Nick Novotny knows the mental health of veterans isn’t something that’s top of mind for a lot of people.
But after his friend drank himself to death and his brother committed suicide, the U.S. Marine veteran said he had to do something.
“How do you get people to care about something. How do you get people involved in something? I feel like you have to do something that’s a little bit abnormal,” he said. “Not something you’d see every day. Biking across America sounds like it.”
Novotny was in Bend Friday, taking a break from a 4,000-mile journey – and taking a break from the heat.
He started last week in Tillamook, rode through the Willamette Valley during the heatwave, and conquered McKenzie Pass on Thursday.
“Nothing against you my fellow New Jerseyians, but people in Oregon are a lot kinder here,” he said. “Folks were stopping, asking if I needed water, even as I was going up the summit. It was really nice. I was like, of course.”
Novotny is riding a modified version of the TransAmerica Trail on a Cannondale road bike.
He’s only trained for about two and a half months and wasn’t able to get his bike until March.
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He hopes to raise $25,000; half going to the Wounded Warrior Project, which helps veterans and active-duty personnel with mental health support.
The other half will go to Curry’s family who is planning a Celebration of Life in Glenside, Pa., which Novotny plans to attend.
“So they can actually visit his memorial. Lay flowers down,” he said. “There’s going to be a bench there so people can have a drink in honor, I think that’s what James would want. He liked Jameson so maybe we’ll have a glass of Jameson together.”
Novotny plans to ride an average of 60 miles a day for 75 days to complete the cross-country journey, attend his friend’s life celebration, and raise awareness of military mental health issues.