Teen’s cross-country bike ride goes through Avon
AVON, Colorado – Thomas Jessop just kept going after he crossed finish line at a Southern California Iron Kids event and is riding his bicycle from sea to shining sea.
Jessop, 14, is riding from Santa Barbara to St. Petersburg, Fla., from triathlon to triathlon, competing in Iron Kids events raising money and awareness to fight childhood obesity.
As he competed in the Iron Kids San Diego event, he thought to himself, “This is great, but how am I going to get to the rest of them across the country?”
He’s a bright kid. He studied a map for a few moments and decided he could ride his bike from one to another, so that’s what he’s doing.
“We decided to try to make the world a better place along the way,” Jessop said.
He’s 1,000 miles into a 3,200-mile sojourn across America.
It’s not all sunshine. Team Thomas Across America was watching it rain this week while they were parked in Edwards. He finished third in his age division in last weekend’s Avon Iron Kids.
He’s competing in Boulder Aug. 7 and migrates to Oklahoma City for an Iron Kids event Aug. 22.
He’ll head to a September Irons Kids event in Alpharetta, Ga., then to the national Iron Kids championships in St. Petersburg, Fla., where his journey will end.
Sometimes it’s too much sunshine.
The toughest stretch so far was 112 miles across the Mojave Desert in one day. The temperature soared well above 100 degrees and the air baked him. This, he discovered as he pedaled through the desert landscape, is what it’s like to be a chunk of meat in a convection oven.
“We were trying to make time and get to Las Vegas,” Jessop said.
Team Thomas is not difficult to spot. If you’re cruising around Edwards in the next few days, look for the school bus renovated into an RV, with a VW Vanagon welded to the top. It’s blue with the rising sun on the side and clouds on top.
He’s serious about childhood obesity and the message that it can be cured.
“Our goal is to help as many kids as possible go from being obese to living healthy lives,” Jessop said.
Kids can cure themselves, but not without their parents.
“To all the kids of living with the burden of childhood obesity, it’s your parents’ fault,” Jessop said. “For parents, if your child is obese it’s your fault.”
Obese children are 33 percent more likely to suffer from almost every life-threatening disease. Jessop rattled off conditions – sleep apnea, diabetes, heart disease. The list goes on and on.
“You buy the groceries and you buy the video games. I know you’re trying to be loving and kind by providing these games, but it’s causing long-term health problems for your children,” Jessop said.
Then there are the psychological issues.
“It’s a huge blow to their self esteem,” Jessop said. “They judge themselves, others judge them at least as harshly.”
Obese children’s self-esteem is as low as young cancer patients on chemotherapy, according to studies by the New York University Child Studies Center.
“I could have been obese like so many kids are, but my dad wouldn’t let me,” Jessop says. “He made sure that instead of playing video games all day, I hit the gym. Now I love it. One of my favorite things is to get on my bike and ride 80 miles.”
You are obese if 30 percent or more of your body mass is fat, according to the generally accepted definition. It’s not measured by height and weight. If you weigh 100 pounds and 30 pounds is fat, you’re obese.
“It really is an epidemic right now. Childhood obesity rates have jumped more than 50 percent in the last 20 years,” Jessop said.
The beneficiaries of Jessop’s work will be the Biggest Loser Camp, Iron Kids triathlons and Let’s Move, first lady Michelle Obama’s campaign against childhood obesity.
He’s riding a Trek 2100 pro edition, a professional grade triathlon bike, Lance Armstrong’s preferred model. And riding and riding and riding from the Pacific coast until his front wheel is in Atlantic, which how a trip like this should end.