More MS news articles for Jan 2002

Political activist rolls into the Valley

Cross-country ride to raise awareness.

The Express-Times

BETHLEHEM TWP. - Route 22 motorists Thursday afternoon swerved to make way for an unusual traveler chugging down the highway: a 54-year-old man on a rickety blue bicycle dragging a cart bogged down with a sleeping bag, blankets and extra clothes.

Attached to the bike seat, a huge American flag and brown cardboard box marked "Donations" gave passers-by little clue as to the rider’s plight.

Bethlehem Township Police at 1 p.m. guided the bicyclist off Route 191 and into the empty parking lot of Leslie’s Pool Supplies across from Bethlehem Square shopping center.

After speaking to Cpl. Jeffery Hauck for a few minutes, Fred W. Mauney set his bike against the building’s blue siding and got down to business.

In July, Mauney left Salt Lake City and started his second solo cross-country bike ride encouraging youth to get involved in the political process.

Mauney wants young people and adults to participate in the 30-day, 1,000 mile Ride for 2002 to increase awareness of unemployment, economic recession and political corruption.

Guest speakers will join the "rolling educational forum" to help riders deal with subjects that interest them, according to a news release for Phoenix Charities, which supports Mauney’s trek.

On disability for a disorder similar to multiple sclerosis, Mauney wants others to take inspiration from his Ride for America.

"I still have my problems. But I don’t cry about it," he said.

The North Carolina native whose family hails from Pennsylvania spent five years in the hospital and was told he would never walk again.

"Some people say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But I say you’re never too old to learn something new," he said.

Now that the weather has turned bitter cold, Mauney rides eight hours and covers 30 to 50 miles each day.

His bike, which he rescued from a trash pile, is harder to push up tough terrain than the mountain bike he rode in 2000.

To stay warm, Mauney layers a Dale Earnhardt T-shirt over sweats and cut-off jeans. His long, gray ponytail and wisps of wild, white hair escape from beneath a hat that reads "I am the Phoenix."

Mauney hopes to reach New York City and ground zero by Saturday or Sunday to avoid cold weather that might bring snow to the Lehigh Valley.

Because he has little money for food and basic necessities, Mauney often curls up on the ground behind buildings at night.

"Everybody was telling me that I was crazy last year," he said, adding that friends he met in 2000 took him in again in 2001.

En route to talk to college campuses and other groups, Mauney has taken some spills, the most serious of which occurred in Latrobe, Pa., when he fell off an earthen wall.

"I kissed the pavement," Mauney said.

The crash left him with facial scrapes and scratched glasses -now held together with masking tape.

Just before a police cruiser on Thursday escorted "The Phoenix" into the city of Bethlehem, two pool supply employees pushed a bunch of bills into Mauney’s gloved hand.

Although Mauney avoids using the word "I" in favor of pronouns like "us" and "we," he said donations from strangers inspire him to ride on.

"I’m definitely on the right track," he said.

© 2002 PennLive