By Dwight Sparks
The Clemmons Courier
That curiosity you may have seen — a man biking across Southwest Forsyth County pulling a cart of rocks — is planning a really long summer trip.
Dr. Doug Gardner is bracing himself for a 4,200-mile trek across America from Oregon to Virginia. He has been training after work and on weekends, biking from his home on Fraternity Church Road, looping through the back roads across the countryside, getting ready for the trans-America bike ride sponsored by Ride for Jim.
The ride, now in its second year, honors the memory of Dr. James (Jim) D. Popp, who died of cancer in the summer of 2007 in Florida.
Popp was Gardner’s college roommate at the University of Richmond. Both went into medicine. Gardner is a pediatrician at Forsyth Pediatrics Westgate. He didn’t learn of his old roommate’s death until he read about it in an alumni magazine. They were fraternity brothers at college.
“It was a shocker to me to learn he was dead,” Gardner said.
Friends established the James D. Popp Student Research Fund to offer a fellowship to first-year medical student performing cancer related research. The founders hope that the fund will lead its recipients towards a specialty in oncology incorporating cancer research with patient care.
The Ride for Jim is part of the fund-raising effort for the fund. Gardner couldn’t join the bike ride last year, but he is helping lead it this year.
For Gardner, 49, it will be an often grueling 58 days of serious biking, seeking to go 80 miles a day.
He has equipped his bike with a pull-behind scooter weighted with rocks to build his endurance.
His son, Jordan, 18, who will graduate from high school this month in Salem, Oregon, will also make the trip with three other bikers.
“I thought it would be a good male bonding thing to ride across America and have a lot of time together,” Gardner said.
He used to do a lot of biking. “I had taken a long hiatus, and I’ve been riding a lot to get ready for this.
I’ve always wanted to get back to it, and this has sort of forced my hand.”
They are following the same path taken by the Bikecentennial route taken in 1976, winding through Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and Virginia. Gardner plans to “bend” the path, however, dipping into North Carolina.
“The route comes through here,” he said. “We’re going to bend the route a little and hope my wife can host a reception for us.”
She will have plenty of time to get ready.?The bike ride begins June 4. Gardner will fly to Oregon to begin the trek.
He said he is prepared for some days to be exhilarating and others … not as much. They will bike through Yellowstone, the Tetons … and lots of less thrilling places. “I have days at work like that too,” Gardner said.