Rotary Club of Temple Terrace member, USF professor and Saddlebrook Resort Tampa director of wellness Dr. Nick Hall, Ph.D., M.D., recently completed a cross country trip from Oceanside,CA, to St. Augustine, FL, on his bicycle to raise funds and awareness for End Polio Now, a campaign focused on ending polio in the only two countries where it remains – Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since its first project in 1976, Rotary International has helped reduce polio cases by 99 percent around the world. Here are the 10 most interesting things you should know about Dr. Hall’s bike trek:
1— This wasn’t Hall’s first rodeo….err, bike ride across America. When Hall was a teen, he had a summer job in Black Hills, SD, and would take a bus home to Chicopee, MA. One summer, however, he decided to bike the 2,000+ miles home. This year, Hall decided to combine the 50th anniversary of that ride with Rotary’s fight against polio.
2 — Traveling roughly 100 miles a day, it took Hall a little over a month to complete the trip, starting July 14 and ending Aug. 15. He says he could have made it home even quicker, but he had one serious accident and a number of visits to friends along the way, including a day in Gainesville for a Rotary Club lunch.
3 — About that accident: it happened in west Texas when he ran over a 6-inch bolt that was laying in the road, jamming the front wheel of his bike. “The bike came to an abrupt stop, and I kept going,’’ Hall said. Bloodied but unbowed, he caught a ride with a truck driver — who ironically lives in Tampa — to San Antonio. Hall found the part he needed to fix his bike on eBay, and two days later was back on his way.
“My back-up plan was to leave the bike there with a Rotarian and resume the trip around Thanksgiving,’’ said Hall, who was racing to get back to USF for the start of fall classes, where he teaches anatomy & physiology and human nutrition.
5 — On his original ride, Hall said he occasionally slept in jail cells and rescue missions along the route.
“I was sleeping in a park in Mobile, NE, and was roused in the middle of the night by a police office who told me it was against the law to sleep in the public park,‘’ Hall said. “He gave me a choice: get booked for vagrancy or he would book me in jail as a lodger.” So Hall spent a few nights 50 years ago on a steel cot.
6 — Hall didn’t get to spend a night in the slammer this time, instead pitching a tent wherever he could. The best places to sleep, he said, were behind churches, especially those in the bible belt. “Massive churches, unlike anything you have seen, nicely manicured lawns, secluded areas.” Hall said he also spent at least one night a week in a motel room, to re-energize.
7 — The worst place to sleep? Anywhere too dark to notice his surroundings, especially, well, railroad tracks. “One night, I slept in this beautiful green meadow, and it turns out the train track was right on the other side of the bushes,” Hall said.
8 — As for food, Hall, an expert on nutrition, says he would try to eat a good high-protein breakfast, preferably eggs and, once back on the road, he would munch on Fig Newtons and Hostess Apple Pies, the same ones he ate 50 years ago.
“I won’t normally even look at them, but they were a treat to look forward to on the ride.” Ice cream would keep him cool, and he would munch on potato chips to replace the sodium he was sweating out. Salads and fruits were regular treats.
9 — Did we mention that Hall was lugging along a 66-pound duffle bag (he weighed it at the airport when he flew to California before the trip) and two 10-liter water bladders, each weighing 15 pounds? So those artificial fruit pies were burned right off, and Hall said he weighed exactly the same – 150 pounds – at the end of the trip as he did at the beginning.
10 — Hall says the scariest things about the trip were the heat in the southwest, drivers distracted by their cell phones and, especially, roads with little or no shoulder room for bikes. Louisiana had many of these roads, including enough long bridges with no shoulders to Hall nervous. “There were lots of logging trucks, and there was nowhere for them to go, and nowhere for me to go,’’ he said. “I would just get as far over to my right as I could and hold my breath.”
Is Hall done riding bikes across America? Nope. “It was sad being over in many respects,’’ he said. “I got to where I was looking forward to meeting people.” Hall is back in the classroom and sharing his story at Rotary Club meetings, including a recent visit to Wesley Chapel Rotary Club, and still spreading the word about the fight against polio.