A Kerry man is closing in on completing the adventure of a lifetime as he pedals his way across America to help raise funds and awareness for the Donal Walsh Live Life Foundation.
The charity was set up in the wake of the Kerry teenager’s tragic death from cancer in 2013 when he was just 16-years-old.
Tomás Mac an t-Saoir, from Ballyferriter, 10 kilometres west of Dingle, is currently around 700 kilometres from his destination, St. Augustine in the state of Florida after cycling from San Diego, California. His incredible journey started on October 24.
He’s battled gale-force headwinds, thunder and lightning, saddle sores and boredom but along the way he’s had some incredible experiences too, such as staying in Baton Rouge with Ginny and Patrick O’Sullivan, the latter from Waterville and a second cousin of Kerry great Mick O’Dwyer.
“Well haven’t you come a far way from San Diego, you must be wrecked’ was the welcome I received there,” laughed the 22-year old Mac an t-Saoir. “I can’t tell you how good it was to hear a Kerry accent again!”
That, by the way came after he was forced to hitch a ride for 30 kilometres over a section of road prohibited for cyclists.
“A truck driver called Juan Molina picked me up and took me all the way to Baton Rouge as the alternative was I bike on interstate 10 and that would have been illegal,” he explained.
“It would have been completely reckless and unsafe as traffic was mental. It was funny, Juan had a hat on that said ‘no guts, no story’. I think that sums up my trip in a way!
“He and I had lunch and as a parting gesture he gave me a Dallas Cowboys jumper as a souvenir.”
It’s one of a string of fascinating and heart-warming stories the Ballyferriter man has had so far on his near 4,000-kilometre trip.
On average, he’s pedalling less than 100km a day because of the wind that’s constantly blowing on his face. But he’s not too worried as a chance of a free beer and an overnight stay is something to look forward to at the end of each day.
“People who have heard of me have invited me to stay at their homes, or invited me to dinner. The support I’ve been getting has been insane,” he continued.
“I was featured in the Houston Chronicle and in a paper in Cleveland and people who have heard my story call ahead to their friends to say that they must watch out for this Irish guy. I tell these stories to other touring cyclists and they can’t believe the luck I’ve had. Maybe it’s because I’m on my own, that I’m only 22, Irish, raising money for a great cause. I’m not sure, but the American people have been absolutely incredible to me.”
Given he landed on an Aer Lingus flight in early October without a bike and staring east into the great expanse, he’s done a remarkable job of ‘winging’ the whole thing.
His check-list amounts to a few pairs of shorts, a sat-nav device, a tub of Sudocream, some casual clothes, a credit card and little else.
“I couldn’t even say what my best experience has been.
“Mexico was fun - as was the plane ride I was taken on. Austin was great craic too and I met a sound Sligo man in San Antonio named Adrian Brett.
“He took me in for a night and his young daughter still asks him when am I coming back!
“The best thing to happen is that the American people have been so great to look after me.
“Despite the fact I’m having the trip of a lifetime, I’ve had some crap days too.
“But one conversation can turn a bad day into a good one and thankfully, that’s where the locals have helped.
“They see the bike and my Irish kit and they start asking questions. They’re all crazy about Ireland and so proud of their Irish heritage.”
Mac an t-Saoir is hoping to raise €5,000, but is around €1,500 short of that target. He’s trying to keep his costs down as well and, hilariously, became embroiled in a twitter exchange with Aer Lingus when he started a campaign to fly him home for free.
“That was a cheeky tweet. I’ve tweeted lots of people /papers looking for retweets. I said I’d tweet Aer Lingus for the craic . That one tweet went viral and it gave the charity good publicity. More people are following my story as a result and hopefully, more people can dig into their pockets for the cause.”
You can take the man out of Kerry…
To track Tomas’ journey, follow him on Facebook at ‘Tomas’ Cycle Across America’ or follow him on Twitter @SearsToms You can donate to the cause at www.iDonate.ie
Clarification: Tomas Mac an tSaoir, who is undertaking a charity cycle across the United States, is not the former Kerry minor and U21 goalkeeper of the same name as was incorrectly stated in an interview in the Irish Examiner on Monday, December 5. We apologise for any confusion which may have arisen.
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