Although 28-year-old J.W. Frye hasn't had his Forrest Gump moment yet, his 8,000 mile trek across the United States has been far from lonely. With a bicycle, a cell phone and 115 pounds of equipment, Frye set out from Key West, Florida, in January on a voyage to Alaska. His goal is to bring awareness to one of the most important causes in his life: hospice care.
Frye's admiration for the cause began after his mother was diagnosed with brain cancer and was cared for by home hospice workers in Florida and Pennsylvania. As his mother was dying, he learned that hospice care was not only for the patient, but for the family, and that workers could they with everything from funeral preparations to legal advice.
"Hospice didn't just take care of my mother as she died," Frye says. "They nursed a whole family back to life."
When explaining his idea behind the trip, Frye says it came to him "almost like a poem would." He imagined an outline for the journey, but at first, he had no idea how to accomplish it.
"The weird thing was, I wasn't a cyclist," Frye says. "I never cycled more than a handful of times in my life. I had never been an executive of a not-for-profit, I had never lobbied for legislation and I had never done any of the things I do now. So you could imagine how strange I thought that kind of premonition was."
Six months before Frye was set to take off, his father also died of cancer.
Although this loss could have been crippling for him -- he calls his father his "hero" -- Frye used it as inspiration to appreciate what he has in life. With this optimistic outlook and a desire to serve as much as possible, he began training and exercising to get in shape. He also sold or gave away all of the possessions in his Sarasota, Florida, home.
Along the way, Frye has met many helpful people, including those who have taken him in, provided him with dinner and even rescued him from a Kansas highway after breaking a chain on his bike. And although he is capable of living entirely from his bike and has slept on park benches and in truck stops, his lodging in Colorado has been mostly taken care of by Dee Chirafisi, co-owner of Kentwood City Properties, who has set him up with housing from here to Steamboat Springs.
People like Chirafisi have made his trip special.
"I don't think there's a single remarkable person. I think that everybody has the capacity to be remarkable," Frye says. "I think what makes people remarkable is if they open themselves up to an experience they've never had."
Today, beginning around 10 a.m., Frye, in conjunction with Denver Hospice, Mayor Bill Vidal and Denver B-Cycle, will complete the Tour de B-Cycle (which won Best Bicycle Challenge in Westword's 2011 Best of Denver), riding through all of the bike-sharing network's fifty stations. Along the way, he'll post signs and hand out information on how to donate money to Denver Hospice..
On Saturday, Frye will head west toward Salt Lake City. From there, he'll continue on to Seattle and Vancouver en route to Alaska.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
A playwright, Frye says he wants to continue helping people once he reaches his final destination. "The whole idea of this trip is to live available to my fellow humans, in the moment, right now," he says. "And you do that by setting your intention everyday to be of maximum service to a different person and to live to the best of your ability devoid of dishonesty and self-seeking. And I would hope that I continue to live that way as long as I have breath."
More from our News archive: "Shane Boor, busted for flipping the bird at state trooper, to be defended by ACLU."