NORTH FULTON, Ga. — Starting May 27, two local cyclists will begin the journey of a lifetime and go cross country, from Tybee Island, Ga., to San Francisco. But this 3,792-mile trip is not just for fun.
Friends Dr. David Bergman, a Johns Creek pediatrician and founder of Pediatric Place, and Michael Higgins, Centennial High School English teacher and head track coach, will spend 38 days cycling across America to raise awareness for children and military veterans with disabilities.
Funds from the ride will go directly to BlazeSports America, a local nonprofit supporting that cause. It is a legacy of the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic games.
Higgins has volunteered directly with BlazeSports for many years and has worked with some of the children as a volunteer coach for track and field.
“The kids are just incredible,” Higgins said. “These are kids that have amputations or other limitations, and they’re just awesome kids. They work as hard as anyone. They’re true athletes.”
The two first met up and became close friends 10 years ago, when they started training together for triathlons. When they once again met up to plan a cross-country trip, now both approaching 50 years of age, Bergman and Higgins decided to use it as an opportunity to do some good in the world.
“For us to be able to give back to that organization has become a driving factor for us in this trip,” Higgins said. “It’s really easy to get motivated when we look at how hard our BlazeSports kids work.”
This is not the first time the two have gone on an extended cycling trip. Four years ago, they both covered over 1,400 miles in 15 days circumnavigating Nova Scotia. This cross-country ride more than doubles their Nova Scotia tour.
“It’s a bicyclists’ dream,” Bergman said. “It’s exciting to go across the whole country, to places we haven’t been to.”
For the trip across America, the two plan to average 100 miles a day.
“We’re always in training,” Higgins said. “We ride every weekend and during weekdays, if time allows. It’s our hobby, so we didn’t have to add on any drastic changes to get ready for this.”
Their rides average about 40-70 miles on a training day.
During the trip, the duo will be updating their blog, BlazeAcrossAmerica.blogspot.com, with live video and Skype chats. The Weather Channel will be following their experiences as well.
A support vehicle will be following Bergman and Higgins along their route in case they need help, but only in case of severe weather or an emergency. A little rain won’t stop Bergman and Higgins.
“We’re like the post office: rain or shine, the ride continues,” Higgins said. “When we did our tour of Nova Scotia, we kept riding as it poured down rain for two days. And as crazy as it sounds, it was fun.”
During the ride, the two plan to meet up with disabled veteran cyclists and Paralympic clubs to briefly ride along with them.
“I want to show people in our communities that you should live your dreams, be adventurous, set goals and try to achieve them. Nothing is out of reach,” Bergman said. “You can’t give up. You’ve got to fight through adversity. It’s a part of life.”