PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – On Tuesday, Michael O’Brien will dip the wheels of his bicycle in the Pacific Ocean in Astoria before hitting the road and cycling 4,300 miles across the United States.
It’s a daunting challenge for anyone, especially for O’Brien who was severely injured in 2001 when a driver struck him while he was riding his bicycle in New Mexico. Doctors didn’t think he’d be able to ride his bike again.
In the last two decades, he’s proved them wrong. Not only by getting back on the bicycle, but biking hundreds of miles at a time.
He said the knee replacement he received 11 months ago has him pedaling better than ever.
“The total knee replacement for me has improved my range of motion in my left leg, so I’m riding my bike completely different than before. It’s somewhat of a miracle that I could even ride before this,” he said.
O’Brien is embarking on the journey for several reasons. It’s something that’s been on his bucket list and it’s also a celebration of life, his community and mindfulness – something he credits as a major part of his recovery. He hopes the ride will inspire other people who receive joint replacements to continue to live active lifestyles.
He expects the journey will take more than 40 days. It’s the longest distance he’s ever traveled on a bicycle.
“We’re going to average about 100 miles a day over 43 days,” O’Brien said. “It definitely will be a test and I think it’s a great metaphor for life. You know, some days are going to be easy and some days are going to be really hard.”
He plans to stop near Eugene and encourages people who would like to meet him to reach out while he’s on his journey. He said the best way to contact him is through his Instagram page.
O’Brien will cut east from Eugene toward Sisters and will continue across the state. His wife Lynn is from North Plains and the couple has visited Oregon several times in their 28 years of marriage, but O’Brien looks forward to seeing parts of the state he’s never seen before.
Lynn will be accompanying her husband on the journey and will cross off her own bucket-list item: driving an RV across the United States. She and their two springer spaniels will serve as O’Brien’s support team.
Every day on the road, O’Brien will encourage his supporters to donate to a different charity. A few he’s chosen include the Hospital for Special Surgery, World Bicycle Relief, Planned Parenthood, Feed the Children, and The Loveland Foundation.
“So, this is not a ride where I’m like raising X amount of dollars for a specific charity. What I want to do is use the ride to bring forward a whole bunch of good organizations and good people doing good things,” he said he’ll be posting links where people can donate on his social media pages.
Generosity and gratitude are important parts of the mindfulness and medication O’Brien practices daily.
Since his accident, O’Brien is determined to see the good in every day. He considers July 11, 2001, the day he was hit by a driver, his “last bad day.” It changed his perspective on his life. Now, he said he’ll experience hard moments or sad moments, but overall, they never amount to a bad day.
“I hope the ride inspires people to understand within themselves that they can do hard things and we can do hard things together,” he said.
The ride, which he calls the Rise 2 Ripple Challenge is meant to send a ripple effect of kindness and compassion into the world.
O’Brien is also inviting people to participate in the I Can Do Hard Things Ripple Challenge. Through his website, people can pledge to accomplish their “hard thing” between June 14 and July 31. He said this hard thing can be health-related, professional, financial, physical, or anything a person finds challenging.
“It should make you sweat a little or maybe a lot,” O’Brien wrote on his website.
Participants will receive a daily inspirational text message and tips for accomplishing their goals.