After earning a tennis scholarship to play for Holmes Community College, one of the first things Grey Tedford did was go to Walmart and buy a bicycle so he could get around the Goodman campus.
“I didn’t know how big the campus would be,” he said.
It wasn’t long before Tedford, 19, fulfilled the old proverb that necessity is the mother of invention.
This summer, the Bruce student is taking part in a one-man trek across the Southern Tier, a daunting adventure cycling route that runs from San Diego, Calif., to St. Augustine, Fla.
Donations collected during Tedford’s trip will go to the Amputee Coalition of America and the organization’s annual Paddy Rossbach Youth Camp held every July in Clarksville, Ohio.
The five-day camp experience is for children ages 10-17 who have lost arms or legs or who were born with limb differences. The average cost to send a child to the camp is $1,800.
“Obviously this is gonna be a very hard trip,” Tedford says from a cell phone in New Orleans where he has stopped for lunch. “I’ve already had 10 flats. I started off with racing tires which are thin. I put in liners to make them more resistant.”
Good tires aren’t the only thing powering Tedford’s 3,100-mile mission.
Both of Tedford’s parents are two of the more than 1.7 million Americans living with amputation. His father lost both legs and the fingers of his left hand to a vascular disease while his mother lost her right leg below the knee after developing a severe blood clot. Tedford says his grandmother also lost both legs to infection before her death.
“Growing up and seeing my dad lose limbs was devastating,” Tedford says.
Simple things like going to the bathroom or running errands are arduous tasks for amputees but Tedford says both his parents have learned to live with it.
“Who wouldn’t get down not being able to work or do stuff with their kids,” Tedford says. “I think it’s outstanding that my dad can walk around on his prosthetics without crutches. He fights through it.”
The tough terrain throughout the journey has taken its toll on Tedford but he fights through it, thinking of his dad as the miles pass.
“My body is super, super tired,” he says. “I try to go anywhere from 50-100 miles a day.”
Tedford’s customized $1,500 Allez bike was provided by an anonymous donor and continues to hold up its end of the trip except for the occasional flat tire. “I couldn’t afford a bike like that,” Tedford says. “I almost busted into tears.”
Temperatures as Tedford biked through Arizona climbed as high as 115 degrees and the sun drains him.
“There’s Devil’s Canyons in California and Arizona and they both sucked,” Tedford says. “It was beautiful but going 40 miles an hour down this humongous grade- it’s not the most fun thing to do. Changing flats out in the middle of the desert is not for me.”
Most nights, Tedford finds cyclist-friendly people to stay with using a website or by getting people to sponsor hotel rooms. Some nights, he finds campsites or anywhere along the road to rest.
“I ran into a full blown sandstorm and that scared the crap out of me,” Tedford says. The storm kicked up when he was five miles outside of Lordsburg, N.M.
“Cars were inching by me. They were all laughing at me and I gave them a thumbs up,” Tedford says. One compassionate motorist stopped to give Tedford a ride into the city and paid for his hotel room.
When he’s not meeting as many people as possible and sharing his story, Tedford manages very active Twitter and Instagram accounts, blogging and posting pictures from his trip and responding to his online followers.
If surviving the rigors of the heat, the terrain and errant roadside thorn bushes isn’t enough, the mischievous Tedford opted for a little extra adventure by detouring through the campus of Louisiana State University wearing a rival Ole Miss T-shirt.
Wherever the road takes him, every time he tightens his gloves and helmet and grips the handlebars, Tedford says he is thinking about both of his parents.
“I feel like God put me here to do stuff like this and I’m fulfilling his purpose,” he says.