I love a good challenge and when it's for a good cause then that's even better, so when Dan and Pascal reached out to us at Green Beret Coffee telling us of their monster challenge and why they were doing it, we wanted in.. Couple of calls later and we are proud to say we are keeping the guys fuelled with coffee (food is over rated) 😉😂
Without stealing their thunder, here is Stars & Spokes' story.
2 serving Royal Navy officers, 2 bikes, no support team, 35 days - 5000 km across the USA. Now that's a challenging expedition!
Pascal (L) and Dan (R)
In July 2022, Pascal and Dan (the two aforementioned Royal Navy officers) will cycle unsupported across the USA, from coast to coast. Departing the Pacific Ocean and arriving at the Atlantic Ocean, the pair will climb over the top of the Rockies, cross the Arizona desert in 50 degree heat, and dodge hurricanes in the Deep South. Each night, the pair will be sleeping under the stars in their sleeping bags, this is no luxury bike tour! An outline of their route can be found below.
Why? An excellent question! Beyond showcasing the mental and physical resilience that exists in the Royal Navy, the pair are raising funds and awareness for mental health in the Service, with all funds going directly to the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC). Having both served multiple frontline tours as Aircrew Officers, they've seen first hand the mental health impact operations can have on Service personnel and their families - they've set themselves a fundraising target of £10,000.
Personal Experience - Pascal
Like Dan, I joined the Royal Navy as an Aircrew Officer. We joined on the same day back in 2005, to first complete our year long officer training (think lots of leadership training, constant sleep deprivation and much running around muddy fields!), after which it was on to many years of flying training. During this period, I was lucky enough to be selected to fly attack helicopters, the aircraft type I eventually gained my wings on. Post wings, I then completed multiple years of frontline flying tours, in destinations such as: Afghanistan; Somalia; Sierra Leone; the Gulf and Far East. A career in the Armed Forces definitely tests you!
Whilst the primary role of an attack helicopter is fairly self-explanatory, to head into combat with a range of weapon systems at your disposal, all military aircraft have the secondary role of what we call MEDEVAC (medical evacuation of casualties). Irrespective of what mission you might be on, if someone needs life saving medical treatment then the nearest helicopter is immediately re-tasked to pick up that individual, and get them to the nearest medical facility. It's the quickest way to get help to those who need it most, the Air Ambulance Service applies exactly the same principles; that's why their helicopters are dispatched to the most urgent medical cases in the country.
Having been dispatched for such tasking myself, I've always found it to be deeply personal. Most military helicopters aren't huge in size, so when a casualty is brought onboard, the aircrew are only a matter of feet away from him/her. At that point, our job is to whisk the casualty off to the nearest hospital, at the very fastest speed the aircraft can manage. Speed is always of the essence; it can be a very tense situation.
Unfortunately, due to the life-threatening injuries these casualties have sustained, some don't make it and pass away during the flight. On such occasions, the overwhelming emotion I have felt is one of guilt, which I hadn't anticipated. The guilt of being present for the final moments of someone's life; someone who is a stranger to me, a random chain of events resulting in their life ending in my helicopter. Meanwhile, the family of this individual have no idea about their passing, they are likely 1000s of miles away. Probably going about their everyday life, counting down the days until their mum / dad / husband / wife / brother / friend is back in their arms. Except, that won't ever happen again, it's tragic.
Of course, within a matter of hours they will find out. A representative from the military will go to their door, and the news will be passed. This is clearly a crushing moment for any family, I can't imagine how my own 7 yr old daughter would react were she to find out she wouldn't ever see me again; that there would be no more hugs, no more reading of bedtime stories, no more riding bikes around the park together. You get the idea.
The mental health impact on families is huge, and can endure for decades. The Royal Navy Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC) works tirelessly with such families, to provide support for as long as it takes. Both Dan and I cherish our families, as I'm sure we all do. We wanted to use our ride to help get the necessary support to those who need it, in conjunction with the RNRMC - all funds raised from our ride go directly to the charity.
Training is in full swing, the pair average 750 km between them each week, which in turns requires for many, many Jaffa cakes to be eaten...As part of the training plan, the pair will undertake a 2000 km unsupported cycle from Lands End in John O'Groats (LEJOG) in July this year. This extended training ride will be completed in 13 days, and act as an excellent opportunity to test all equipment - all of which will be carried on their bike frames.
You can follow their progress at www.starsandspokes.com (includes a weekly blog), on Instagram @starsandspokes. To be a total legend and donate any spare change you might have, please head on over to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/starsandspokes