After a 2,700-mile “Journey of Hope” bike ride across the country, 21-year-old Puyallup native Logan Fitzgerald crossed the finish line into Washington, D.C. on Aug. 13.
The University of Washington student began the trip June 13 in Long Beach, California, after months of training and raising more than $7,000 for The Ability Experience, his fraternity’s national philanthropy, to raise awareness for people with disabilities.
“It was awesome and I was very relieved,” said Fitzgerald about finishing the journey. “I wasn’t really in pain, because I had been (biking) for 50 days.”
When Fitzgerald reached his final destination at 11 a.m., his parents were already there, waiting for him on the lawn in front of the Capitol Building.
“It was amazing,” said Chuck Fitzgerald, Logan’s father, who flew out to meet his son. “It was a hundred bicyclers riding through a little rain right up to the Capitol.”
Fitzgerald’s trip was 62 days long, and he rode through 12 states, all the way from California to Virginia.
Fitzgerald’s team consisted of 32 cyclists, eight of them “crew” that rode alongside the cyclists in vans that carried their belongings. His team was one of three crossing the country at the same time, with around 30 to 40 people per route.
On Fitzgerald’s final day of cycling, he had only rode 30 miles — a long ride, but he had been averaging 75 miles a day.
“Our (longest day) was 131 miles from Birmingham, Alabama to Carlton, Georgia,” he said.
The heat was a constant challenge throughout the trip, with the temperature reaching 110 degrees on some days.
“Death Valley was our hardest day,” Fitzgerald said. “We had to wake up pretty early to beat the heat. In Death Valley, we had to wake up at 3:30 (a.m.). It was pure heat and incredibly hot.”
But each state had its own challenges for the team to face, he said. There were hills and headwinds in Texas, and Louisiana and Mississippi wore down the team with the muggy and humid weather.
While biking, Fitzgerald and the team stopped for what were called “friendship visits.”
“The reason we’d go to a city is because we had sponsored events,” he said. “We call them friendship visits. It’s basically us hanging out and meeting kids with different abilities.”
Fitzgerald and the others played sports, like wheelchair basketball, and threw dance parties.
There were many stops that stood out in Fitzgerald’s mind from the south route.
“I’ve never been down south before,” he said. “It was definitely a culture shock — especially the towns.”
Zuni, New Mexico is one of the stops that stuck out in Fitzgerald’s memories. In Zuni, the population is 97 percent Native American. Fitzgerald experienced a rain dance there and had one of the best meals of the entire trip. He was grateful for the community’s hospitality.
Now, back home in Seattle, Fitzgerald is a rising junior and a member of UW’s Foster School of Business, where he studies accounting and finance.
The “Journey of Hope” trip made him think a lot about pushing himself to do things he never thought he could do.
“(The trip) told me you can do more than you think you’re capable of doing,” Fitzgerald said. “You can push yourself to the limit and keep going.”