Tom Helbig is cruising up the East Coast in search of positive people and communities on an adventure around the country.
Helbig, a native of Ohio, is on the second leg of a cycling adventure that, when complete, will total thousands of miles and take him around the perimeter of the continental United States. He’s currently traveling from Key West, Florida, to Maine, and he passed through Georgetown on March 29 on his way to Myrtle Beach up U.S. Highway 17.
Helbig completed the first leg of his trip – from San Diego, California, to Key West – over 100 days in the winter of 2016. He started the second leg this February. He owns Tomfoolery Outdoors, an outdoor adventure company based in Dayton, Ohio, and said the trip is his way of celebrating communities and people around the country who are making a positive impact.
“Wanted it to have some meaning for me and others,” Helbig, who is 44, said.
Helbig said the best part about the trip is the people he crosses paths with. In Key West, he met a 68-year-old pastor whose goal is to swim around the island 100 times. Helbig said the pastor told him he’s completed 98 laps so far.
“Just meeting interesting people like that; telling their stories, inspiring people,” Helbig, who is documenting the trip on social media, said. His describes the cool sites he sees and interesting people he meets as having "Good vibes."
Helbig’s bike is a Soma Saga. He carries everything he needs, about 50 to 60 pounds of gear, in bags on the bike, including a two-day food supply. He camps in public parks or at the beach and uses a small, solar-powered device to charge his cell phone. He said he often benefits from the “kindness of strangers.”
Helbig said he is “always hungry” and eats a lot of fresh fruits and seafood. He said he makes sure to shop at locally-owned businesses along his route. He bikes between 50 and 60 miles a day, but doesn’t have a set routine, and he also does a lot of stretching and swimming. On this current leg of the trip, Helbig said, he's trying to visit a Yoga class once a week. So far, he hasn’t suffered any major crashes or injuries.
“Knock on wood,” he said.
While passing through Charleston, Helbig said, he met a group making a similar trek, but for a different cause. The people are walking from Key West to Maine to raise awareness about drug overdose. The group – known as the East Coast Overdose Awareness Walk -- had a loved one who died from a heroin overdose.
Heblig called the chance encounter, "A really powerful experience."
Asked what he’s learned about himself during the adventure, Helbig said, “I learned that I’m strong, and that I have a large capacity for giving.” But, he said, “I’d be lying to say it’s all been rainbows and bunnies.”
Helbig said he’s been involved with the Special Olympics for years and that his challenges are “minuscule” compared to what some people have to deal with.
“Helps me keep things in perspective,” he said.
Helbig said when he goes on an adventure, he wants to make a difference. On the first leg of his cycling trip, he did volunteer work in each of the nine states he rode through.
He said his favorite places so far have been the mountains of southern California, Key West and New Mexico. This is his first time visiting the Carolina coast, he said, and he loves it.
“Blew my mind,” he said about the scenery.
Once he reaches Maine, Helbig plans to start cycling west until July 1 when he has to return to Ohio for business. He plans to do the West Coat leg, from Washington to San Diego, his fall and finish the northern section next spring when warmer weather returns.
People can follow Helbig’s trip on his Facebook and Instagram accounts by searching for “Tomfoolery Outdoors.”