Randy Ward’s Big Adventure
Local residents who truly know FedEx delivery man Randy Ward are familiar with his passion for running. However, what residents may not know is that passion is only rivaled by his love of travelling and motorcycles.
This summer, the 59-year-old State Line man coupled his passion for travelling and motorcycles with a cross-country trek that took him through the lower 48 states via BMW motorcycle in a brief 26 days.
According to Ward, even before his trip got under way on June 21, his plans drew a lot of attention from customers on his FedEx route, family and friends. In the days since his return, the attention has continued to mount with requests for interviews coming from various newspapers and even a motorcycle magazine based out of Ohio.
Sitting down with the “News” last week, Ward said the journey was initially intended to be a retirement trip for himself and his wife. However, with things coming together more quickly than anticipated, she gave him the nod of approval to make the trip alone. Following a year of planning and plenty of consultation with friends on how to map out the route, Ward packed up the bare necessities that included rain gear, riding pants and jacket and several changes of T-shirts, and hit the road.
Closely monitoring his daily expenses, Ward said he primarily stayed at Super 8 motels along the way, and at each new motel would find himself explaining his journey to staff and verifying the story with receipts. Eighteen stays earned him two free nights.
In addition, a longtime group of motorcycle friends along with McConnellsburg resident Helen Overly made sure Ward left home with more than $1,000 in his pocket for gasoline, and some friends made along the way covered his meals after hearing about his big adventure.
“I’ve never met a stranger. I can sit down and talk to anyone,” said Ward, who has been riding motorcycle since age 14. He cited a particular instance where he stopped by a restaurant in Washington state while wearing a Penn State University hat. A fellow customer approached Ward and introduced himself as a native of Pennsylvania and Penn State alumni. As a result of that brief connection or encounter, the man secretly paid for Ward’s meal before departing the restaurant.
“That sort of thing happened every day,” said Ward, who said the trip turned out to be a “big deal for a lot of people” he met along the road. A family in Kansas even picked him up and took him to the closest town for a meal because they were fearful he would be stuck in the rain.
Fortunately for Ward, weather turned out to be in his favor. He only encountered 45 minutes of rain and never had to don his rainwear. Temperatures ranged from a low of 45 degrees in Tioga Pass, Calif., to 130 degrees in Death Valley, which spans a total of 135 miles from end to end.
“In 26 days I never saw a threatening sky,” he stated. “The weather was just absolutely off the charts. Ward noted the trip was definitely not a “glamour trip” as he was on the road each morning by 6:15 a.m. and done no later than 6:30 p.m. He emphasized he never rode one mile at night to avoid any possible encounters with moose, elk and bear. Coincidentally, his daily riding itinerary is not much different than a normal work day at FedEx. Ward’s 30-year career with the company has seen him log more than 1 million miles.
“It’s just a great trip to do by yourself. I had a blast,” he said. “... There were 10,400 things in the positive column (referencing miles logged), and only four or five in the negative column.”
Ward’s dreams of visiting the Pacific Northwest were fulfilled on the ride, as he added an additional 1,500 miles to his route in order to thoroughly take in California, Oregon and Washington state. Among those miles were 400 miles of scenic coastline.
“I did everything that I wanted to do. If a sign said scenic drive, I took it,” he said. “It was the first time, since I was a teenager, that I didn’t know what day it was, and I didn’t care.”
“The Pacific Northwest was definitely my favorite part of the trip. The green, the fern, the moss, the crystal clear water – it’s beautiful country,” stated Ward, who added his lifelong dream of seeing a mountain lion was fulfilled as well. Rounding a bend in the roadway at Mount St. Helens, Ward spotted an animal with a long tail. He pulled his motorcycle over where he thought the animal crossed into the forest and cut his motorcycle’s engine. To his surprise, the mountain lion stood broadside only 15- to 20-feet away. He stole glances out of the corner of his eye and refrained from staring or making sudden movements.
“In two leaps it would have been on me,” he said.
Even though he spent 26 days touring the lower 48, Ward is positive he could have easily shortened his trip. “You wouldn’t have wanted to bet me, but I bet I could have done it in 17 days,” he added.
Sad that the journey was over but happy to return home to his family and friends, Ward said he hopes his big adventure serves as encouragement for others to “get up off their butts and live life.”