Former Del. Gov. Markell describes cross country bike trip as ‘a challenge’

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 Former Del. Gov. Jack Markell stands with his bike in Burley, Idaho after riding nearly 43 miles on June 30. (photo via GovernorMarkell/ Twitter)

Former Del. Gov. Jack Markell stands with his bike in Burley, Idaho after riding nearly 43 miles on June 30. (photo via GovernorMarkell/ Twitter)

About three weeks into a 50 day trip, former Gov. Jack Markell was in Casper, Wyoming as he bicycles the entire width of the country.

Markell left Astoria, Oregon on June 19, and as of Friday, he had completed about 1,300 miles. That leaves still more than half the trip to go, or about 2,400 miles.

“It’s a challenge, but so far, hanging in there,” Markell said in a phone interview from Wyoming. He spoke with WHYY on Friday, which was only the second rest day he’d taken since leaving the West Coast. Over the 50 day ride, the schedule only allows 5 days of rest.

Markell is riding with an international group making the trek cross country. And even though he’s an avid cyclist, most of his riding companions are even more experienced. “Most of them are significantly faster than I am, but they’re all very nice about it,” Markell said.

The group is averaging about 80 miles a day and have been fortunate to have good weather so far. “We really have not had any rain to speak of, the temperatures have gotten fairly hot.” Markell said it’s really been the wind that’s had the biggest impact on the ride. It’s mentally challenging on days when strong head winds combine with steep climbs. “Those tend to be pretty difficult, but you do try to just [focus on] one pedal at a time. I also remember I’m doing this as a fundraiser for some great organizations at home,” Markell said.

Those organizations include the Boys & Girls Club, FCA, Jewish Community Center, Special Olympics, Urban Promise, YMCA, and Young Life. Those groups get funding through Motivate the First State, a group that helps participants track their activities and compete against others. For every healthy activity tracked, participants earn recognition which translates into donations for those groups helping young people in Delaware.

“We’ve been very successful with the fundraising, I raised over $100,000 and my sense is we’ve got more people signing up to log their activities on Motivate the First State,” Markell said. “For me, this is really a win-win-win: I get myself in shape, I see the country from a bicycle- which is a great way to see it- and I also get to work with our supporters and sponsors to help a lot of kids in Delaware.”

While he said riding across the country is a bucket list item, something he’ll only do once. “I’m glad I’m doing it, but I don’t think I’ll do it again.”

While Markell was riding more than 40 miles in Idaho on June 30, his successor in Dover, Gov. John Carney was trying to hammer out a budget deal with the General Assembly. The state missed the June 30 deadline and a budget deal wasn’t reached until July 2.

Markell said he’s glad a deal finally got done. “I was happy that in the end they figured it out and got a budget, I know it was very difficult work, it can be very frustrating,” Markell said. “I’m happy for Gov. Carney that he has passed his first legislative session, that he has passed his first budget.”

Markell is scheduled to finish his trip in Rehoboth Beach on August 8.

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