Elmer_jeffElmer and Jeff Jackson ride through a tunnel in Red Canyon, Utah last Tuesday. (Photos by Tim Hathaway)

Tim Hathaway, the journalist who was serving as driver and documentarian for the ‘No Regrets’ cross-country bike ride of fellow Red Bankers Elmer and Jeff Jackson, suddenly left the tour late last week.

From his blog posting dated Saturday, June 28:

On Friday, June 27 I returned to New Jersey. It was not an easy decision, but after considering my options and much prayer, I left the road because I felt that it was the best decision for the success of the trip.

From this point forward, Jeff will take over the duties of sag driver and Rev. Jackson will continue riding. The No Regrets Bike Ride will go on without me, but I will do my best to keep everyone posted on their progress.

The ride — a 4,244-mile fundraiser for the West Side Christian Academy, which Elmer Jackson founded and where his son, Jeff, is a teacher — began June 3 in San Francisco and is to continue to Sandy Hook. Last we heard, the riders were in central Utah, facing tall mountains with steep grades and temperatures frequently above 100 degrees.

The tour has been marked by repeated cases of heat stroke and fatigue on Jeff’s part.

Hathaway tells redbankgreen via email that he left “not because I think they can’t finish but rather in order that they may finish in the safest manner.”

Img_1121A celebratory moment on June 24.

The major issue was safety. Neither of them prepared for this trip well enough, and they are painfully aware of that now. Jeff was pushing himself so hard that he got heat exhaustion several times. He had dry heaves and came down with the shivers in the desert heat, but didn’t seem to think there was anything wrong with his approach to the trip. I confronted him about it two weeks ago, but nothing much changed…

Last Wednesday, on a leg from Escalante to Torrey, Utah, Jeff biked for one hour before climbing into the sagwagon “to rest for the day,” Hathaway wrote in his blog. Elmer, a 59-year-old former Marine who had triple bypass surgery two years ago, went on.

And on. Over the course of the day, Elmer climbed “a 9,600-foot beast with 8-14 percent grades,” staying with it even after Hathaway suggested he pack it in for the night and resume in the same spot the next day.

The restaurants in these small towns tend to close early, I said.

“If you guys don’t get your dinner tonight, well, I’m sorry,” Elmer said, and continued on his way…

The whole day took over 12 hours, but it revealed more about the character of mountains and men then perhaps I care to know.

In a posting on his own MySpace blog — also dated June 25, but apparently before the ride Hathaway describes above — Jeff says he has been “overwhelmed with the work I have been doing [and] despondent at my lack of success on the bike.” He was upbeat, though, at having completed the prior day’s ride.

I have not quit. I have fallen, but I keep getting up. I may fall again, but I will keep on fighting.

In the email, Hathaway explains his rationale for flying home:

By removing myself, Jeff must get off the bike and behind the wheel of the car, which is the safest place for him to be. As far as Rev. Jackson is concerned, I have no doubt that he has the constitution and will to finish the journey.

Though they did not want me to leave, it was an amicable parting. I considered staying, but I felt like we had been through this two weeks ago and I had no reason to believe there would be long term improvement to the situation this time. I left with a heavy heart but also with the conviction that I was doing what was in their best interest.

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