If you read Calling All Fat People in my previous post then you have the background for this next post. This is a continuation of what can happen when someone decides that now is the time.
THP- You took on a major challenge, tell us about it.
Eric Ewing- On June 12, 2013 I left my home in Tucson, AZ to ride my bicycle to Council Bluffs, IA. Accompanied by my fiancé’s 16-year-old son, traveled 1,346 miles, through 7 states, over 37 days and climbed around 36,000 feet while crossing some of the most beautiful parts of America at an average speed of 10 miles an hour; it was a major challenge and an amazing adventure.
THP-You weighed nearly 300 lbs. What made you think that an overweight and out of shape school teacher from Marana, Arizona could do this? I mean, aren’t goals like this for people who have it all together?
Eric Ewing- I’ve had this dream since I was moved out to Tucson, AZ by my parents when I was 17 years-old. On the opposite side of this dream was an abundance of doubt in myself mixed with a lack of self-respect. My ‘supporting cast’ was a cadre of family and friends who wouldn’t hesitate to put me in my place by letting me know how stupid and crazy the idea of riding a bike across the country would be.
Someone once told me that sometimes you had to change your friends and if that didn’t work, then you literally had to change your friends. The belief that I could accomplish such a goal was born out of inspiration and humiliation when I met the Four the Road Family in December of 2012. My family had the pleasure of hosting this family that was traveling from Florida to San Diego by bicycle. At the time I was near 300 lbs. and I couldn’t even ride out to meet them as they rode to my house. That was humiliating. However, watching a family that included an eight-year-old boy and a fifteen-year-old girl on the cross country adventure of a lifetime was and remains a major inspiration to me.
I also think that there is a myth about people “who have it all together”. Just like you and I, everybody has challenges in their lives that could beat them down and keep them from their goals. I also believe that everybody is tempted and challenged to give up their dreams, but the only difference between those who accomplish their goals and those who give in and give up is the individual belief and persistence one has towards accomplishing their dream. My challenge being overweight is easy to see, but I guarantee you everybody feels pressure and is challenged to give up their dreams.
THP- Tell us about the mental battles that you had to overcome. How close were you to quitting at any point?
Eric Ewing- I endured mental battles daily. Early and often. I thought that I would ride myself into shape and get stronger as the ride went on, and I think to an extent I did. But there was also an exhaustion that built up over the journey that made the second half of the journey more challenging than the first.
On the ride from Santa Rosa to Tucumcari, NM I became dehydrated, partially due to poor planning and partially due to the promise of a Dairy Queen 14 miles from the finish. I had planned to take a significant break at this Dairy Queen that we had seen on billboards for over a 30 mile stretch. Temptation! When we reached the DQ it was closed, so we were left with 14 miles to go and little to no water. After a short rest, we rode the final hills toward Tucumcari and about 3 miles from our motel I hit a huge wall and couldn’t go on. After a break, we found a Sonic that was a half mile away and rode there to recuperate a while longer.
When we did finally make it to the motel I became sick in the worst way and for the next 18 hours I comforted myself with the thought of going to a local hospital and convincing a doctor to tell me that I couldn’t go on. Deep down I knew I would never actually quit, but those thoughts brought me some comfort as I battled being physically ill.
Also, due to my age, 44, and being overweight, I dealt with pain daily when I was off the bike. It was kind of strange because while riding certain pains would be relieved and others would appear, and when we were resting the riding pains would cease and other pains I didn’t have while riding would appear. And being in constant pain definitely weighs a person down mentally. But while Tucumcari was the only time I had a plan to quit, I certainly had doubts throughout the entire journey.
THP- Before you started the journey, did you believe you would make it?
Eric Ewing- Yes, actually, I had a deep, possibly subconscious knowing that it would all be ok and we would make it. That underlying confidence is what carried me through to the Corn. I believe if I had any idea that things would go bad I wouldn’t have started. But, deep down I knew it was going to be successful. I even went to the doctor for a physical a few days before leaving and was told that my blood work was the best it’s been in years and my EKG was normal. This reinforced my belief that the adventure could go on and succeed.
THP- At what point on the journey did you buy in completely that no matter what, you were finishing?
Again, there are two sides to answering this question. I could say that I bought into completing as soon as I left my driveway and that would be true on a deep level, but I could also say that on a surface level I had doubts up until the last few days. Daily I reexamined the route we would take across Kansas and Nebraska and it seemed like daily I would change it. I felt comfortable doing 40-50 miles a day and about 300 minutes (5 hours) of riding, but to accomplish our goals we had to ride several 60+ mile days with 6-7 hours on the road, so on the surface I was concerned many times that I may see the IOWA state sign from the backseat of a car. Thankfully that’s not what happened; I rode into Iowa with tears of joy and thankfulness.
THP- How much did finishing (Arizona to Iowa) mean to you?
Eric Ewing- It’s huge. I think it’s even bigger when I hear other people talk about it and say that they could never do it. Makani, my ride partner says, “it’s no big deal, it was just riding a bike”. There is truth there. We rode a relatively short amount of miles nearly every day for 37 days and in doing so accomplish a major feat. Now the question for myself is, “What areas of my life can I take the principle I learned in this success and parlay it into more success?” Committing to something relatively small on a daily basis, to accomplishing something over time, epic and meaningful in my life. This may be the greatest lesson I learned from the adventure. Rob, I believe you call this “momentum stacking”.
THP- There are many people like you (were) that are sitting on their couches with dreams and goals. What advice can you offer them?
Eric Ewing- My advice is to transform your dream into a goal and work at it a little bit daily. Pay attention to your successes and build upon them. The fact is that I lost some weight before I left on my ride to Iowa and I actually proved, for me, that it is easier to ride a bike to Iowa than it is to lose weight. I won’t give up on my goal of losing 100 lbs. as future adventures depend upon it. I will take what I’ve learned on my adventure and work daily in small manageable ways to accomplish my other goals. I highly recommend this approach.
Also, feed your brain! Take time every day to feed your mind with nourishment from Today has Power. I have read Rob’s website and Rob openly shares other writers’ work that has motivated him and I have pursued mental nourishment from them as well. To accomplish your dreams you must believe and to believe in a world where everyone and everything is seemingly working to steal your dreams from you, you must nourish and fortify your mind daily!
Eric, I thank you for myself, and on behalf of every reader that this will encourage.
You can check out the complete journey (and future ones) at Eric’s website simplespokes.com
The world awaits those who are willing. One small step at a time.
Is now your time?
Live it LOUD!