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IU graduate’s cross-country bike trip on hold

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Zach Tobias’ cross-country bike trip has hit a snag.

Tobias, who began his journey April 13 in Surf City, North Carolina, made it to Indiana on May 6. He originally planned to stay for a few days with his mother and stepfather in Columbus, but last week, decided to remain here a little longer.

Having lost about 20 pounds, Tobias will try to regain a little of his weight and strength before resuming his 3,500-mile trip in August.


“He needs to gain a little weight back before he takes off again,” said his stepfather, Columbus East softball coach Sonny Stahl.

After graduating from Indiana University last year, Tobias, 22, has spent most of his time since then working five jobs in Bloomington, including three as a personal trainer. He gave them up to make his cross-country voyage.

“I had them all so I could save up enough to do the trip,” Tobias said.

When Tobias left from Surf City, he planned to walk the whole way. But after six 30-mile walking days took him only as far as Raleigh, N.C., he decided biking would be faster.

Tobias plans to run part of the way and is hoping to kayak through part of the Rockies.

“I was looking for a crazy adventure,” Tobias said. “It’s been a year since I’ve been out of college, and I wanted to do something wild and crazy, and I wanted to inspire people to be more active in their daily lives. I studied exercise science, so I figured ‘What better way than to do some crazy exercise trip across the country?’”

The trip has had a couple of bumps along the way. Tobias blew two tubes on his bike in a span of three days, including one where he was 10 miles out of Bristol, Virginia, and it started raining. After getting the tire fixed, he encountered hail.

“I’ve had terrible luck,” Tobias said.

Tobias figures he’s covered about 700 of the 3,500 miles. When he resumes, he plans to head north.

“I didn’t want to go through the Midwest completely because I figured it would be kind of boring, so I’m going up to South Dakota and Wyoming,” said Tobias, who uses his cell phone for maps and directions. “It’s odd right now that we’re having cooler temperatures. I’ll stay here for the heat of the summer, then head out when it gets a little bit nicer.”

On his bike, Tobias carries a backpack with a water system and two bags on the sides of his bike, along with a sleeping bag and tarp and a small bag of mechanical supplies needed to fix the bike.

For energy, he carries granola bars, oatmeal and peanut butter. He started with a small stove and items he could cook for meals, but plans to leave that here and instead buys food at gas stations, stores or fast-food restaurants.

Tobias usually begins his biking days around mid-morning.

“It depends how sore I am from the day before,” Tobias said. “When I first started, I would go at 8 (a.m.). More recently, I’ve been doing 9 or 10. I’ve been sleeping a little bit more just to rest because I put a lot of miles in day after day.”

Those days are usually finished by 6 or 7 p.m., when he starts looking for a place to spend the night.

“At about 7 (p.m.), I start knocking on doors,” Tobias said. “I tell them what I’m doing. I say ‘I’m traveling across the country. I need a place to stay for the night. Can I set up my tent in your yard?’ It’s worked every single time so far.

“If the weather is bad, I stay in a motel — the cheapest one I can find,” he said. “Then, if I have friends that are in certain towns, I’ll go through those towns so that I can stay with friends. It’s worked out great so far.”

Tobias hopes to finish in October in Eureka, California. He plans to settle in the Bay Area and find a job related to his major of exercise science.

“I have all kinds of time,” Tobias said. “I’m kind of meandering through the states. I figure it’s probably going to be about two or three more months.”

In the meantime, Tobias has landed a coaching job for the summer with Rising Star Gymnastics in Bloomington.

“I was just going over there to volunteer, and they offered me a position,” Tobias said. “So I’m going to go over there and get some experience and rebuild a little bit.”

Tobias, who played soccer and ran cross-country and track at Danville High School, began doing gymnastics last year on IU’s club team.

“I fell in love with it,” Tobias said. “My main priority coming out of this trip is to get back into competing. It’s my passion, so that’s what I want to continue to do.”

Stahl and Tobias’ mother, Veronica, who have been together for 10 years and married for four years, think about Zach’s safety when he’s making his trip.

“I was a little better with it than his mom was,” Stahl said. “His mom was pretty worried about it, especially him being by himself. When he’s out on the road like that, you worry all the time, but you say your prayers and hope for the best.”

But the experience for Tobias so far has been entirely positive.

“Everyone has been incredible,” Tobias said. “I haven’t met a single mean person or strange person yet. Everyone has been so nice, so friendly, helpful. It’s been awesome. My faith in humanity has definitely been restored.”

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