KINDER, La. — It’s been six weeks since Darryl Cloud of Sidney left San Diego, California, to bicycle across the United States to Parris Island in South Carolina. And those six weeks have been like no other six weeks Cloud has experienced.
Cloud checked in with the Sidney Daily News Saturday afternoon after arriving in Kinder, Louisiana.
“I’m doing much better than expected,” said Cloud. “My biggest disappointment has been my slow progress because of the hills and the wind.”
Cloud has traveled 1,500 miles in Boot Camp to Boot Camp trip, which began Aug. 15 when he left the Marine Boot Camp in San Diego, California. After a journey of approximately 2,460 miles, he will arrive at the other Marine Boot Camp in Parris Island, South Carolina.
“I left San Diego six weeks ago today (Saturday),” said Cloud. “I’ve got about 900 miles to go.”
Cloud said he’s met a lot of challenges during the trip. And some of them have been a surprise to him.
“The endless hills of Texas took me by surprise,” said Cloud, who is a U.S. Marine veteran of the Vietnam War. “It was like an endless roller coaster.”
Cloud said the endless hills took an emotional and physical toll on him.
“I had been hoping to be doing 45 to 60 miles every day,” said Cloud. “I’ve only been doing 30 miles a day which has but into my time to get to South Carolina. I was originally scheduled to be in South Carolina within the next week. It’s going to be another three to four weeks now.
“But I still have a smile on my face,” said Cloud of his journey, which is being made in support of the Semper Fi Fund. The ride is dedicated to U.S. Marine Maj. Lawrence “Larry” Helberg of southeastern Ohio. He never made it home from Vietnam and is still considered Missing in Action.
Cloud said his journey said his experience of meeting the people of the United States is something he’ll never forget.
“I’ve been in situations where there’s been divine intervention and people will show up and divert me from potential danger,” said Cloud. “I’ve been amazed by the kindness of people. If I’ve broken down and an fixing a tire, people will stop and make sure I have everything I need.
“People just want to make sure I’m OK. It’s been about split 50/50 between the genders of people who stop to help.”
The heat of the Western U.S., he said, hasn’t bothered him on the trip.
“I was expecting it to be hot,” said Cloud. “I’ve always been able to handle the heat well.”
One segment of the trip was the longest for him — 66 miles of nothing but sand in the Imperial Sand Dunes in Southern California.
“I did that at night,’ said Cloud, “because if was safer temperature wise. Looking back on it, I’d never do it again.”
Cloud said he hasn’t camped out as much as he thought he would because of the extreme heat. He opted to stay in hotels to recover each night from the severe temperatures.
“I slept out in the desert,” said Cloud. “By midnight, it was very comfortable. Around 9:30-10 each night, the temperatures would start dropping.”
He said he hasn’t seen very many animals on his journey.
“I’ve not encountered anything negative with people or animals,” he said.
There was one chance encounter with a snake in the desert, he said.
“I startled a young diamondback rattlesnake,” said Cloud. “We had a stare down and I asked it to please get out of my way and he did. It was about 2 feet long.”
Cloud had planned ahead with his trip and shipped packages to various people along his route.
“That worked out well, but I’ve stopped doing it for the most part,” said Cloud. “I’m able to top by a Walmart to get what I need, which I wasn’t expecting to be able to do.”
He said portions of the trip have been in survival mode.
“I’ve been in dead survival mode where I pedal to get someplace to sleep and then do it all over again the next day,” he said.
Cloud said he’s thankful for the flat land he’s found in Louisiana.
“It’s very humid here,” he said, “and it feels like Ohio. It’s in the low 90s with a lot of humidity.”It was 117 to 119 degrees in the desert,” he said. “Here with 92 with the humidity, it’s a whole new ballgame. I’ve been drinking lots of water. I’m able to carry 2 to 3 gallons on my bike.”
Cloud said during portions of his trip, there would be 30 to 50 miles between cities. Now cities pop up every 15 to 20 miles.
“There was one stretch were halfway through the desert there was a town,” said Cloud. “I didn’t realize everything was open seasonally with the dune buggy season, which is October to March. From April to September, the town is shut down.”
So instead of finding a restaurant open, the only store open was a gas station.
“I had a ‘Little Debbie’ and water for lunch,” he said.
Though Cloud researched his trip, and the route he was going to take, he said the actual journey has been different than he had expected.
“I was stunned on how much I missed in preparation for the trip,” he said. “I studied everything like you would a post doctorate thesis.
“I’m 98 percent confident the worst is behind me,” said Cloud. “I’m going to ride the coast to Pensacola and then go through the hills of southern Georgia. It will be relative flat ground and I’m hoping to get back into the 5o to 60 to 70 mile days.
“My boss (at Concrete Sealants) has said ‘take your time and do it right,’” said Cloud of the remainder of his journey. “It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve never lost focus that this is not about me, but helping other people.”
His goal for the trip is to raise $90,000, which will be used to purchase six “Action Trackchairs” or “Action Trackstanders” for disabled veterans. Each unit costs $15,000.
Cloud’s blog can be followed at http://bootcamptobootcamp.blogspot.com/. He is also on Facebook with his personal account, Darryl Cloud.
Donations via a credit card for fundraiser can be made at https://fundraising.semperfifund.org/fundraise?fcid=399234. Donations can also be sent to Cloud and should be made out to “Semper Fi Fund.” His address is 735 Stratford Drive, Sidney OH 45365.
The Semper Fi Fund is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing immediate financial support for injured and critically ill members of U.S. Armed Forces and their families.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.