From the Pacific to Atlantic by bike
For many Petaluma teens, summertime means months of sleeping in, playing video games and doing whatever else they like with their free hours. But for 15-year-old Tucker Cullen, it meant the most grueling months of his life as he cycled his way from the Pacific Ocean clear across to the Atlantic Ocean — riding half the trip with a broken wrist.
“We’re on day 60 of 63, I can’t believe it’s almost over,” said the teen in a phone interview on Tuesday from South Boston, Va., just a few hundred miles from his end goal of Virginia Beach, Va.
Cullen was part of the Eagle Scouts Cycling Across America Team, which left from San Francisco on June 14 and has made steady progress all summer long at an average rate of 78 miles a day. Cullen was a day shy of his 14th birthday when he achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, and decided there was no better way to see the country than from his bicycle seat.
“In the company of 11 like-minded Eagle Scouts, I am about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime,” he posted on the blog he has kept of his journey at teentrekker.com.
It was a journey that nearly ended before it could begin — Cullen was plagued by injuries that would have kept most teens at home recuperating for the summer. In April, he took a wild pitch to the face while he stood at bat at a Cardinal Newman High School baseball game, fracturing his eye socket in two places and bruising his eyeball.
“It was probably going 70 miles per hour and it hit me in the face,” Cullen said, adding that his helmet cracked when the ball hit the brim before bashing his face. Doctors told him he could not exercise for one month, which was torturous for the active teen.
Just two weeks before he was scheduled to leave, Cullen took a dive on his bike while maneuvering a steep hill, fracturing his wrist. Although he needed a cast for six weeks, his doctor cleared him to make his cross-country journey as long as he rode a recumbent trike until he got his cast off, which puts less pressure on his wrist.
“It was definitely interesting to ride across the country on this bike I had just learned about,” Cullen said.
After dipping his toes in the Pacific at Marin County’s Stinson Beach, Cullen met up with the other riders, joined by a fleet of support vehicles, launching their methodical trek from sea to shining sea.
From the endless highways of Nevada to the painted deserts of Arizona, from the Rockies to the Appalachian mountains, Cullen got to see a wide swath of America, gaining new appreciation for his country along the way. But there were plenty of difficult days, when the riders were pelted by sheets of rain or baked in the summer sun. Whenever he needed motivation, he would repeat the quote, “Pain is temporary, but quitting lasts forever.”
In terms of dedication, Cullen went beyond the call of duty. He had to take a day off from riding to have his cast changed in Utah and again when it was removed in Colorado, but he made sure he biked every single mile that his team completed.
“I would plan it out, so my dad and I would do the next day’s ride while the team rested so I could do every mile,” he said. “If you’re going to ride 3,700 miles, you might as well ride that extra 100 miles.”
At night, the team camped out or was hosted by other Boy Scout troops along the way. Every few days, the riders took a day to go sightseeing and rest their muscles.
While a celebration is planned for when they ride into Virginia Beach on Friday, Cullen will have limited time to relax. Classes at Cardinal Newman started this week, meaning he’s already got homework piling up back in California.
“We fly in at 8 p.m. on Sunday and I have to be in school the next day,” he said.
But, he added, the journey was worth every sore muscle, every blister and every rough day. “Overall, it’s been really enjoyable and an incredible experience.”
(Contact Emily Charrier at emily.charrier@argus courier.com)