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Coast to Coast for Kids pushes toward East Coast

Confluence, Penn. looks a lot like Ironton. Crashing on limestone is painful. And 19 days of biking in hot and humid conditions is exhausting for out-of-shape men in their 40s. 

Those are lessons Gary Walters and two of his children, Jackson and Jessica, are learning along their Coast to Coast for Kids bicycle trek across the nation. The trio has biked 1,180 miles. Their goal to raise money and mentors for Kinship Partners is taking them across 3,200 miles as they travel from Baxter to Washington, D.C. — fly to Seattle — and then bike the return trip from the Pacific Coast back to the Brainerd lakes area. 

Jessica, 16, crashed a couple of days ago coming down a limestone trail on a former railroad bed. Gary Walters said they were traveling down a steeper decline at 18 mph when he saw a detour sign and hit the brakes. When Jessica followed suit and hit the brakes hard, she sprawled into a case of road rash. 

Jessica crashed two days ago were coming down a limestone rail bed in a steeper decline 18 mph and detour sign I hit the brakes she hit the brakes hard and she sprawled and road rash. 

Monday the trio took the day off. Gary Walters said his teenage children were fine but he was exhausted with the ups and downs of hills and miles of upgrade on the old railroad bed. 

A rest stop in Pennsylvania next to a U-Haul rental office had them renting a Haul with a 10-foot cargo box for a short trip to go to get three bags of supplies. They couldn’t imagine getting on the bikes again to make the run. Walters said just getting behind the wheel after so many days on a bike alone felt good.

“And it felt good to have air conditioning blowing on me,” he said. 

The hot and humid conditions added to the arduous effort as they’ve traveled cross country. Walters said if he was on his own, he would have thought making 1,000 miles was good enough.

“I wanted to quit if I wasn’t doing this for Kinship I would have had a phone call to Mrs. Walters to come and get me,” he said. 

This is the ninth Kinship Partners challenge and Walters said it has been the most difficult because of the length and the heat. They’ve been biking into the wind the majority of days. “I think this is the one that’s nuts. The first few days killed me.”

But the heat has to break. And if he were to rethink it, he said going without a support vehicle wasn’t the brightest idea. Although strangers have provided assistance and encouragement along the way from directions to water to bike fixes. Jackson had three flat tires in one hour. And Gary Walters took one fall after trying to multitask behind the wheel that put scratches on him and his handlebars and bent a brake. Two staff members at a bike shop in Connellsville, Penn. worked on the bike, charging just $15 for labor.

The trio, which has been averaging 60 miles a day, should reach the nation’s capital Saturday. They’ll fly out to the West Coast Tuesday. But one of the biggest concerns for Jackson and Jessica is the new experience of staying in a hostel Thursday, Walters said.

The Rocky Mountains are looming large as an obstacle. 

“I’m terrified,” Walters said. “I’m stressed already thinking about it.”