REHOBOTH BEACH — It was a cross-country bicycling trek more than 20 years in the making, but Hamilton and Barbara Easter knew it was now or never for their adventure of a lifetime.
After all, Mr. Easter, who worked as an orthopedic surgeon in Dover for many years, will turn 75 in October and is fighting Parkinson’s disease. He also had two knee replacements after he retired in 2013.
So Ms. Easter, 66, knew it was time to seize the moment.
“I have enjoyed cycling with Hamilton for many years, but it was always his dream to go across country. I realized that this effort was going to be monumental,” she said. “By going with him as a riding partner and cheerleader, he would have a better chance at success. After 43 years of marriage, I usually know the right words of encouragement.”
The Easters’ journey began when they dipped their wheels into the Pacific Ocean at Fort Stevens, Oregon. The grueling trip ended victoriously in Rehoboth Beach last week — some 68 days, 3,821 miles and 14 states later.
“Having spent most of my medical career in Dover and raising our family there, it only seemed natural to end our trip in Delaware at the Atlantic Ocean,” Mr. Easter said. “Having friends meet us on the boardwalk in Rehoboth to see us dip our tires in the water was the ultimate reward for a very difficult journey.
“My fondest memories of the First State are my many years of interactions with patients and colleagues and developing lifelong friendships.”
The Easters moved from Dover to Park City, Utah, after the doctor’s retirement.
While the couple admitted that the bicycle trip itself was extremely physically demanding, there were also great challenges when it came to planning it.
“Planning went on for months,” said Mr. Easter. “That included establishing routes, reserving lodging, obtaining gear — which included bikes, electronics, clothing, spare tires, etc. — renting a support vehicle and finding a support team.”
He said it quickly turned into a “family and friends” effort to fulfill his dream.
“I give credit to our four children and dear friends for organizing that team and joining us along the way to drive the support van and/or to ride with me,” Mr. Easter said. “Having new people every week or so certainly broke up the trip into smaller segments and gave us a boost each time a new person was with us.
“The most difficult thing to account for with Parkinson’s disease was my stamina. Would I be able to pedal an average of 65 miles a day for two months? We had a strict schedule to adhere to, but until we set out, we had no idea if I could manage to keep pace with our itinerary.”
It turned out he was able to keep up, though the husband and wife certainly went through more than their share of obstacles.
“The most challenging aspect of the trip was the heat,” Mr. Easter said. “We had some days over 100 degrees and others with extremely high humidity. The stiffness that comes along with Parkinson’s was also a challenge.
“Each morning, I needed at least an hour to limber up and get moving. Exhaustion at the end of the day required an early bedtime, but I managed to be ready to go again the next day. We had a rest day every six to eight days, which allowed for extra recovery time.”
Ms. Easter said the route across the country via pedal power allowed her a slower pace to just take it all in.
“Though we have driven across and toured this country from corner to corner many times, the experience of being up close to the beauty of this country at a slow pace for mile after mile made it seem all very new,” she said. “From mountains, rivers, prairies, forests, ranches, farms — an endless variety of geography, flora and fauna.
“And motorcycles! We were in South Dakota during the Sturgis (Motorcycle) Rally and were surrounded by bikers for three days — thousands of very polite but noisy ones. We enjoyed cycling through small towns that are never seen from the interstate. Every night, we tried to eat at local restaurants, which gave us a feel for the people and region we were in.”
The Easters have some advice for individuals who might be thinking about biking across the country: Plan and train at least a year in advance, be ready to overcome huge mental hurdles throughout the ride and don’t give up on your dreams, especially if you are facing a life-changing illness or injury.
It was a rewarding journey, but the bicycling duo said that one ride across the country was enough.
“I have always enjoyed physical and mental challenges — and this was both — so taking this on was natural,” Mr. Easter said. “No, I would not do this again; it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“However, I will continue to ride my bike on shorter trips to see other parts of the country and the world.”