Kodiakan begins cross-country bicycle ride today

John McDonald poses with his bicycle after dipping its rear wheel into the Pacific Ocean at the start of his cross-country trip Monday afternoon, May 21, 2012 at Buskin River State Recreation Area. (James Brooks photo)

When Kodiakan John McDonald arrived in Key West, Fla. after completing his goal of riding his bike 6,200 miles across the country, he didn’t immediately feel relief or excitement.

Those came a few days later.

“I felt lost at first,” McDonald said. “It wasn’t what I expected, but when I met mom at the airport a couple of days later I got super excited and had more of the feeling I had expected.”

When McDonald left on his biking expedition after graduating this spring from Kodiak High School, his goal was to find and film the American dream. By doing so, he achieved his own dream.

“I think I did find the American dream by going out and pursuing my own passion,” McDonald said. “I think that is the American dream, and I met a lot of other people who were living out their American dream.”

McDonald left Kodiak on May 22 and arrived Sept. 5 at his destination in Florida, where he will go to college later this year. His route took him through the Rocky Mountains and South: Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida all passed by his wheels.

A typical day for McDonald started around 4 a.m. when he packed up his campsite. He then fixed breakfast, looked over maps and hit the road. On average he rode between 70 and 100 miles a day.

McDonald’s trip was sponsored by Subway and a handful of local businesses. He stopped at 23 Subways, filmed five Subway commercials, and filled up multiple external hard drives with video footage that he plans to use to turn into a documentary titled “Finding My America.”

Three months on a bicycle wasn’t easy for McDonald, who faced challenges ranging from reading maps to getting T-boned by a moped. The biggest challenge, he said, was riding by himself.

“Doing it alone was really tough,” he said. “Having a partner to talk to would have made the trip a little easier.”

Knowing he was preparing for adulthood was what kept McDonald going.

“I started out with a big goal to prepare for the future and get myself in situations where it would be tough to get out of them,” McDonald said. “I saw little problems as learning moments.”

Margie McDonald, his mother, said she worried about McDonald throughout the trip, but kept in regular contact with her son.

“I’m glad now, looking back, that we let him do it,” she said. “That was an extreme way to launch into adulthood, but I believe the things he learned along the way are lifelong lessons. He got a speed course in adulthood, having to learn everything from map reading to budgeting, nutrition and physical stamina.”

McDonald will fly back to Kodiak on Sept. 20 and plans to stay here until he starts college in November.

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