By this time next week, ABC-7 reporter Paul Meincke will celebrate completing a lifelong dream. On Tuesday, he expects to complete a coast-to-coast ride, pedalling 3,872 miles since June 3.
"What a way to see the country," he proclaims in a phone interview from Wooster, Ohio, after a second straight day of riding more than 100 miles and reaching the 3,000-mile mark.
While the ride is a dream come true, he also has made it a fundraiser for the Northwest Suburban Boy Scout Council, based in Mount Prospect.
Meincke is a former Scoutmaster of Troop 6 in Des Plaines and a Venture Crew Advisor, and he currently serves on the council's executive committee. As of last week, his daily blog and fundraising efforts have raised more than $2,000 for the council's general operating budget.
"It's not the main reason I'm doing this," Meincke says, "but I thought, 'If I'm going to do it, why not do it for a cause.'"
He's not doing it alone. Meincke is making the ride with a bicycle touring company called America By Bicycle, which provides support and gear stops every 50 miles and have vans filled with food and equipment that follow the pack of 11 riders.
Marie Diffley of Schaumburg, president of the Northwest Suburban Council, says the benefits of Meincke's ride go beyond the monetary gains.
"Paul embodies everything we try to teach the boys," Diffley says, "including perseverance, endurance and the value of being prepared. It's about doing your best and accepting a challenge."
On the day Meincke and I spoke, he described the challenge of conquering 100 miles of rolling hills. While he did feel stronger than when he started out West, he had to ride through the mountains and battle the high altitude. He admitted it was grueling.
"It does test your mettle," he said.
Perhaps little known to his television viewers, Meincke is an avid cyclist who has been riding long distance since he took it up with his brother back in the '70s. Together, they rode several 100-milers, and five years ago did the first leg of this cross-country ride.
This year, the timing was right and he was able to string together four weeks of vacation, with a four-week leave from his work in the TV newsroom, to attempt the grueling ride.
Meincke also uses his free time to file his blog and interview some of his colleagues on a camera he brought. He can't spend that much time away from reporting, he says.
Next week, when they reach New Hampshire, they plan to do a ceremonial wheel dipping in the Atlantic, just like they did in the Pacific when they started back in San Francisco.
"The reward is not just seeing the country from a bicycle seat," he says. "It's about meeting the people and getting to know them."
To learn more about Meincke's trek and follow his last few days, visit http://prm777.wix.com/crosscountryride.