First Posted: 1/13/2013
He was beset by dogs, police, a tornado and his own twisted knee.
He slept in tool sheds, golf cart sheds, in an abandoned house, under the stars and, on Christmas Eve, on a picnic table under a pavilion behind a Baptist Church.
But in the end, Doug Warabak completed his 1,515 mile bicycle ride from the West Pittston Moose Lodge to the Port Ritchey, Florida, Moose Lodge.
When Warabak set out on his trip – a fund raiser for Moose Haven, a members’ retirement home – on December 9 in conjunction with the West Pittston Lodge’s 100th anniversary, he estimated the trip would take 22 days.
It took 31.
Bad weather, nine flat tires, one busted spoke and two days in bike shops were the major delays.
He was near Wilmington, North Carolina, when a tornado set down a mile away. I hit a wall of water and got drenched, Warabak said. I made it to the nearest lodge. It took a whole day to dry my clothes.
He covered only four miles that day. He was supposed to average 50. His best day was 96 miles on his first day in Florida where he reached the Yulee Moose Lodge.
Warabak’s previous longest bicycle trip had been a 3-day, 170-mile ride across Florida. So when the retired postal worker from Exeter, set out to ride his Trek Road Bike, which he nicknamed Trigger, to Florida it didn’t take him long to realize he had taken on a major challenge.
On the first day he struggled to get over Bear Creek Mountain, was chased by a pit bull, twisted his knee trying to get his foot out of the pedal clips and got stopped by a state trooper. He asked me where I was headed. When he stopped laughing, he told me to get off Rt. 33.
In Philadelphia, where he stayed with his son, he switched to mountain bike pedals.
In Georgia two dogs attacked him, grabbed his saddle bags and nearly pulled him over. How’d he get away? I just kept peddling.
On Christmas Eve near Maysville, North Carolina, with nowhere to go he stopped for a service at a Baptist Church. I told the pastor, I felt like Joseph looking for a manger.
Warabak hauled two pounds of military meals, MREs, with him courtesy of his friend and Lodge Brother Scott Grebeck. He also had a couple pounds of almonds and raisins in daily pouches and ate a lot of other stuff.
You have to load up on carbs, he said. Lots of pizza and pasta.
He stopped at a lot of Moose lodges where he was well fed. And of course, he said, when you stop at a lodge you have to have a beer or two. Even so, he lost 12 pounds on the trip.
At a North Carolina lodge he walked into a bar full of Moose Brothers, but during a tour of the lodge they all disappeared. When he inquired, he was told, They were out back for a sip of moonshine.
At each lodge he hit he was treated like family and he said, My money was no good.
Grebeck, West Pittston Lodge Administrator Bernie Cassetori and Bill Goldsworthy were among the West Pittston Lodge Brothers who followed Warabak on their smart phones.
They kept track of me and sent messages daily. All the Brothers were an inspiration. They pulled me right along, Warabak said.
At the end of the trip he was given a suite at Moose Haven. After a shower there was a knock on the door and it was Cassetori, who happened to be in Florida for a golf trip.
I was shocked, Warabak said. We went out to dinner.
December 9 – near Freemansburg, PA. Attacked hills to Bear Creek maxed out @ 38.1 mph on the other side One pitbull charged me crossing 2 lanes of traffic on dead run. No bites!
December 12 – near Kirkwood, PA. Good day on the road…no flats no rain. Arrived in Kirkwood PA staying with a host family. Pot pie and homemade Christmas cookies! Dry bed, family meal ‘n’ hot shower. Life is Good!
December 16 – near Rossmoor, MD. Happened to arrive at Lodge 1775 for their Christmas party, what luck. Like to thank Bob Lawson Administrator of 1775 for their hospitality and Emmit for setting me up on the grounds for the night. They did have my article from the Dispatch posted on their board…sweet!
December 21 – near South Suffolk, VA. Crossed the James River aboard the Pocahontas ferry. Howling winds and white caps Fought cross winds all day and punctured tire/tube. Bike shop tomorrow. Jesse Byrum of Lodge 141 Suffolk VA has been most gracious host with hot shower couch meal and generous contribution to Moose Haven. Felt very welcomed and at home. Thank-you Lodge 141
December 22 – near Tarheel, NC. Trigger at the Blacksmith having tube and Kevlar tire mounted. Rear hub and cassette disassembled for spoke replacement. I’m in better shape than Trigger…Lol
December 25 – near Wilmington, NC. A Christmas miracle happened to me tonight. Riding into Wilmington NC with Lodge 343 closed and having no lodging or meal plans as everything was closed, I was waved from a passing motorist to pull over. I discovered that the wife had cycled from Maine to Washington state and learning of my travels offered me to stay the night for laundry, shower a meal and lodging for the night. They are my Christmas Angels.
December 26 – near Silver Lake, NC via mobile. Moose Lodge 343 Administrator Jim Murphy arranged a fabulous hotel room at the Best Western nearby.
December 28 – near Carolina Shores, NC. Tune of the day I Feel Good, James Brown.
December 29 – near Garden City, SC. How do you say Thank You to Lodge 1959 when you walk thru the door and get a standing ovation?
January 1 – near Statesboro, GA. Tune of the day, Georgia on My Mind. Arrived in Statesboro only to find learn Lodge 1089 is open only on Saturdays. Great ride of 79 miles on desolate back roads.
Only negative was popping rear tire and tube late in the day. Thank goodness for duct tape to get me to bike shop. All is well… Doug
January 5 – near Yulee, FL.30 Miles from Moose Haven! Do You Believe It? After walking into Nassau Lodge 2352 in Yulee, FL unannounced, I met Gov. Ronald B. Cardin and Admin. Lou Slider.
The entire lodge was so excited for me. Let me say to the entire Moose Nation that the Brotherhood/Sisterhood of L.O.O. M. Is alive and well and has been and always will be a true family organization as Lodge 2352 provided me a hotel stay and breakfast this a.m.
As have so many other lodges and individuals along the way. My sincere Thanks
January 6 – near Yulee Heights, FL. No rain, no dogs, no wind, no hills, no sun, no rumble strips. No Problem! Jacksonville Skyline.