Mark Mansell gets ready to leave the High Peaks Campground in Newcomb on the morning of Thursday, Aug. 2 on his way to Ticonderoga.
Photo by Andy Flynn.
continued Pondering the idea, Mansell thought a bike ride across America could have meaning beyond a solo trek for the fun of it. So he began to think about his community service work with the Lions Club, and he thought about his students.
“The idea sort of rooted in my mind, and one thing led to another, and I’m always up for a good challenge,” Mansell said. “And what’s interesting as a school superintendent, as an educator, we challenge our kids all the time to do things, to push beyond their limits, but I wonder how many times as adults we do that ourselves. And so I thought, heck, why not give it a shot and see if I can do it. And the tie to the Lions and the leader dogs was a natural connection, and as they say, the rest is history.”
This wasn’t a personal trip for Mansell. He didn’t know anyone who had used a guide dog or had the experience of being blind.
“To hear the stories and to begin to know people who face those challenges, turn them into opportunities, has been very inspiring for me,” Mansell said. “So the personal piece that started was just the challenge to see if I could do that, to put yourself in a situation where you challenge what you think is possible. That’s what I was looking for, and what I found was that and so much more.”
What Mansell found was a beautiful America, one with spacious skies, amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesties. Yet it was those face-to-face encounters with strangers where he found the inner beauty of America, even as tragedies unfolded, such as the July 20 killing of 12 people in a Colorado movie theater.
“The scenery is wonderful, being out in the fresh air, but it’s the people, it’s the people in this country that are amazing,” Mansell said. “People have invited me into their home, they’ve stopped me alongside the road, they’ve asked me about what I’m doing. They’ve been tremendously kind, and with all the craziness that’s going on in the country and Colorado, to know that there are so many people that just are so unselfish and caring and excited about their communities and about life. It is just uplifting to me personally.”