A 1,156-mile road trip sounds daunting. How about doing it on a bike? On a Saturday morning in April, three Naples businessmen—Gordon Kellam, Colin Estrem and Glen Schwesinger—set out on their way to Washington, DC, each with two wheels under them, not four. Their goal was to meet with elected officials in the capital to raise awareness for the Gentle’men Against Domestic Violence initiative with The Shelter for Abused Women & Children. They stopped in cities along the way to chat with representatives from NFL teams and to encourage other men to pledge their commitment to the initiative, as well.
But, of course, no bike ride across the country could be without its foibles. We caught up with Kellam upon his return to find out what it really took to pedal those 1,156 miles.
How did the idea for the Ride for the Shelter come about?
The idea was a second phase of something that began a few years ago. Glen Schwesinger and I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2013 and dubbed it Climb for the Shelter. It was very successful, personally impactful, and we had always talked about doing something along the same lines at some point. Logistics and time played a big part in the list of ideas, and a bike ride seemed to be the most attainable concept. We also wanted to bring more awareness to Gentle’men Against Domestic Violence and its ability to be a national program and a national movement; to ask men to stand with women to address the problem and to teach young men and boys how to stop the process. A final destination of Washington, DC, seemed appropriate, especially without too many hills or mountains getting from A to B.
What was your training program leading up to the ride?
Lots of saddle time. Our goal was 5,000 miles before the send-off to make sure our legs and “seats” were ready and to ensure that we would not injure ourselves due to strain, fatigue or inability to react on the road. That’s 250 to 300 hours of on-the-bike training, and over the course of a year, we were about there.
What was the objective for the ride? What was the outcome?
The objective had several points. We wanted to show that even when things look impossible, even treacherous, perseverance and having the right support system and good decision making in place can get you to your goal. We wanted to raise awareness for our initiative, Gentle’men Against Domestic Violence, as it is not just a women’s issue. We wanted to raise funds for the Shelter’s initiatives, to support it locally and to allow for expansion and greater impact. We also wanted to meet with other communities and people of influence along our route to discuss our goals, our ride and the need for more attention to the preventative process—educating young men and boys to understand the issue and help be a part of the solution.
The outcome was overwhelmingly positive. We held up well, which was a nice reminder that you can do just about anything you put your mind to. We received an outpouring of support, both locally and across the country, thanking us for what we were doing, sharing their stories of abuse or those that it has affected, pledging their commitment to help, and showing us that the issue is rampant, affects everyone and needs attention. It was humbling.
Were there any standout moments from the ride? Good/bad/ugly?
Each day was like a new chapter of an epic book—suspense, drama, comedy, all wrapped into each 24 hours. We had one wipeout, one injury, six flat tires and an RV that needed some serious air freshener by the time we got to Virginia. We also were routed onto an old logging road in North Carolina, where we got stuck for five hours … got out of a real potential disaster on that one.
It was a big win getting in to see our Congressmen and the Office of the Vice President to discuss our initiative and the need for legislative support and change. The best moments were when people would pull us aside and say, “thank you for what you are doing”—suggesting that their lives have been affected by domestic violence and that what we were doing was making a real difference.
What upcoming Naples event are you looking forward to?
Summer in general sounds good to me. No adventures and time with my wife and two boys is goal No. 1.
When you aren’t working or volunteering, where can we find you in Naples on the weekend?
We all gather downtown together on the weekends if we can align the schedules, as we all have for years. For me, now with two boys who don’t sit still easily, we are out biking on the Greenway, at the parks, beach, boat, Zoo, Conservancy and anything else that keeps them moving! Thankfully, Naples has so many great places and things to do for families.
Read more about the guys’ adventure in their daily blogs from the road.
The Shelter for Abused Women & Children
Online | Facebook | Twitter