Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • Pedaling south: Man riding bike to Gulf to raise awareness

  • From where the Mississippi River is nothing more than a trickle, to where the mighty waterway empties into the Gulf of Mexico. That is how far Steve Matchett is planning to pedal his bike.
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  • From where the Mississippi River is nothing more than a trickle, to where the mighty waterway empties into the Gulf of Mexico. That is how far Steve Matchett is planning to pedal his bike.
    If you ask Matchett how long his solo journey will take, he points to the back of his safety yellow jersey where it says: Traveling at the speed of Steve.
    “I’m shooting for the third week of August,” said Matchett, adding his trip will only end when he literally runs out of pavement at the furthest point south he can ride in the state of Louisiana without getting wet. “But it will be however long it takes.”
    While not attempting to set any speed records, that doesn’t mean Matchett lacks a sense of urgency. The driving motivation behind the long trip is to raise awareness regarding bone marrow registration.
    “When you get registered you may get the chance to save a life,” he said. “This whole thing is about saving lives.”
    Matchett was motivated to take action after his former boss, Rick Hendrick, a successful businessman and owner of Hendrick Motorsports, was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia in November 1996.
    “I broke down and cried when I heard the news,” said Matchett.
    Matchett adds that he had a ringside seat to watch Hendrick’s efforts to encourage people to become a bone marrow registrant. In 1997, Hendrick began the Hendrick Marrow Program, a non-profit organization that works with the Be The Match Foundation in support of the National Marrow Donor Program.
    “He started that program to help others,” said Matchett. “It’s made more people aware of testing, so more lives can be saved.”
    Matchett says testing essentially consists of having the inside of a cheek rubbed with a swab. The information gained from those few cells taken is filed away until a time when a match is made. At that point additional tests will be arranged, provided the individual is willing to be a donor.
    Already during his trip Matchett has encountered numerous people who have friends or family who have been touched by a disease that left them needing a bone marrow transplant.
    “Some people ask me how to make a donation or where to find out more about testing,” he said.
    Most times the information people desire to know can be found at MarrowQuest.org, which also features a blog featuring almost daily updates of Matchett’s adventure. Matchett can also be followed on Twitter and Facebook.
    Page 2 of 2 - Time to ride
    Matchett decided to undertake the excursion after retiring 2 ½ months ago.
    “That (retiring) has given me the time to do this ride,” he said.
    The trip started June 9 at Lake Itasca, the headwater of the Mississippi River. Most of the trip he has spent riding solo, which is just fine for the self-described wanderer.
    “I enjoy it. You do not know what’s around the next corner,” said Matchett, an avid photographer who frequently stops to take scenic images he encounters.
    As he tries to chart a course that keeps him close to the Mississippi River, frequently around the next corner Matchett has found flooded roads.
    “A lot of the bike trails I would have taken have been flooded,” he said.
    When confronted with a flooded road, Matchett could utilize a map on his phone to chart a new course. However, that’s not the action he usually takes. Frequently he tries to flag down a motorist and ask directions.
    “If you’re dressed like a biker and you’re holding a bike, people are inclined to stop,” he said. “I’ve met cool people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. People have been kind and considerate with their conversation and good directions.”
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