation centers, hostels, civic facilities and hotels.

They will travel to 53 three cities from San Francisco to Washington D.C.

The will bike through familiar places including Lake Tahoe, Salt Lake City, Denver, Omaha, Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland and Pittsburg and those not so familiar like Vernal, Utah and Wray, Colorado,”

The bikers will also have opportunities to experience tourists’ sites including Park City Utah, and Steamboat Springs, Colorado. However, every city and every hamlet will be a place to remember, Russ said.

“I’m looking forward to every day and every experience,” Russ said. “I have the support and encouragement of my parents, Russel and Lauren, and my entire family. I have looked forward to the Journey of Hope and I’m anxious to get started. It’s not going to be easy but I’ll keep turning the pedals and keep going.”

Russ said he cannot imagine what he’ll feel when he rides that last mile but, for sure, it will bring a close to “one incredible journey.”