But for a stranger’s kindness, Paul Gant’s trans-America fund-raising cycle ride would have ended 20 miles short of its 4,447 mile target.
Paul, a Bury St Edmunds CID detective raising money for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices, had cycled into the southern edge of Hurricane Sandy. Having been warned it was coming he realised he was racing against time to beat it.
“I ended up having to do the final leg of 374 miles in two days, when I was averaging just over 100 miles a day,” he said.
But battered by strong winds and truly torrential rain he was on the point of giving up when on Highway 199 a man stopped his car ahead of him. Paul asked directions to Yorktown but the man insisted on leading him there and through the town. He even phoned a hotel owning friend to book him a room.
In exposed places, he drove alongside Paul to shelter him from the wind that threatened to topple him off his bike.
At Bury Leisure Centre, where he did much of his training, he said: “If it hadn’t been for him, I wouldn’t have made it. How gutted would I have been if I’d had to give up?”
The man he only knew as Tommy was the last in a long list of Americans who helped him, often giving him rooms and food.
“I met so many great people over there,” he said. “It was the experience of meeting those people that made it such a great adventure.”
It started when having done Land’s End to John o’Groats in 2010 he was looking for a bigger challenge and found out about the Trans-America Cycle Route. Leisure Centre personal trainer Aaron Mucculloch helped him get fit and, now, Abbeycroft Leisure, who run the centre, has promised to add to the £1,750 he has so far raised by donating the £12 membership joining fee during its 12 Days of Christmas promotion.
Paul chose EACH in memory of his friend Lorna Prouse’s daughter Ella, from Gedding, who died of brain tumours a few days before her seventh birthday. To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/paul-gants-transamerica