(Photo by Jill Bock, Staff)
SIKESTON - It's a road trip some men half his age wouldn't dare, for that matter, half of half. But at 81, Charles "Ebb" Donahoo is traveling Missouri's highways by bicycle, intent on getting to Liberty "sometime."
Donahoo isn't sure just when he will reach his destination; he isn't exactly sure how far his trip from Tullahoma, Tenn., to Liberty will be. For Donahoo, it isn't about the miles or the time "it about the journey," he explained as he stopped in Sikeston Wednesday on his way to Dexter.
A resident of Chattanooga, Tenn., Donahoo began long-distance bicycling in 1973. He was a member of a local bike club, taking numerous trips - including a similar trip from Tennessee to Liberty, where his brother-in-law lives. In 1991, he even rode his bicycle from California to Florida.
"On a bike you are meeting people, seeing the country, I'm going to places I've never been. I love it but it isn't for everybody," he admits.
One of those it isn't for is his wife, who stayed behind in Chattanooga. Donahoo said she reluctantly agreed to let him take the trip, which he said could be his last. After he promised her he would call daily and stay in motels or campgrounds, he was off, traveling about 10 miles an hour on his special touring bike packed with 40 pounds of gear.
Already he has encountered some rough roads and been narrowly passed by large grain trucks as they travel the two-lane roads together.
And he has made friends.
A highway patrolman at Dresden, Tenn., saw a Navy cap tied to the back of his bicycle and pulled up along side to ask him if he was a World War II veteran.
"I said yes I am and he said good for you," recalled Donahoo. Then the patrolman invited him to pull off the road and they chatted about their war-time experiences and Donahoo had to explain the cap belonged to his grandson and that he hadn't served in the Navy. The Patrolman, a former Marine, arranged an interview for the bicyclist with a local paper and even caught up with him later in the day, bringing him lunch and advising him on the best route to take.
Another time, he lost one of his bags holding his gear and a construction worker came to his rescue, flagging him down and alerting him to the loss.
"I've been lucky. Everything always seems to work out real good," said Donahoo as he climbed back on his bicycle. "You know a lot of people say they want to do this then they are afraid they are too old. Well, I'm proving them wrong."