By Nathan Duke
A retired middle school teacher from Bayside will get the workout of a lifetime this fall when he makes a seven-week trek across the country on his bicycle in honor of his father, who died two years ago after battling Alzheimer's disease.
Lon Blais, 50, who moved to Rego Park from Massachusetts in 1980 and now lives on Bell Boulevard in Bayside, will set out on his journey from the Bayside Marina Aug. 31 and plans to arrive at Santa Monica Pier in California around Oct. 11, where he will be greeted by his wife, Joanna.
Blais, who retired four years ago as an English teacher at Little Neck's MS 67, said he did not meet his father, Bob Blais, until five years before his death in 2006 because his parents had divorced when he was a child.
Blais said he hoped to raise as much as $100,000 and Alzheimer's awareness during his Lest We Forget cross-country bike ride.
“This is very much a personal quest,” he said. “I didn't grow up with my father, but I met him three months before I got married and I realized I was so much like him. He was a school teacher and we looked and sounded alike.”
Blais said he began biking three years ago and has been riding as many as 75 miles per day for six weeks. During his cross-country trip, he will average 90 miles per day and pass through New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Arizona and California.
He plans to make 35 overnight stops and bunk in a variety of places, including the fraternity house of one of his former students in Pennsylvania, an aunt of a former student, a pygmy goat farm in Kansas and a firehouse in Colorado. His wife's cousin also traded in time shares for awards points, which will provide 12 free nights at Marriott Hotel chains across the nation.
Blais will ride through the snow-covered Rocky Mountains in Colorado as well as plains and deserts. He said he has 10 escorts who will carry his clothing and a backup bicycle and meet him at various destinations along his route. They will also slowly trail him during his night rides through desert terrain and meet him at various horizon points in mountainous areas for safety reasons, he said.
But he said the focus of the trip would not be to see the nation's sights.
“This is as much a social adventure as anything else,” he said.
Blais, currently working toward becoming a personal trainer, said his father was more of a motorcycle rider than a bike rider. He said his wife has chided him for planning to get his own motorcycle license.
“My wife said it's my mid-life craziness and I said, 'Don't you think the bike ride is my mid-life craziness?' ” Blais said.
Blais said people interested in donating to his ride can do so through the national Alzheimer's Foundation Web site or by contacting him at [email protected].
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.