Vickroy: Palos Park cyclist headed for Kazakhstan
Donna Vickroy email@example.com | (708) 633-5982 July 18, 2012 6:28PM
Brendan Kay and Ben Shuker are riding on a cycling trip across two continents. | Supplied photo
Go Along for the Ride
Follow Brendan Kay and Ben Shuker on their
8,000-mile journey at shanghai-dublin.tumblr.com
To learn more about the Hemochromatosis Society, visit www.americanhs.org
Updated: August 20, 2012 6:19AM
Inside each of us beats the heart of an adventurer.
We long to see new sights, try new things, learn exactly what our limitations really are.
Some of us act on that passion by scaling mountains, diving into oceans or cycling across continents. The rest of us get our thrills by living vicariously through those crazy risk-takers.
It was just an ordinary afternoon in the newsroom, if there can be such a thing, when I got a call from Urumqi, China.
“It’s Brendan, the guy riding his bike from Shanghai to Dublin, just thought I’d update you on what’s been happening,” he said.
It was barely 4 a.m. in the Chinese town known to be the most landlocked city in the world.
Brendan Kay and his traveling buddy, Ben Shuker, left Shanghai on May 21 on an 8,000-mile cycling odyssey, across 11 countries on two continents, to raise awareness for the Hemochromatosis Society.
Often called “the curse of the Irish” because it afflicts northern Europeans, particularly those of Irish descent, hemochromatosis is a hereditary condition that causes the body to absorb too much iron, often forcing it to be stored in the liver, heart and pancreas.
They’d been holed up in Urumqi, not far from the Kazakhstan border, for four days while waiting for a shipment of new saddle bags from the United States.
Kay, of Palos Park, began planning his cross-continental bicycle ride last Christmas after visiting a beloved uncle who is suffering from hemochromatosis.
To illustrate the importance of early testing, and to demonstrate how easy such a test can be, Kay is having test kits sent to them while they’re on the road. They’re going to video themselves using the at-home kits and post it to their blog.
After spending several weeks riding across China, Kay said the cyclists are looking forward to riding into a new country.
“We want to experience a new culture, some new food,” he said.
Not that the food in China has been bad. Kay said they’ve eaten so much that they haven’t lost any weight at all, despite the fact they’ve been riding eight to 10 hours a day.
“Food is really cheap in China and really good,” he said. “We’re beefing on Kung Po chicken, lamp sticks, noodles, delicious bread, beer and, most importantly, ice cream.”
They’ve spent a few nights couch surfing and a few in bleak hotels that offer little more than a concrete slab and a bed.
“Mostly we’ve been camping,” Kay said. “That’s been one of my favorite things to do on this trip. I love waking up to find the mountains or a riverbed next to us.”
They try to plan for the challenges Mother Nature sends their way, packing extra water for trips across desert areas, but Kay says there was nothing to prepare them for the strong winds that nearly sidelined them a few weeks back.
In a blog post, Kay writes, “We faced hands down the strongest side winds we have ever been in before. We half rode/half walked/ half crawled.
“We both agreed that we would much rather ride straight into wind as opposed to getting hammered by side winds. It was quite unsafe at times, (particularly) when trucks roared past us sending a whirlwind around us and at times almost throwing us into the trucks or knocking us off our bikes to eat gravel.”
Kay said the Chinese people have been very friendly and helpful, especially when they were struggling through the wind storms. Buses and trucks pulled over, telling him to, “Get in.”
But because Shuker was so far behind him, often out of sight, Kay said he turned down the offers.
Kay is a graduate of Providence High School in New Lenox. Since graduating from Butler University in Indianapolis, he has traveled the globe, teaching English, learning customs and making friends. He’s been to Vietnam, Korea, Germany, Argentina and Australia. He met Shuker, who is from Australia, on one of his teaching stints.
The unexpected damage to their saddle bags set them back a few days on their journey, but Kay said they still expect to roll into Dublin, one of the farthest west points in Europe, some time in November.
They took advantage of the down time to have their bikes serviced at a giant bike store.
Kay has promised to call with updates whenever time and cell service allow. Meanwhile, you can vicariously ride alongside him by visiting his blog or you can embark on your own adventure. Just remember, if you find yourself in some remote corner of the world, do call. I love this kind of stuff.