Doctor realizes dream road trip
Dave Schroeder is an enigma: He’s a chiropractor and yet he seems so far removed from other medical professionals he gets plenty of strange looks when people find out that he’s a doctor. You’re a doctor? You?
That would be bad to leave with that impression. The Truckee resident is a doctor and he knows what he’s doing.
The 31-year-old’s shoulder-length curly hair and his attitude, “I’m going on 25,” could mislead you. He really does know what he’s doing; He has his own practice as a mobile chiropractor with clients all over the area, including Reno; He’s been in two Ironman Triathlons and has hiked the John Muir Trail in Yosemite National Park twice. He can take the pain and suffering.
So when he said he wanted to ride his road bike across the country, just about everyone believed him.
When he sent out photos and a story in the Tampa Bay Journal before he made it back to Truckee showing the completion of the 3,407-mile journey, no one was surprised.
Schroeder started at Oceanside, Ore., along the coast. He started the ride with two others, Lisa Perry of Truckee and Adam Olson of Tahoe City and Lindsey Nelson, also of Truckee, in a support vehicle.
The Atlantic Ocean near Jacksonville, Fla., in 30 days, starting on the Pacific in Oregon. The territory in between was the journey. The average was 116 miles a day. On a road bike. That’s a bicycle, not a motorcycle. Legs, not pistons. Carbohydrates, not gasoline.
Once Schroeder’s crew started rolling, its size started depleting almost immediately. After the second day, which included an 8,000-foot vertical gain up Mt. Hood, Olson, a web-operator by day that spent two years living in a Silicon Valley cubicle, realized that maybe it was too much for him and he dropped out.
Olson and Schroeder were both paying Nelson to drive but since she wasn’t needed, they bought her a bus ticket home and Olson took over the driving.
That left Schroeder, originally from Canada by way of Florida, and Perry, Alaskan by blood, for the rest of the 28 days. From Mt. Hood, they crossed the Oregon/Idaho border, rode into Utah, the southwestern corner of Wyoming, back into Utah and then they cut through Colorado. They took a couple of days off in Steamboat, Colo., before they picked up the road again.
They road out of the Rockies and into eastern Colorado, where the flatness of the Midwest begins. Once they crossed into Oklahoma, Perry had enough.
“Where you’re riding and there’s nothing to see for 500-600 miles, 30 mile per hour crosswinds, 100 degrees outside, that was the mental draining aspect of it. That was the toughest part,” he said.
She stayed along for the ride though, trading driving duties with Olson. But now Schroeder, a.k.a., Dr. Dave, Dr. D. and Cowboy Dave, was riding alone for the remaining 1,500 miles.
Schroeder had tried riding it alone last summer.
He was going to ride with a friend and without a support vehicle. It would have taken longer than 30 days and that was fine. But his friend had to bail on the trip even before it began. He tried it alone, but he lost all motivation on just the second day. He may have backed off, but it just stoked Schroeder’s fire a little more.
“My goal is to finish and I had made so many plans to get to the start and it didn’t work out last year, I was determined to finish it,” he said.
Now he was faced with a similar prospect. At least now he would have a couple of friends waiting for him at the end of every day. And this time he had already reached the halfway point.
But the problems weren’t over. On a rural road in Mississippi, Olson, after he and Perry got to the rendezvous, took his bike out for a little spin and was hit by a car. One of his tires tacoed, but he wasn’t hurt. Mentally, however, he was wiped out. He bought a plane ticket back home and left. That left Schroeder with the ride and Perry with the drive.
Once he reached the South, the humidity was too much for camping anymore, so they stayed in roadside motels. He continued on through Mississippi and Arkansas and the Delta Region, one of the poorest parts of the country.
“In the South, I had days with 100 percent humidity with no rain,” he said. “So as soon as you step outside, you’re dripping in sweat all day long and you’re still doing those 100 mile days.”
Finally, after 30 days on the road and 3,407 miles, he finally reached Florida. The beach they landed on was deserted.
It was Schroeder, his bike, his support vehicle and the Atlantic Ocean. He had been riding for seven days straight, more than 800 miles without a day’s rest. He fell asleep on a park bench, too exhausted to celebrate.
“I was pretty exhausted by the time I got to Florida, so the whole excitement of hitting the finish was kind of dulled by my fatigue,” he said. “It set in the next day when I woke up, I went, ‘Woah, I’m done riding,’ then I ran up and down on the beach and took some pictures.”
He didn’t return with the bike. Before heading back to Truckee, Schroeder stayed with his parents in Tampa, Fla., and even worked in his father’s practice. His dad wanted the bike, so the elder Schroeder bought it from the junior Schroeder.
After being on a bike that long, you would think he would never want to ride again and that he would have given his dad the bike. But he’s already talking about other rides in other places.
“I was so determined to do it I was going to do whatever it took to do it,” Schroeder said. “Once I get something in my head to do it like that, I do whatever it takes to do it.”
Maybe he met his goal, but the journey is still going.