It was Day 16 of Jeff Molby's, let's say interesting, decision to ride a bicycle around the United States to promote the American Cancer Society's Road to Recovery program.
The Road to Recovery program provides free transportation to and from appointments related to a person's cancer treatment. It is a service in dire need of volunteers to be drivers. Information provided by the American Cancer Society's Michelle Stemler, the associate director of Community Implementation, notes that in 2023, cancer patients in Manatee County requested 240 rides to their treatments and Road to Recovery only had enough volunteers to provide 125 of those rides.
Molby, who rode his bike through Main Street at Lakewood Ranch on Monday, left his home Oct 10 and headed out on what he plans to be a two-year tour. While he has participated in fundraisers over the past few years to benefit the American Cancer Society, he has no real connection with the nonprofit, other than trying to drive volunteers toward Road to Recovery.
But back to Day 16.
Molby, a 42-year-old who plans to give as many presentations about the need for volunteer drivers as he can, had pulled up to the Somerset-Pulaski Morning Rotary Club in Kentucky. While he had no appointment, Molby is both a Rotarian and a Lions Club member, and he hoped the local Rotary would allow him to speak. It did.
His impromptu presentation was met with "smart questions" and general interest. He noted that 10 years ago, he wouldn't have spoken in front of a group, even if he had a script. But this greater calling has caused him to lose his fear of interaction.
So after that meeting, he was back on his bike when he saw a CPA office. He stopped to ask if the lady in the office could give him a paperclip. A strap on one of his bags had been rubbing against his spokes and it had been annoying him. The nice lady gave him a paperclip, then noted that three of her family members had died of cancer, including her 30-year-old daughter.
He went back on his bike with a somewhat heavy heart, heading for his next town. As the afternoon turned to evening, he passed an open garage with a couple enjoying a few "happy hour" cocktails. He stopped to ask them for suggestions about where he could find a campground.
Without hesitation, the man told him that he owned a cabin not far away and he was welcomed to stay there.
"Was it wise to trust a stranger who had been drinking and who had a pistol strapped to his hip?" Molby said. "He told me to go off into the woods and let myself into an empty cabin. There's a lot that could go wrong with that plan.
"But the truth is, everything exuded sincerity and kindness."
Molby went to the cabin and not long afterward, the man showed up to make sure he had found it OK, and then showed him around the area.
He fell asleep to a beautiful, nearly full moon, and woke up to an even better sunrise.
Molby loves that moment of a trip that had covered 2,087 miles by the time he arrived at Main Street at Lakewood Ranch. For this adventure to be fruitful, he needs to rely on the compassion of others.
"I have been surprised by the totality of human kindness," he said. "It really warms the heart, and it's greater than I expected."
It's the kind of revelation that will make his two-year journey, and his estimated 16,000 miles of pedaling, worthwhile.
The trip itself, certainly wouldn't be for everyone. He has a web programming business that works with school lunch programs in bringing in the needed food produced off the campus. With no formal education, he grew up loving computers and landed a job right after high school graduation. Now he has a business where he can work wherever he can fire up his laptop.
Being single, he said he was ready for a change of scenery, and he also had a few things on his mind. His father, Mike Molby, had colon cancer years before, but was successful in beating the disease. However, Molby said he had friends who weren't so fortunate.
"They had the opposite experience," he said. "They had a two-year fight and lost their father. It opened my eyes to the importance of screening."
He began thinking about ways he could benefit those with cancer, and eventually came up with the national tour idea after his son, Oliver, left home for the University of Michigan-Flint.
Molby sold his home, and was off.
"I am just looking to explore, and to figure it all out," he said. "I was ready for a change of scenery."
However, he did not train for a bike tour. His cycling mostly was on a day-to-day basis with about 5,000 miles logged in 2023.
"It's the only form of exercise I have been able to stick with," he said.
He built a website, ChemoRiders.org, and headed out on his "Walmart" bicycle.
He had a plan where all forward progress on his trip would be covered by bicycle, but he would give himself the luxury of taking side trips for fun by car or other transportation. He has no support vehicle.
"It's just me, my bike, and my gear," he said.
That proved troublesome as he, admittedly, didn't pack very well. He has changed the supplies he carries on a daily basis completely over his opening days on the trip.
His stop in Bradenton was because his brother, Terry Molby, lives here and his mom, Pat Molby, owns a home here and spends a month a year visiting the area.
"A couple of weeks into my trip, my mom signed up as a driver," he said. "She has become my best recruiter."
After leaving Lakewood Ranch, he was headed to Venice, and then on to Fort Myers and Key West. Then it's northward to Jacksonville before turning west. His course will take him to Little Rock, Arkansas April 8 to see the total eclipse, and then northward to Minneapolis, Minnesota by August.
While he doesn't get the joy of reaching a fundraising goal, he said he can tell when he has convinced someone to volunteer.
"I tell them it's a lot like Uber, except the driver is a volunteer, and you are trying to save a life," he said.