Through the last three years of his late brother’s life, Robert Gay spent 150 days at his brother’s bedside, chatting about everything and nothing. They talked about politics, whether the Green Bay Packers had a chance at winning the Super Bowl and the life they had lived together.
Eventually, Gay’s brother, Stephen, cut the small talk.
“We got to the point where we realized that he’s not going to be here,” said Robert Gay. Stephen Gay was diagnosed with a rare from of leukemia in 2015. He didn’t want to talk about football or politics, things that he would never get to see. He wanted to talk about Robert.
“He said, ‘I do want to talk about the things that you want to do. Give me some insights. What’s on your list? I’m not going to get to any of mine,’ ” Robert Gay said.
Stephen Gay died on Sept. 29, 2018. But some of those final conversations between brothers triggered Robert’s current mission to bike across the United States, from Neah Bay, Wash., to Key West, Fla.
It had always been this somewhat fantastical idea. He had done some road trips and had always thought, “Man, I’d love to bike this.” Yet it was — for lack of a better word — a crazy idea. He’s a novice biker. He has a wife and two kids and a job as an executive vice president of sales and marketing in Los Angeles. He was about to turn 60.
But this was his dream. So on Oct. 11, 2018, at his brother’s celebration of life, Robert decided to begin his quest to bike from the northwest corner of the United States to the southeast corner.
Gay plans to ride 4,764 miles over 107 days. He began his trip on Aug. 6 in Neah Bay. He’s trying to average around 60 miles a day, with at least a mile of that ridden on his brother’s bike from 1982. (Don’t worry, Gay had it fixed up in preparation.)
Gay has a stationary bike in his office but, before he started the trip, had only ridden about 300 miles outdoors. Still, he isn’t scared. In fact, 200 miles in, he said all he wanted to do was keep going.
“It’s a whole new experience for me to be outdoors, on the road, watching traffic, managing hills. But the beauty of the outdoors has been amazing. It’s been good,” said Gay.
Throughout planning for his trip, he’s received tremendous support from his family and his company, Zevia, the zero-sugar beverage producer that pledged its full support.
To celebrate his ride, he and Zevia partnered with Trips for Kids — a nonprofit that provides transformative cycling experiences for young people of all communities, especially those in need — and launched a campaign called “Live Your Best Ride.”
“Before this all started to gain momentum, I didn’t realize that this was going to have the exposure it does. I didn’t realize I would actually be able to give something back to the community,” said Gay. “And when I did become more aware of it, [I thought], if I can support — one way or another — children getting outdoors, experiencing what I love, then I wanted to go all for it.”
In the meantime, Gay knows he’s still in the early stages of his trip.
“I’m not going to know how I feel until I get there. I know that I’m going to be excited, I might be tired. I’ve never hesitated that I’m not going to make it,” said Gay. “I feel like, as I get toward Atlanta and Miami and that last ride, it’ll all come together then.”
Track Robert Gay’s northwest-to-southeast ride at zevia.com/live-your-best-ride.