A family adventure

Mulkey's will make 3,400-mile cross-country trip on bicycles

editor@sierrastar.comJuly 1, 2014 

Thousands upon thousands of families are taking summer vacations, with many Californian's packing up for such popular destinations as Pismo Beach, Disneyland, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, and yes, New York City — the chosen destination of the Mulkey family of Oakhurst.

It's a safe bet you won't find any families travelling the 3,400 miles from California to New York on bicycles. But that's exactly what David and his wife Sherri, and their four home-schooled children, Aaron (16), Jonathan (15), Nathaniel (12), and Anika (7) are doing — setting out on this amazing and physically challenging adventure Saturday.

This is not the first bike adventure for Sherri and David, both avid riders who first met in 1987 while working as mountaineering guides for Summit Adventures in Bass Lake. The couple, at the suggestion of David, biked across Tibet in 1993, a trip of about 800 miles taking 20 days.

The desire for adventure must be hereditary, because son Aaron, had the idea of the cross-country trip recently. The idea came to life when David asked his family if they wanted to bike across the United States six months ago. The response was a unanimous 'yes.'

The family will depart Oakhurst Saturday for the drive to Newport, Or. That's the easy part. On Monday, the family begins biking a northern route that will take them through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario, Canada, and New York, before reaching the Atlantic Ocean in mid-August. The plan is to pedal 80 to 100 miles a day.

David, who works as an EMT for Sierra Ambulance Service, said he wants to demonstrate to his family the joy of accomplishing something big. He describes it as an arduous journey, but a trip which will unite them in a common purpose building their faith and memories.

"This trip will also provide the chance for all of us to grow in many different areas," David said. "A chance to struggle and grow stronger together, more interdependent and more resourceful because of the anticipated struggle. Sometimes we under-estimate what we can do. The trip will also provide a greater knowledge of the Creator ... to watch how God provides in a real way ... to learn to be grateful."

Sherri feels people frequently limit themselves in every aspect of their lives — the mental, the physical, and the spiritual.

"We seek the easy, more comfortable path, the least resistant way and instead of the "thrill of the fight," we have the "been there done that, what's next," mentality. The empty feeling of dissatisfaction remains to haunt us another day. So we will ride as a family, not to 'prove' something, but to 'become' something ... to become something deeper and richer ... to taste and see that a richer life is possible."

Jonathan is excited about peddling across the nation because it will help get him in shape for cross country at Yosemite High School in the fall.

Nathaniel can't wait to see Niagra Falls and Time Square and the youngest, Anika, is not exactly sure what to expect, although for most of the trip, she will see the scenery from a 'Weehoo,' a semi-reclining bike attached to big brother Aaron's bike. The recumbent-style bike will be easier for Anika to peddle for long distances.

"She may feel like a princess in a chariot from time-to-time, though Aaron will be no Prince Charming when she forgets to peddle," Sherri said.

Logistics of trip

David and Sherri's plan is to hopefully spend nights with friends, family or people they meet along the way, along with a fair amount of camping.

The three older boys will ride their own bikes and be responsible for transporting gear. Aaron will peddle with Anika, and Jonathan will be pulling a BOB trailer loaded down with about 70 pounds of gear. Nathaniel will also ride his own bike and carry panniers. David and Sherri will do the same.

"I figured the only way Mom and Dad would be able to keep up was to load Aaron and Jonathan down with a little more weight," David said.

The original plan had someone drive the family 15-passenger Chevy van as a support vehicle all the way, but they haven't been able to find just one person who has the time to go on the entire trip. So they have pieced together a few sections of the trip with different drivers.

Good friends Tom and Jane Williams will drive the van from Bend, Or. to Jackson, Wy. Jane has worked with David for seven years at Sierra Ambulance.

"They are taking the American family vacation to a whole new level," Jane said. "They are a close-knit, determined, and optimistic family. Both David and Sherri have positive and can-do attitudes in life. I'm sure they will have some great stories to tell when they get back. We'll be praying for them everyday. "

David's sister Linda will be joining them for approximately two weeks and will drive ahead and bike back to meet them.

"She is very excited to participate in even a small part," David said. "She and her husband Gene came up with the florescent green "Team Mulkey" shirts and logo.

"What an opportunity," Linda commented, "How many people are able to say, 'I biked across the US?'"

Welcome support

As David and Sherri have shared their trip plans with people, they have received overwhelming encouragement and support.

"Several friends have loaned us bikes ... nice bikes ... which you know is a big deal if you are a bike person," Sherri said. "One friend gave a helmet, another a cargo trailer, others made offers to fit our bikes properly, and others have contributed racks and panniers, pumps and plenty of free advice."

Grocery Discount Center owners Randy and Anita Disney are helping the family by providing a supply of power bars, Gatorade, and other nutritional goodies for the trip.

"We're blessed to be able to help and be a part of this adventure by this awesome family," Anita said.

Pacific Pectin owner Mike Devito paid for some needed bike supplies, Rick Gardner, owner of Yosemite Bike & Sports, contributed to the effort, and Sierra Ambulance has been supportive in giving David time off during the busy summer for this dream to happen.

Software developer Harlan Noonkester, an avid bicyclist himself, loaned the family a couple bikes and a supply trailor for the trip. He first meet the family about four years ago and both families attend Oakhurst Evangelical Free Church.

"This is a very very courageous and determined family to make this trip," Noonkester said. "With four children, David and Sherri are pretty good at adjusting to change, and that will be a huge asset to them on this trip. We'll be praying for them — go Team Mulkey."

"With all the support and good wishes we have received, in many ways it's like a group or community trip," Sherri said. "I like that feeling. It is a real encouragement to feel their confidence in your ability to attempt such a big goal."

Follow the Mulkey family during their journey at "Team Mulkey" on Facebook.

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