Unity bike enthusiast recovers from fall and prepares for rugged charity ride in Utah

Ray Charley is ready to ride again – and this time it will be “a ride to the sky”.

On October 3, the Unity man, who co-owns a number of local Shop ‘n Save supermarkets, plans to go with several other adventure bikers on a 12-day, 440-mile mountain bike ride. miles over rugged terrain in Utah.

“It’s supposed to be one of the most breathtaking landscapes in the country,” Charley said of the Hayduke Trail MTB Tour. Also known as the Trans-Utah, the route from a point near Kanab to Moab allows cyclists to see thousand-year-old rock formations in Capitol Reef National Park and Bear’s Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments.

But this sight doesn’t come without the efforts and support of tour operator Lizard Head Cycling Guides. There will be both desert and mountainous areas to traverse and overnight camping in remote areas, as Charley and his fellow riders climb to over 30,000 feet in elevation.

“It promises to be an extremely difficult hike,” said Charley, 70. “I haven’t camped since I was a kid. We have to be ready for anything from snow to 90 degree temperatures.

In 2019, Charley took part in a cross-country charity bike ride of more than 3,000 miles, from San Diego to St. Augustine, Florida. It benefited Feherty’s Troops First Foundation, providing assistance and support to veterans injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What happened to Charley the following year inspired his next off-road outing and his new choice of beneficiary.

He was cycling in January 2020 when he was seriously injured in an encounter with a distracted motorist.

“I fell to the left,” he said. “It was a blessing. If I had fallen to the right, the car would have knocked me down.

Yet he broke his pelvis and was unable to walk for over five months. He underwent surgery at the Excela Health Institute of Orthopedics, followed by several months of physiotherapy at Excela Square in Latrobe and with a private therapist.

“I told the medical team that I wanted to be able to cross the country again, if I wanted to,” he said. “I really wanted to become strong, to come back and to be able to do exceptional expeditions.

“It was the excellent medical care and therapy I received that allowed me to return to walking and even to cycling again.”

That’s why, on his drive to Utah, Charley plans to match donations made to benefit Excela Health Orthopedics.

Customers will be able to make donations at checkouts in his Shop ‘n Save stores in Greensburg and Murrysville, where displays will map out his route. Donations can also be made by visiting ExcelaHealth.org/RayRidesAgain.

“It gives me a lot of vertigo in my step,” Charley said of those who support her cause. “I can’t let down those who support me.”

Charley chairs the Westmoreland/Frick Hospital Foundation, which supports two of Excela’s three hospitals. “In order to maintain excellence in any discipline, you have to invest money,” he said.

Charley has sworn not to share the road with motor vehicles. As he recovered, he transitioned from recumbent trike to mountain bike. His mountain bike has a lower frame than a bike intended for street use and is easier to ride.

Charley rides several days a week, often accompanied by his wife, Kate. They especially enjoy mountain biking on the trails at Linn Run and Laurel Mountain State Parks.

“My wife is my biggest cheerleader,” he said. “She keeps encouraging me to get stronger and keep going.”

In August, Charley completed the 335-mile bike ride from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC on the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Trail. He was accompanied by Texan and cycling enthusiast Kip Othold, who rode the 2019 cross-country ride and will share a tent with Charley on the Utah ride.

Charley is still dealing with the pain resulting from his injury. But that hasn’t stopped him from continuing to do what he loves: enjoying the outdoors from the seat of a bike.

“It’s a state of mind,” he said. “You don’t give up. You just keep pushing.

Jeff Himler is an editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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