NEWS

Greencastle greets veterans finishing sea to sea ride

Staff Writer
Echo Pilot
Bill Lahman, left, Ivan Castro and Joe Frank will complete their trek across America on Saturday. They stopped in Greencastle for lunch on July 20.

Crossing the country they love by bicycle is a challenge and a dream come true for 16 American veterans. The athletes, all of whom experienced an injury or illness in military or civilian life, stopped in Greencastle Friday during the Breezewood to Emmittsburg, Md. leg of their 3,700 mile journey. State Farm agents Ted Mercado and Fran Kenawell provided lunch for the riders and their support crew. The corporation, along with World T.E.A.M. Sports, are sponsors of the 'Sea to Shining Sea' ride.

"We love to do this," said Mercado. His parking lot was a tent city during the rainy day. Boy Scout Troop 287, American Legion Post 373, and VFW Post 6319 contributed equipment and labor to get the site ready.

"We want to help make our area aware of the sacrifices these guys make for us," said Kenawell.

The riders started out on Memorial Day, May 28, in San Francisco, and were to reach Virginia Beach on July 28. They traveled on regular, recumbent, hand and tandem bicycles.

Their stories

Army veteran Ivan Castro, Fort Bragg, N.C., is visually impaired. He rode a tandem bike with civilian Bill Lahman, Colorado Springs, Col., as the pilot.

"We have a love-hate relationship," said Castro. "He won't let me be in front."

He knew the ride would be long, but the heat was what most caught him by surprise along the route. He was an avid athlete, having already done serious running and cycling in the U.S. and Europe.

Joe Frank, a member of the Navy in San Diego, Calif., was hit by a drunk driver in 2007, and recently broke his thumb. He too, was physically prepared for the trip.

"We did our homework."

Lahman said everyone had some concern about their fitness, but all had improved over the weeks. He quit his job temporarily to participate. All branches of the military were represented on the team, he added, and they chose to ride to lose weight, see the country, or to show they could pedal every mile.

For Frank, the best part of the experience was the first day. "I like an adventure."

For Castro, it was the opposite. He was looking forward to next Saturday. He took two days off to attend his son's high school graduation, and has a newborn at home.

"It's a long time to be away from family and friends. All of us are grateful for this opportunity by World T.E.A.M. Sports and the sponsors."

The three were touched by the support from the public at each stopping point. They agreed that the team loved America and wanted to raise awareness about what people could do despite any setbacks.

Abby Bergakker, Grand Rapids, Mich., drove a van. "Part of the reason we're out here is to show what people with disabilities can do," she explained.

She was impressed with the people she met along the way as they came to the rest stops to visit and cheer on the riders.

Castro and Frank are featured on the website s2ssbikeride.org, which tracks the group's progress from coast to coast.