Dipping his tire in the Atlantic Ocean at Rehoboth Beach, Jack Markell finished his 50 day ride from coast to coast.
On June 18, former Delaware Governor Jack Markell left Astoria, Oregon. After riding through ten states and parts of Canada, Markell arrived at Rehoboth Beach to the cheers of supporters, including a group of kids from the Boys and Girls Club who chanted his name as he crossed the Rehoboth Avenue finish line.
As difficult as the ride was physically, averaging more than 80 miles a day, Markell said it wasn’t any more challenging than what he faced as Delaware’s governor for eight years during a time of recession. “The difference in all of those other challenges is that my decisions affected a lot of other people, and so that’s a big burden, whereas in this, it was only about me,” Markell said as he stood on the sand. “But certainly when you have to climb 5,000 feet and you’ve got a stiff headwind, and you think ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got 45 more days of this?’ then it’s difficult.”
For most of the ride, Markell was accompanied for most of the trip by much more experienced riders with the group America by Bicycle. Starting in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Markell was joined by state Sen. Dave Sokola, who is also an avid cyclist. “When you have friends from home who are with you and who are going through the experience with you, I think it just pumps you up a little bit,” Markell said.
Markell and his fellow riders experienced lots of unique American towns that sit somewhere off the beaten path. Places like Yale, Michigan, which is the bologna capital of the world. “They have a bologna queen, a bologna parade, a bologna festival, and they’re proud of it,” Sokola said. “There’s a whole lot of the United States of America that has its own little charm, and you get to experience that from a bike in a way that you probably can’t in a car.”
Sokola missed part of the ride because the General Assembly was still in session when Markell started and he’d like to go back and see some of what he missed. Markell on the other hand, is happy to be done. When asked if he’d do it all over, Markell replied, “Never again.” He said he’s looking forward to spending time with his wife and family. “I’ve never been away from my wife for 50 days ever in the last 27 years,” Markell said.
Crossing the ride off his bucket list wasn’t Markell’s only inspiration. In partnership with the non-profit group Motivate the First State, Markell’s ride raised $120,000 for Delaware charities helping children. “I was really thrilled to partner with Motivate the First State, which is a great organization designed to get Delawareans to take good care of themselves, to do good deeds, and when they do, they earn kudos and those kudos get turned into money, thanks to the money that we raised and the money flows through to a number of wonderful Delaware organizations.”
Since June 1, Delawareans have logged more than 115,000 miles either on foot or by bike with Motivate the First State and more than 14,500 hours of activity have been logged.