Rob Jones is traveling cross-country on pure leg power — prosthetic leg power, that is. The 28-year-old military veteran is biking more than 5,000 miles — from Bar Harbor, Maine, to San Diego, California, — with the goal of raising $1 million for injured veterans like him. Just 17 days in, Jones has raised more than $23,000.
“Finishing the trip is my number one priority,” Jones tells Yahoo Shine from the road in Salisbury, Connecticut, more than 400 miles into his ride “I want to have a worthwhile adventure, and hopefully, make a difference in other people’s lives.” Adding to the physical challenge of riding with two prosthetic legs is Jones's decision to make the journey on a traditional upright bike, rather than a hand-cycle or recumbent bike. He expects the trip to take about six months.
Jones has been chronicling his trip on Facebook and Twitter — and inspiring individuals along the way. “I think it’s pretty amazing,” Josh Merchant, mechanic at Landry’s Bicycles in Westboro, Massachusetts, tells Yahoo Shine. Jones stopped into the cycling shop this past Saturday to have a broken cleat repaired. Inspired by his fundraising ride, Merchant fixed the cleat on Jones’s prosthetic free of charge.
The story behind Jones's journey actually started in 2010, when he was deployed to Afghanistan as a combat engineer in the Marine Corps Reserve. On a mission searching for buried explosives, Jones suffered a serious injury that resulted in the amputation of both legs above the knee. While recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., cycling, running, and rowing were part of his rehabilitation. Encouraged by his success at rowing, Jones decided to train for the 2012 Paralympic Games in London and brought home a bronze medal with rowing partner, Oksana Masters, also a double amputee. (The two dubbed themselves "Team Bad Company.") “When you lose a body part or are badly injured, you need to regain your confidence in your abilities,” Jones tells Yahoo Shine. “By challenging yourself, you gain confidence.”
To date, the Rob Jones Journey Facebook page has garnered more than 1,400 likes and scores of encouraging comments, including “Rob thank you for serving and thank you for visiting our great town of Windsor Locks Connecticut. You are a true inspiration…!” and, “Good luck! We're honored to have you travel through East Canaan!” Jones’s brother, Steve Miller, is also long for the ride, following him in a truck outfitted with two sleeping cots, water, and food supplies. And local communities are showing their support, too. According to Jones, most nights on the road, he and his brother have either been invited to stay at a family's home or have been given a room at a hotel. One Massachusetts couple brought Jones to a Bruins game and he even received a police escort from the Connecticut State Police on day 16 of the trip.
Donations raised through Jones’s ride and the sale of “Team Rob” tees go directly to organizations that help veterans, including Ride 2 Recovery, a nonprofit that supports cycling programs at military and Veterans Affairs locations nationwide; the Semper Fi Fund, which provides financial assistance and lifetime support for injured and critically ill members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families; and Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, dedicated to providing support to troops severely wounded in Afghanistan or Iraq.