Dave Cooke and I have some things in common.
- We're both from Detroit, Michigan.
- We both have a son who has battled addiction.
- We're both recovery advocates trying to make a difference.
- And we both like to ride our bicycles.
But whereas I enjoy hopping on my Cannondale hybrid bike and riding to the grocery store, or going for a leisurely ride of five, six, or maybe a dozen miles tops, Dave likes to ride his road bike long distances. And this summer he's embarking on the longest ride of his life: a 3,600-mile ride across the United States.
Dave is the founder and board chair of 100Pedals, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to bringing awareness, advocacy, and inspiration to the issue of addiction in our society. Through speaking programs, collaborative community activities, and a commitment to sharing the truth about addiction, 100Pedals empowers individuals and families who have been impacted by the disease. The result is a unified movement working to provoke change and break the stigma associated with addiction.
Like most parents of children struggling with addiction, Dave was devastated when he found out about his son's heroin dependency. And like many parents--myself included--he set out to rescue his son from addiction and to fix things. Unfortunately, over the next fifteen months Dave discovered that addiction isn't something parents can make go away, no matter how hard they try. It's a family disease that affects everyone; and it was affecting Dave. In fact, it was destroying him.
That's when Dave made a decision that completely changed his life. He challenged himself to do something that would help him regain control and clarity in his life. That challenge? To ride his bike for at least 1 hour for 100 consecutive days. On January 1, 2011, Dave went on his first 60-minute bike ride. On April 10, 2011, he completed his 100th consecutive ride. All told, Dave spent 141 hours on his bike and rode 2,360 miles over the course of those 100 days. Mission accomplished, and 100Pedals was born.
Dave's accomplishment of pedaling 2,360 miles in 100 days was impressive, for sure. But those numbers are nothing compared to the numbers associated with his latest endeavor, "Cycling for Recovery 2016". On Saturday, July 30th, Dave will climb on his bike in Santa Monica, California, and set out for the Big Apple. His path will follow Route 66 to Chicago, go through Michigan to Detroit, to Pittsburgh, up the New Jersey coast, and end in New York City. The plan is to cover the 3,600 miles in 64 days, and to stop in various cities along the way to share messages of love, hope, and encouragement with people who are living with a loved one’s addiction.
"Our children, our families, and our communities can no longer be victimized by the continued, tragic growth of drug-related addiction in our society," Dave says. "This bike ride is a manifestation of my commitment to educate those who need to better understand this problem. God called me to take action and make a commitment to share his message through my story and my family’s experiences with addiction. At his urging, I accepted the challenge."
"It is my plan to have one-on-one conversations with those who are struggling with the addiction of a loved one or those individuals who are battling an addiction," Dave adds. "I see these interactions as a wonderful opportunity to hear their stories while offering them a message of God's love. I will also be giving presentations and talks in churches and neighborhood organizations."
This may be Dave’s "big, bold, crazy adventure" (as he described it to me in a Facebook message), but he won't be doing it all by himself. There are donors who have contributed to the Cycling for Recovery GoFundMe campaign (after all, a trip like this doesn't pay for itself); a support vehicle has been donated; and volunteers have stepped forward to drive that vehicle for each of the nine one-week legs of the tour. (Note: I'm proud to say that I’ll be behind the wheel of the support van for the Detroit to Pittsburgh stretch.)
Dave says that he's as physically and mentally prepared as he'll ever be for his biking adventure, which he calls a bucket list item. "I have always envisioned taking a cross country bike ride," he recently wrote. "When I realized I was focusing on this individual adventure and accomplishment in a self-glorifying manner, I declared I would not do this unless there was a higher purpose behind it. That’s when I heard God say to me, 'It's a ministry, not a bike trip.'"
Dave Cooke is a man on another mission, and this time he has an important message to spread. If you're out driving on the highway sometime between July 30th and October 2nd, and you see a determined guy riding a bike from west to east while being followed by a support van, make sure you honk and give him a thumbs-up. Or, better yet: Sign up to ride your bike alongside Dave during a segment of his journey.
Yes, addiction is a beast. But we're incredibly lucky to have warriors like Dave Cooke fighting the battle against it.