Cyclist rolls through on 1,800 mile ride
Jim Whelan has been bicycling on cross-country excursions for the past 42 years, and was in Jackson County most of this week, making his way toward his destination of West Palm Beach, where he lives.
He stared his journey in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with 1,800 miles to roll on his way to South Florida.
His introduction to Jackson County, he said, was less than pleasant. He got a ticket in Cottondale that he plans to fight. He’ll fly back here to battle the $113 ticket he got for using active flashing red safety lights on his bike.
Although he quoted to the officer Florida statute that he felt made clear he had the right to have those lights on, the officer disagreed and wrote the ticket anyway.
The cost of the flight back will cost far more than the ticket itself, but Whelan said he feels it’s worth defending for his own peace of mind and on behalf of other cyclists that share the road with motorized vehicles.
Whelan said he’s had to battle more than this in his time on the road. He wears a shirt emblazoned with the words “Armed Cyclist,” and bearing the image of a handgun.
He said he does this in hopes that the sight will discourage people he calls “road rangers.” They’re a big problem for cyclists in his home area of Florida, he said. These individuals take aggressive and sometimes potentially dangerous actions to express their displeasure at having to share the road with bicycles.
Despite these unpleasant encounters, Whelan said he’s had unforgettably good experiences as a long-distance cyclist as well. One memory made at the Wyoming/Montana state line stands out in particular.
“It was about 1:30 a.m. and I was situated under a ledge,” Whelan said. “A pack of wolves were above me on the ledge, howling on a starlit night. There was a train right there and when it started moving, another pack joined them and started howling, too. I was texting with my daughter at the time and it was a great experience to be able to share with her there in real time.”
Whelan travels roughly eight to nine hours a day, and occasionally logs some nighttime rides along the way as well. He stays in local hotels and eats in restaurants on the road, contributing his bit to the economies of the communities he visits.