MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- As Lance Armstrong was winning his seventh straight Tour de France Steven Hughes was biking his way down the East Coast for charity.
Hughes, a retired chief master sergeant in the Air Force, visited here July 28 while traveling from Maine to Florida by bicycle to help raise money for Homes For Our Troops, which is based out of Taunton, Maine.
Hughes stopped at other military installations along the coast, and at each, he has collected money for Homes for our Troops and given away a brand new Diamond Back bicycle during a raffle.
The organization is dedicated to helping those who served overseas and returned home with serious disabilities. It helps them to modify their homes for accessibility.
So far, Hughes has received more than $2,000 from fundraisers for the organization during his trip down the coast.
“I stay motivated because I believe in the cause I am riding for,” Hughes said.
Hughes rides seven to eight hours a day averaging 70-80 miles a day, which leaves him plenty of time to think.
“It’s really funny what you think about on the bike,” Hughes said. “I think about my family and what they might be doing in the van up ahead. I think about the past a lot, and I think about what I am going to do when I get back to Maine.”
Hughes rides his bike through the elements and bad roads.
“The weather is something we have no control over, so I push through it,” Hughes said. “The rain can be scary as the roads get slick, but the heat is tough too.”
Despite the hardships, Hughes has no regrets about making the trip. It has allowed him to spend time with his family, see new places and meet veterans.
“The most enjoyable part of the trip was meeting Peter Damon, an Army sergeant who lost his arms in Iraq,” Hughes said. “We got to meet him and his family while we were in Maine. What a great family, and what a wonderful outlook he has on everything.”
Hughes spent nearly 20 years in Europe, it was there he developed a passion for riding.
“I used to commute to work on my bike, and then when I got to Northern Italy, I rode with a club,” Hughes said. “It just gets into you, especially when you are surrounded by other riders and the climate is so accepting of cyclists.”