Ever wonder what it would be like to ride a bicycle across America? Weatherford's Kaye Jordan doesn't.
The Gold Star mother recently completed that very journey from San Diego to New York as part of a Legacies Alive challenge. The goal was to meet and connect with as many Gold Star Families as possible while on her way into One World Trade Center, where the 9/11 Memorial resides.
Kaye was riding for her son, Army Pfc. Austin Staggs, who was 19-year-old when he and five other soldiers in his unit were killed by a Taliban sleeper agent posing as a police trainee in Afghanistan's Nangarhar Province on Nov. 29, 2010.
As her journey began she left one day early - June 9 - the birth date of Austin's son, Kallen who is 9.
"Kallen was there when we started the challenge on June 10, and he was there when we finished all 3,700 miles on September 16," Kaye said.
The idea for the challenge came when Kaye spoke to Legacies Alive founder Mike Viti about letting a Gold Star Family member take part in a challenge.
"He asked me, ‘What can you do?'" Kaye said. "I told him I could ride a bike. He asked, ‘Do you want to ride from San Diego to New York?' I said sure."
The 98-day journey began in the early summer. Kaye said most days she and riding partner Michael Perich, 66, also a Gold Star Family member, would hit the road by 4:30 a.m. and to avoid the heat in eastern California and Arizona.
"One morning we began riding with our jackets on, the temperature was in the 40's," Kaye said. "By noon it was 113."
She said when they first began they'd ride 22-25 miles a day but gradually increased as time went on.
Along her journey, she connected with 24 Gold Star Families and countless veterans.
"I wanted to make sure they were okay," Kaye said of the Gold Star Families. "This is not easy. I've come to hate November. So, what am I going to do on the 29th? I'm going to ride my bike 60 miles. Ten miles for Austin and each of his five brothers killed that day."
On her trek, Kaye went out of her way to visit Fort Campbell, Kentucky where Austin received his training. On that part of her journey, she was met with several obstacles including ravenous dogs that pursued the duo; a closed road; and finally a rainstorm that followed them for 15 miles.
"I just turned it into a positive," Kaye said. "I wasn't going to let it stop me. I just thought about Austin and all of the hardships he endured; I was getting a little piece of that.”
As she and Perich rode into Washington D.C, the pair were able to lay the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, an emotion time for Perich who's son body was never recovered from a ship lost at sea.
The distance the two traveled had gradually began to increase between 50 and 100 miles each day.
“Kallen was able to ride with us at the end of the trip in New York," Kaye said. "He'll never forget this. I didn't want to come home. It's tough to get off your bike go back to a normal life again. But, then I thought how hard it must be for our veterans to come home and resume a normal life. It was hard for me - can you imagine how hard it is for them?"
Kaye said she knew she would always finish.
"It was too important not to finish," she said. "It was in my heart - the reason for doing it. I'm proud of Austin and don't want him or any of our military who have given the ultimate sacrifice, to be forgotten."
Lance Winter: 817-390-7274
Ride with Kaye
On Wednesday, Nov. 29 Kaye will be riding 60 miles in memory of her son Austin and his five fallen brothers. If you wish to join her assemble at American Concrete at 8:30 a.m. For more information call 817-988-2202.