BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — Donald ‘Don’ Coffey, who recently retired from his career as a chemist, has always been interested in biking, starting with a dream from many years ago.
“When Don was in college in 1976,” recalls his wife Susan, “he saw a sign that said ‘Bike-Centennial’. He had just graduated, had a job, couldn’t take the time off, and always wanted to do it. But life is short, and it’s a perfect time to follow that dream again.”
That dream may have already come true, (Don has performed a cross-country bike ride before in 2019), but he wanted to experience the feeling again one more time. The dream, it would seem, is a reoccurring one.
“I wanted to do a ride that big again,” said Don, “but I didn’t want to go down the same route. Susan and I both grew up in Massachusetts, so we decided to start at Cape Cod, and ride over to Seattle where our oldest son lives.”
This decision was seconded by his wife Susan, and after purchasing an RV with their savings, the family set off on the cross-country expedition.
“I decided that life ain’t gonna live itself,” said Susan, “and so, here I am.”
Seeking to help promote a good cause on their journey, the couple decided to use the opportunity to raise awareness and funds for the Wounded Warrior Project — which provides support to injured veterans across the United States.
It isn’t just the husband and wife duo who are taking part in the trek, though. Joining them in their journey is their daughter Liz, who traveled all the way from her home in Spain to help with the fundraiser.
“I felt like I’d really regret it if I didn’t join in,” said Liz. “It’s more time I get to spend with my mom and dad, going places and seeing people I haven’t met in a while.”
The challenge, according to the family, isn’t so much the distance, as it is making sure not to overwork yourself during the ride — as well as not getting stressed out.
“We take breaks when we need it,” explains Liz. “What we usually do is pick a halfway point for the day, stop, have lunch, take a little rest, and then do the rest of the ride. A lot of laughter helps too.”
Don and Liz are the pair doing the actual biking portion of the tour, with Susan piloting the RV, and they’ve already made it halfway across their current route. The family arrived in Bismarck around the 47th day of their journey. Their route continues straight through North Dakota to Medora before crossing over to Montana, then shooting through Glacier National Park in Idaho before reaching their goal in Washington.
They expect the journey will be finished by late August.
As for why they chose to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project? It turns out that the Coffey family has a very strong connection to the armed forces. Many of their direct friends and family members have spent time in the service, and some have even been wounded — or worse — in the line of duty. The family hopes to raise at least $5,000 for the organization during their trip.
“Our oldest son, Tom, is in the military,” said Susan. “Both of Don’s parents served in World War II. My father was a vet who developed polio while in the service. Liz’s husband Larry serves in the Venezuelan Marines. We have another nephew, Tom, that’s currently serving in the Air Force with NATO in the Air Force. Tom had some minor injuries, but some of his friends that Liz knew and befriended weren’t so lucky.”
The family has been having their own share of fun on the journey, too — the Coffeys say that the places and people they’ve met have made the journey even more worthwhile.
“Everybody that we’ve met has been really supportive,” says Don. “A lot of people tell us ‘we support the Wounded Warrior Project already,’ or ‘good on you for doing this.'”
“We’ve seen a lot of great places,” recalls Liz. “We went to Cape Cod, Niagara Falls, the Erie Canal, and all five Great Lakes. The upper peninsula of Michigan is also beautiful. “
“For me,” says Susan, “a lot of it was the family and friends we’ve seen along the way. We lived in Michigan for many years, and all the kids were born there. We’re visiting friends and family all along the road. It’s a nice break — home-cooked meals, we can do some laundry at their houses….things have been great.”
When the journey is said and done, however, the Coffeys state that their voyage is about dreams of all kinds. Not only is Don fulfilling a lifelong dream of his one more time, but they’re also contributing to an organization that can help those who have been wounded in the line of duty reach their own goals for the future.
“I hope that people support either wounded warriors or some other worthy cause that’s meaningful to them,” says Don. “All of us have the ability to help out. This is just us helping out for that particular cause. We’re just hoping that people think about others, help others, and keep being kind.”
The family departed Bismarck on Friday afternoon and estimates that their trip to the Pacific Ocean will take around 42 more days at the time of this article’s publication.
More information about the family’s trek can be found on the fundraiser’s website. To make a direct donation to the Wounded Warrior Project, visit the Coast 2 Coast Coffey’s community fundraising page.