OCEAN CITY — After graduating from the University of Richmond, 23-year-old Alex Kelso decided to take a year off before entering the professional world. But while others might have hit the beach or traveled to places far and wide, Kelso hit the road, participating in a 53-day, 3,000-plus-mile bicycle trek from San Francisco, Calif. to Ocean City.
Though he only has about 18 months of cycling experience under his belt, Kelso committed himself to the idea of the trip and has tackled the first few weeks with enthusiasm.
“You have to be really passionate about it to really get across, I guess,” he said.
Reached last week with a little over two weeks remaining in his trip, which is scheduled to reach Ocean City on Aug. 31, Kelso said that the ride has had a lot of metaphorical, and literal, ups and downs.
“I think the biggest challenge is just getting up every day and being mentally prepared to bike 70, 80, 100 miles every day back to back to back,” he said.
Only scheduling a total of seven rest days spread out over his nearly two-month trek has also taken a toll, Kelso admitted.
“I realized that with my rest days all I wanted to do was sit in the motel room in the air conditioning and watch TV and eat as much food as I possibly could,” he said.
But the ride has its fair share of highlights as well. While the weeks of mostly solitude have been tough, Kelso said the scenery has been fantastic. The cross-country ride has included about every kind of terrain and vistas one can imagine.
“I think Colorado was my favorite part,” said Kelso.
He has tracked his ride online since the start, frequently blogging about the areas he rides through, the views he experiences and the people he meets in every state. Every day has the potential to be a great ride, said Kelso, especially the days where the weather remains friendly and his bike cooperates.
The decision to put wheel to road incubated in Kelso for several years before he finally pulled the trigger. After graduating with a degree in Business and Communications, Kelso taught at an elementary school in Spain where he first began to seriously plan his trip once he returned to the states.
“I went and lived in Spain this last year … then started doing more research on this and realized there was a trail across America and it was something that people did and I don’t know, it just kind of called to me,” he said.
Another motivation for Kelso was his best friend Nick Mullin, who passed away in May 2010 after his second battle with cancer.
“I have his funeral Mass card taped on my bike,” said Kelso. “He gives me a little motivation to get up in the morning knowing what I am facing is nowhere near what he got up and faced every day for the last two years of his life.”
His family supported his decision to take a solo ride, though his mother, Leslie Kelso, had her concerns.
“We felt apprehension and fright because he was doing it solo,” she said.
But because her son is “strong and strong-willed” the family stayed onboard with the trip. His father and uncle even plan to meet Alex Kelso once he reaches Crisfield to ride the final leg of the trip with him as a kind of rolling honor guard.
“His uncle and father will meet him in Crisfield and ride the final 60 miles with him to the beach … We’re going to have banners and things at the [Boardwalk] arch to welcome him through,” said Leslie Kelso. “Everyone’s going to wear the same T-shirt. We’ve developed a logo for his trip so we’ll all be there and then we’ll have a party at the house.”
Alex Kelso will ride through the arch and then dip a tire into the Atlantic Ocean, mirroring what he did at the start of his journey in San Francisco when he christened a tire in the Pacific. He chose Ocean City as his finish line because his family has been vacationing at the resort for many years, with the family gathering at Uncle Tom Kelso’s house every Labor Day.