January 7, 2016
Hello and Happy New Year!
As you all know this is a pretty big year for me. Although it has been really tough I have really enjoyed the last four months and I’m excited at the prospect of the next 8/9.
Hopefully you will all be aware of the fact that my father also rode America almost 20 years ago under the same name (Ride For The Child). He is the inspiration behind my ride.
This post is dedicated to him and his story. I have included the original 1997 video at the bottom of the post! (warning – both this post and the video does have some bad language in, you might want to put some earphones in!).
Without further ado, my Father Mike Prendergast!
How did RFTC first come about?
Before RFTC I rode two other endurance rides. Lands end to john o’groats, my first charity ride, which was was 900 miles. I enjoyed it that much I did “Lands end to john o’groats and back again”, so basically doing it both ways for 1800 miles. The purpose of these rides was to raise money for Scarborough children’s ward and St Catherine’s hospice which is also in Scarborough. The first ride I did on my own but the second longer ride I was joined by Clive Carrington.
I fancied doing another bigger ride and me and Clive was interested too. I can’t remember why we chose America but I had never been there before and I knew it would be a challenging ride. Myself and Clive worked together and we obtained permission from our workplace, DH Greaves. We found two colleagues, Graham Spurr and Keith Dawson, who would act as the support team.
Once organised the plan was to ride 3000 miles over the next year and six months before the ride the fundraising would begin.
Tell us briefly about the original ride?
I rode coast to coast America, from LA to Virginia in May 1997 covering 2700 miles in 24 days (112 per day). We started at Dana in LA and dipped our feet in the Pacific ocean and once we reached Norfolk, Virginia we stood in the Atlantic ocean.
The four of us lived in a RV vehicle and were accompanied by our mascot, Susie the Sheep. The RV was a six berth so we had enough room for the equipment too. Clive had the master bedroom and I ended up in the compartment above the drivers head. I was literally three inches away from the air conditioning unit which was making the most awful racket. Overtime I switched it off to get some sleep I would hear “Turn that f*c%ing air con back on”.
The ride was a huge eyeopener for me having never been to America before. The poverty, tornados, heat, mountains and HUGE desolate spaces has to be seen to truly understood. They all offered major challenges throughout our journey.
Despite all the tough times the ride was a fantastic and unforgettable experience.
What was the best and worst memory about your original ride?
Tennessee Appalachian mountains were the best as they were an unbelievable sight, nothing I had seen before came close. It took multiple days to get over the Appalachian mountains, they reach 12000 ft and at some points the altitude made things difficult.
The wild dogs. You would be cycling along and they would come charging from all directions. You had to make a choice quickly, either choosing to outrun them or turn back.There is a deterrent spray which is available but we never purchased any.
One time at 5-30 in the morning we had just set out and some dogs came running. They split into two groups at the front and back of us. I have never accelerated so fast going from 13mph to 30mph in order to get past them. It’s amazing how fast you can go when your adrenaline is going and you’re scared sh&t*ess.
What was the most challenging aspect of your ride?
Apart from the sheer amount of miles we had to cover, the most challenging aspect of the ride was the heat. It was unbearable to sit down in never mind cycle 100 miles. At one point it was so hot my sunglasses had melted to my ears.
When we were handed the bottles of ice cold water from the support team they were warm after 20 mins. To combat this the support team were giving us new bottles of water at least every hour, we drank around 10 bottles of water over a 7 hour period each day. Here’s a clip of us climbing the Rockies, unbelievably tough but the views were fantastic.
Because it’s so hot and you’re sweating so much you also lose a lot of salt. To fix this I was putting salt inside my water bottles. We didn’t have all the modern sports drinks like you have now, or not that I was aware of. It tasted disgusting but you just had to get on with it.
Any funny stories?
I was in Oklahoma having a wee at the side of the RV vehicle when a police patrol car pulled up alongside and a police officer got out and told me I was being arrested for indecent exposure. He had me over the bonnet of his police vehicle in full cycling gear while he cuffed my hands behind my back. Although you can’t see the officer you can see the moment he pulls up here.
He got me into the car and told me “you’re going to jail boy”, he would not listen to anything I had to say. As we approached the town people were waving at the policeman as if he was some kind of royalty, I thought I was really in trouble. He had taken me backwards around 14 miles which in itself is disastrous as I had no time to lose, however more seriously I had absolutely no idea what would happen next.
Upon entry to the police station my arresting officer instructed his colleagues to “strip him, book him and put him in the slammer”. His colleagues were a bit more approachable and I tried my best to explain to them I was cycling for sick children and that this has been a silly arrest. I asked to speak to the person in charge but unfortunately they informed me that the officer who had arrested me was the sheriff of the whole county. His name was sheriff Melvin Holly, a big fat sweaty man.
My team soon turned up and we managed to negotiate bail which was around $120 dollars. It was conditional that I would return to court on the Monday after the weekend had finished. However by the time Monday arrived I would have cycled over 250 miles and be in another state. I effectively did a runner.
As much as I would like to go to America with Shane the problem is that I would probably be arrested upon entry to the country as I’m a wanted man for indecent exposure (having a jimmy riddle by side of the RV)!
Amazingly Shane searched for Sheriff Melvin Holly on the internet over Christmas and it turns out he has been jailed for 25 years for a number of offenses including sexual abusing prisoners. I will never forget the B&s%a$d!
What are the differences between yours and Shane’s ride?
Besides the different routes and distances (Shane’s is longer), I rode a Renault metal bike which is probably twice as heavy as Shane’s. The gears were on the frame where the water bottle goes so you had to constantly reach down to change them. It hurts your shoulders and arms after a while.
Technology is a massive difference such as the Garmin Navigation Shane has, I had to plan it all on paper. The internet is a massive help for all aspects of the ride such as planning and fundraising. Another issue was we had no mobile phones which meant that we had to rely on visual contact.
On a side note I bet a beer will be more expensive these days.
How did you feel once you had finished the ride?
Here’s a clip of the end of the ride.
When I dipped my toe in the Atlantic Ocean at the end I felt elated and massively proud of what I had achieved but in a way I also felt sad. After a year of training and planning then 24 days on the road it was all suddenly over. However rest was the last thing on my mind and we celebrated like mad that night.
What was life like after the ride?
Ride For The Child made me want to do more charity bikes rides and I went on to do…..
Around Britain – 2900 miles
Canada coast to coast – 3100 miles
Australia – 3300 miles
In total i have raised 52k for St Catherine’s Hospice and the children’s ward in Scarborough.
Have you any advice for Shane?
I wish my son all the best on his trip. The main things are that he doesn’t put himself in danger, does everything you can do make the ride a success and most importantly enjoy it!
Here’s the full video from the original ride in 1997!