Story and photos by Derek Doeffinger
Mark C doesn’t look or talk crazy. He seems quite normal. But he has a problem. An incurable one. He can’t stop riding his bike. Even after riding tens of thousands of miles on an old Cannondale bike loaded down with gear, he just has to keep on pedaling. He’s been pedaling for three decades. He’s now 66.
When I spotted him on the towpath in Fairport he was standing beside his bike. One glance and I knew I was onto something. His bike looked like an exhausted pack mule overburdened with its three water bottles and seven dirt-splattered packs. But the actual mule carrying all this was Mark. He looked fit.
Like many solo travelers he didn’t mind talking. For a bit. I soon learned that Mark is a long distance rider who has made some crazy trips. This year’s journey may not be the craziest but it does faintly echo the travails of Lewis and Clark carrying (when not paddling) a collapsible and “modular” 690-lb iron framed canoe on their Corps of Discovery trip.
So this past spring when he headed west from Rhode Island and bicycled through our area on his way to Bozeman, Montana it wasn’t too big a deal. After all, he’s done it a few times before. In part, because it takes him by his original hometown of Charlotte (the shoreline town where the Genesee River empties into Lake Ontario).
On this trip he wanted to spice things up. After reaching Bozeman, he swapped his bike for a canoe. Well, actually, he didn’t swap it. He took it along. Took off the front wheel and put everything in a 17-foot canoe that he launched on the Missouri River in Montana and then paddled down to St. Louis. The Missouri River near St. Louis is where Lewis and Clark began their great discovery journey, heading up the river rather than down.
However, Mark’s main focus is pedaling. He said he has circumnavigated all the Great Lakes and all the Finger Lakes. But his greatest circumnavigation has been to pedal the entire perimeter (very roughly) of the United States. Over 16,000 miles.
He’s also done some hiking, including combining the International Appalachian Trail with the U.S. Appalachian trail and beyond. He started on the Gaspe Peninsula, Quebec and hiked to Key West. He started that hike in December.
I believe that was at least a decade ago, but I’m not sure of the timeline of his adventures. I wanted to get them straight, but I had already taken up much of his time. He was only a week or so away from home. Before I could find out why he started in winter and when that hike took place, he politely disengaged and said he had to be on his way.
As he was mounting his bike, I asked how many miles he had ridden in his life time. He looked back and said it was over 100,000. All on that well worn, 30-year-old Cannondale bike.