Ron Storms believes strongly in the principle of service and has a deep love for dogs. But he has no room is his heart for Spandex.
The accidental cyclist put in between 30 to 70 miles a day biking from Oregon to Pennsylvania towing a 125-pound load wearing work pants, street shoes and cotton sweatshirts.
“Have you seen Rocky?” Ron said. “I looked like that.”
The journey, which ran from March 9 to July 14, was a fundraising effort for Canine Partners for Life, a service dog organization he grew to know as a volunteer at their site in Cochranville, Pennsylvania.
“My Nana and Mom raised me with my mentally handicapped aunt,” he said. “She had very bad seizures, so her world consisted of a bed and TV and not much else. With a dog trained to alert her or a caregiver to an oncoming seizure she could have an entirely different life.”
Ron moved to the Oregon Coast from Pennsylvania in 2003 to volunteer at the White Wolf Sanctuary and, more than 10 years later, he started hatching the plan for his fundraising journey. The original idea of just Ron and his dog Onyx took a positive turn with the addition of girlfriend Meghan Shreiner.
“His mom was my neighbor so we’d chat when he visited,” Meghan said. “During a longer visit he talked about the Oregon Coast; I’d always dreamed of living at the beach. Then he started telling me his crazy idea to ride across the country pulling his dog. Eventually he said, “Would you want to go along?’ and I was like, ‘Hell yeah.’ Four months later I sold everything and moved here. It took us a few years to be ready and even with all the planning I was very nervous, but it was an amazing trip.”
Another addition to the team was a second lab, Phoenix. The cart was only big enough for one dog, so the cart’s passenger would change during the trip. And because Ron was experiencing anxiety about occasionally hazardous road conditions, the group added one last member: Fonyx (Fake Onyx), a chainsaw-carved replica about the same weight as Onyx, 85 pounds, who would stand in when needed.
The team of Meghan, driving a support truck, Ron and the two (three?) dogs, made it to the CPL headquarters in Pennsylvania, a journey of 3,060 miles.
Ron rode every mile unless weather or other safety issues caused them to have to portage, then he would make up the distance riding, for example, loops in a hotel parking lot.
“There were stretches that were so dangerous it was almost comical,” he said. “But I always made sure to note the distance we drove and make up for it. I’m not sure if anyone would have cared but it was important to me.”
Ron’s unconventional sports fashion provided amusement for the small team.
“Once we stopped in this little RV park to meet a journalist,” Ron said. “I was sitting by our huge truck with all the logos and all the gear. We watched as she did a complete circle, drove out and did another circle, walked around carrying her big camera then finally asked someone to point me out. When she finally came up to me she said, ‘I’m so sorry, I was expecting to find someone in Spandex, not some wrench turner.”
Whatever he did worked, though, because he finished without any of the overuse injuries usually suffered by cyclists.
“People who do a lot of biking usually ask how I trained,” Ron said. “I did some practice on a bike trainer, but in general I just got on the bike and went.”
The thing that did keep him going was purpose.
“Once we stopped after having been on the news and a woman in her 60s ran up and hugged me crying and saying what I was incredible and if she’d had her health she would be riding with me. Then she pulled out a crumpled five-dollar bill. It was really touching.”
In the last mile of the trip, which they opened to anyone who wanted to join, Ron got some very special company.
“Jake is a 16-year-old boy who’s totally wheelchair bound,” Ron said. “He had just ‘graduated’ from the CPL program and been paired with his dog, Willo. His mom drove him all the way from New York so that he could finish with me. It made the journey worth every mile.”
At last count, Team “Ronyx” has raised $18,212.47 of their goal of $30,000, the average cost of a service dog.
“We self funded the trip and the fundraising link was through the nonprofit so there would be no question where the funds were going. It’s still active so if people want to donate they can.”
When asked if he would consider another fundraising bike adventure, Ron’s answer was unintentionally punny.
“My wheels are already turning,” he said.
For more information, find Onyx’s Great Adventure page on Facebook. To donate to CPL in the name of Team Ronyx, go to www.onyxsgreatadventure.org.