CEDAR RAPIDS — Mark Patton has started retracing the steps of famed explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.
But instead of using horses or boats to make his way from St. Louis to the coast of Oregon — as Lewis and Clark did from 1804 to 1806 during their journey to map newly acquired western territory — Patton is going by bike.
“When the sky is blue and the grass is green and the wind is on your back, there’s nothing better than being on your bike,” he said.
Patton, 64, said he decided to attempt the trip — which he is self-funding — before he retires from his position as executive director of Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity in Iowa City. The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail extends about 3,700 miles, according to the U.S. National Park Service.
Patton’s goal for the trip is to raise $35,000 to build a Habitat for Humanity home in the Iowa City area around Thanksgiving 2017, in honor of his parents and in-laws. So far, Patton said about $17,500 has either been pledged or donated.
Patton completed the initial stretch of his journey from May 29 to June 9. It covered more than 950 miles between St. Louis and Chamberlain, S.D. Patton said the trip was very demanding and was unable to make it to his initial end goal of Pierre S.D.
Brad Langguth, a former board member of Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity, joined Patton for the last 300 miles from Council Bluffs to Chamberlain to “support a friend and a great cause.”
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Patton said he plans to complete the ride in two segments over the next two years. But after experiencing difficulties with the heat and wind, he said he will probably set out again sometime next May or September
Patton said he enjoyed the opportunity to see what Lewis and Clark might have seen more than 200 years ago, as well as seeing the country and meeting new people.
“Sometimes it’s better to see this country slowly and see nature and smell the odors of agriculture and chat with people in small town cafes and restaurants,” Patton said. “I’ve always known that we get into too big a rush and we don’t take the time to smell the flowers along the way. Bicycling allows you to do that.”
To learn more about Patton’s trip or to pledge for the cause, visit iowavalley habitat.org.