Couple hits the road on their tandem bike to help wounded warriors

PORTLAND, Ore. - A retired couple from Boise, Idaho, has embarked on a nearly 4,000-mile cross-country journey and they're raising money for wounded warriors along the way.

Darrel and Roseann Mooney just recently set off on a four-month tandem bicycle ride that will take them from Washington state to Washington, D.C. Through sponsors and other donations, they're helping out Comfort for America's Uniformed Soldiers (Cause), which provides services for military men and women who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"They're so unique compared to some of these other organizations that provide services for warriors because they focus on their spirit and what's in between the head," said Roseann.

Cause has been around for a decade and is well known in the Washington, D.C. area, but not so much in our neck of the woods. They help wounded warriors during their recovery process by providing entertainment, recreation and relaxation.

"There's a period of time when the care is pretty much over and until they can get out of the hospital, they have nothing to do," said Roseann. "They're just laying around, they can't afford to have their families visit or they just feel awkward returning into society."

The Mooneys, who are both military veterans (they served as dentists in the Army and Darrel is also a West Point graduate), had been wanting to bike across the United States for a while. They heard about Cause through some friends and decided why not help raise some money for their fellow soldiers and veterans along the way.

"I think most Americans have a real connection to it (helping soldiers) because they are so grateful for what they do and want to do something (to give back)," said Roseann.

They started off in Fort Lewis, Wash., on June 30 and this past week made their way through Portland, Ore. We caught up with them at a bike shop where they were getting a repair that would keep them moving.

"How lucky that we broke down in Portland of all places," said Roseann. "Bike central."

Darrel and Roseann Mooney pose for a photo on Tuesday, July 2, 2013, at a bike shop in Portland, Ore. Photo by Shannon L. Cheesman,

The couple told us they are already getting a lot of positive reactions from folks out on the road - lots of honking, waving and people wanting to know how they can help wounded warriors.

"People are just coming up and throwing money at us," said Darrel.

"One lady was just crying and she's like 'I want to give you something.' And we said 'well, you can go to the website.' And she was like 'no, you're doing this for wounded warriors - I just want to give you something.' And she gave us $10," said Roseann.

"And then there was another guy that kind of followed us on his bike for awhile," she added. "And all of a sudden we drive by and he goes 'will you take this?' And I said 'well, wait - let me get your name so I can get you a receipt or here's a card.' He said 'I don't have a computer. Don't worry about it. Just take this.' It's really interesting how people are just reaching out."

That was just a few days into their ride - they still have thousands of miles to go and more folks to meet along the way.

Map courtesy of Cause.

The Mooneys are taking the scenic route - staying off major highways and keeping to the back roads, except for one small stretch where it can't be helped. The two don't have any doubts about making it the whole distance. They've done 500-mile bike rides before and to them, this is just eight of those strung together. But there is one part of the trek that does concern them a bit.

"It's the Appalachian Mountains that we're worried about," said Roseann. "They're just straight up and down, straight up and down. And we got a little taste of that riding all of the back roads between Chehalis (in Washington state) and St. Helens (in Oregon). We just kind of followed country roads and it was those rolling hills."

And what about the bike they're riding? Does a tandem recumbent bike make it easier? In some ways yes and in other ways, no.

"A recumbent bike is harder uphill regardless what you have - a tandem or a single - because you can't get your body weight over the top of it," said Roseann. "So you don't get that pushing that you would normally get. But it's a lot easier on the shoulders and the wrists and it's very comfortable to ride. We're not tired from sitting in the seat at all after a day - just our legs, our legs are tired."

Photo courtesy Doyle Doss.

We asked the couple what they are looking forward to most on the ride and Roseann said "I think Darrel coined it well - you know, seeing America at 10 miles an hour is going to be so nice because you can talk to people and visit. And I think that's going to be the best part of it."