At the start of April, Gary Valerio and Darla Donovan began their adventure. Standing against a Pacific Ocean backdrop, they were joined by Gary’s son and granddaughter as they announced they were leaving by bicycle to pedal all the way to Massachusetts.
By mid-May Gary and Darla had arrived on the Monon Trail in Carmel, Indiana. Gary is 68. Darla is 62. They are, though, pedaling at a pace that belies their age. Gary is energized by the fulfillment of a long-ago dream.
“It started back when I was a teenager, or actually maybe in my early twenties,” he said as he straddled his road bike at an access point along the Monon Trail. “A good buddy of mine, a teammate of mine that played football with me, we talked about maybe someday riding our bicycles across the country. It was just a dream at that time. Then life got in the way and he had children and raised our families. So, I always had the vision in the back of my mind to do it.”
Gary and Darla aren’t just riding for their own pleasure. They are putting in the miles to raise awareness about the insidious breath-stealing genetic disorder, cystic fibrosis. Gary’s niece has battled the disease since she was a baby.
The couple doesn’t have some sort of outsized support team, just the two of them. Somebody pedals every mile, while the other drives the support van, stocked with provisions. They are engaged to be married and this journey is a part of their love story.
“No one would ever see what we’ve seen and see how beautiful this country is unless you were on a bicycle and you doing what we’ve been doing,” Darla said as Gary rearranged supplies in their van. “What we have seen has just been unbelievable. I am so proud and I know he is too to be able to do this together because we do everything together.”
If you would like to help Gary and Darla reach their fundraising goal, just click here.