If you see Captain America riding his bicycle and stopping to help someone out this summer, don’t be alarmed. He’s taking time off from crime fighting for a good cause.
A Mount Olive man who last summer rode his bicycle across the country to raise money for a coworker battling breast cancer is preparing to head out again in a few months, riding “Portland to Portland” dressed as a superhero to raise money for pancreatic and testicular cancer research.
Josh Johannessen, 26, will ride from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine alongside Scott Phillips, 27, and José Ignacio Alfaro, 26. All three live in the Budd Lake section of the township.
“We all went to high school together in Mount Olive, but honestly we were never really that close,” Johannessen said. “But after I made Facebook status asking if anyone wanted to join me on this trip they reached out. Scott had summers off as a teacher, and José’s mother’s best friend recently passed away from pancreatic cancer so he wanted to ride for her.”
Along the way they also plan to dress up as superheroes – Johannessen will be Captain America – and perform acts of kindness for people they see.
“If we see someone unloading groceries or doing yard work, we’re going to stop and help them,” Johannessen said. “We want to show that there are people out there looking to help without expecting anything in return, just wanting to reach out to others in need to show anyone can be a superhero.”
Money being raised on the trip will benefit Vickie Stickle Hennion, who recently passed away from pancreatic cancer, and Jason Vujosevic, who is battling a rare form of testicular cancer.
“It’s motivating knowing I’m doing this more than just for myself,” Johannessen said, “To do the ride in honor of these two people.”
Johannessen expects the ride to last five to six weeks, beginning mid-June and concluding by the end of July.
“We’re packing a U-Haul with our gear and making the three-day drive to Oregon,” he said. “Then we’re going to ride all the way back with no vehicles following, self-supported with all of our gear on our bikes.”
Last year’s ride– a solo jaunt from Seaside to San Diego, Calif. and then up to Seattle – benefited Robin Reed, 43 of Byram, who was battling breast cancer. Johannessen, who worked with Reed at the Mount Olive Applebee’s, said he raised $20,000 during “Ride for Robin” and loved doing it, which is why he wanted to plan another trip for this summer.
“Before the last trip I was never into cycling. I was always active and a big runner, but bike riding was never a passion of mine,” Johannessen said. “But once I did this last trip, now I love it. I love to explore and I love the adventure.”
Johannessen said just recently brought his bicycle out for the season, the first time since last summer’s trip.
“It got me so excited for this next ride,” he said. “That feeling of fresh air, it brought back so many memories.”
Those memories include passing though some of his favorite states – Colorado was a highlight – and meeting new people. Some of his favorite interactions included a cyclist who offered him a warm bed as opposed to his planed campground on a rainy day, and a family visiting the U.S. from Holland who left him water on a particularly hot day.
“When I got to the desert I had to deal with the heat and lack of rideable trails. That first day in Nevada it was technically a trail but it was just sand, rocks and hills. I had to walk my bike for 16 miles in 110 degrees and had just enough water to get through it,” Johannessen said. “So it was just was really emotional to find that water waiting by a post. To think that they thought about me 15 miles down the road after meeting me, it meant a lot.”
The biggest challenge during his last trip was the wind, which he hopes to avoid this time.
“You would think going up the Rocky Mountains would be the big struggle but it was the wind,” Johannessen said. “Riding east to west and then south to north, having it blowing in your face constantly day after day can really bring down your mood.”
Still, he managed to average 80 miles per day cross country and 100 miles per day up the coast, and had a blast doing it.
“It’s just exhilarating,” Johannessen said. “I love the thought of being in a different place every day, and knowing I’m doing it for a cause is really rewarding.”
Go tohttps://www.bikingportlandtoportland.com/ for more information or to donate. Shirts and wristbands will also be available for donations soon. People will also be able to sponsor “miles” of the trip shortly, according to Johannessen.
Follow the group’s progress through social media on Facebook at Biking Portland to Portland, Instagram at @Portland_to_Portland, and Twitter at @port_2_portland.
Staff Writer Michael Izzo: 973-428-6636; mizzo@GannettNJ.com