Theodore Hale, a sophomore criminal justice major at Sinclair, combined his love of cycling and love for nature to develop an Honors Experience Project for HUM 1135: Environmental Ethics.
Hale mapped out a 150-mile bicycle excursion through southwest Ohio and along the New River Gorge National River of West Virginia. He calculated the cost for the two-day trip to be $200, then raised the funds on his own to complete the trek.
“I selected West Virginia not only because of its close proximity to Ohio, which made the journey much more viable, but also because West Virginia offers some of the most amazing scenery and backcountry in the United States,” Hale said. “I also selected West Virginia because of the ability to travel aboard the Amtrak Cardinal directly from Cincinnati, the closest passenger rail station to Dayton.”
The opportunity for Hale to connect to nature helped connect the journey to his class. He cycled past a wide array of natural resources, including rivers, trees, rock formations and coal mines, and reflected on it in an essay and powerpoint presentation.
“I came up with the idea for the journey during the second week of the course, when we were learning about American environmentalist John Muir, who walked from Indiana to Florida to personally connect with nature,” Hale said. “I realized that while it would be much too difficult to follow Muir’s exact route, I could still connect with nature on a smaller scale, while incorporating my favorite hobby of bicycling.”
After waking to a 20-degree morning on Nov. 9, Hale left his home in Kettering and rode to Cincinnati. At 3:30 a.m. Nov. 10, he caught the Amtrak train from Union Terminal in Cincinnati to Prince, West Virginia arriving at 10 a.m.
Although an avid cyclist, Hale had never ridden such roads as the winding mountainous region offered him. At one point the incline rose 1100 feet over a three-mile span.
“Although the climb lasted a seemingly interminable 45 minutes, I successfully completed the steep ascent without ever dismounting from my bicycle!” Hale states.
He then cycled past the small towns of Mount Hope and Glen Jean, before pedaling through woodlands to the small village of Thurmond, West Virginia. With a population of five people, Thurmond is marked with merely a post office and a visitor center. Once in Thurmond, Hale began backtracking his trip following the same roads to Prince.
Along the way Hale noted the extremes in the environment he was experiencing. He was surprised by the rough-hewn train tunnel that cut through the mountains and shocked by viewing the coal mines in action.
From the breathtaking beauty of the New River Gorge Bridge and the astonishment of the ‘falling rock’ caution signs, Hale was inundated with new experiences from a state he had never before visited.
“The neatest thing I saw on the journey was the gorgeous New River winding sinuously through the valley below the surrounding mountains,” Hale said.
Hale rode the Amtrak train from Prince back to Cincinnati arriving in the early morning of Nov. 11. After a brief nap at the home of a friend, once again Hale mounted his bicycle riding from Cincinnati to his home in Kettering.
Hale considers traveling by Amtrak for the first time, a desire he’s had since early childhood, the feelings of accomplishment that came from climbing the mountainous terrain and earning credit for the class for all of the cities he cycled through as the highlights of his journey.
“Theo is a young man who exemplifies the tenacity and persistence of the Appalachian spirit,” Nora Stanger, Appalachian Outreach Coordinator said. “We here in the Student Affairs department are proud of you!”
While Hale enjoyed the journey and wouldn’t mind repeating it in the future, he plans on a whole new adventure for August 2022, using his knowledge and experience of the Amtrak.
He aspires to travel with one of his closest cycling friends Glenn Stoops to Independence Pass near Aspen, Colorado. Independence Pass is the highest paved road in the entire United States, towering at over 16,100 feet in elevation.
“The main purpose of the trip will be to allow Stoops to achieve his lifelong dream of cycling Independence Pass, and for us to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of our cycling friendship with an experience of a lifetime,” Hale said.