Basalt duo to pedal message across country |

Basalt duo to pedal message across country

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

ASPEN – Two Basalt High School graduates will embark on a post-college adventure Sunday with more than fun in mind. Michael Kane and Duncan McDaniel have added a message to the madness of pedaling from Aspen to New York City: suicide prevention.

“We just wanted to have an adventure, then we realized we were poised to do something bigger,” said Kane, whose own life has been touched by suicide. He is hardly alone.

The pair of 22-year-olds settled on the Aspen Hope Center as a cause to support, both through fundraising efforts associated with their journey and as advocates of the center’s mission of suicide prevention and intervention. They’ve dubbed their tour “The Blues Cruise.”

“I didn’t even know about the Hope Center until we started researching it,” said McDaniel, who lost a friend and fellow 2007 Basalt graduate to suicide last year. Kane, who also knew the classmate, lost his father and his freshman-year roommate at the University of Oregon to suicide.

“It’s an issue, obviously, that we see – that we’ve dealt with,” Kane said.

Yet, when a good friend – one who knew about Kane’s losses – experienced suicide in his own family, he was initially hesitant to say anything about it. Kane wants to bring the issue out into the open.

“I feel that kind of silence dooms a lot of people to going without the help they need,” he said.

Kane and McDaniel hope to get people talking about suicide and mental health: “We want to erase the stigma about it,” McDaniel said.

They plan stops in college towns where they’ll seek out suicide prevention centers and opportunities to talk. They’ll invite local press coverage along the route, visit bike shops and hope to organize rides with bike clubs – all opportunities to discuss the issue and urge the sort of intervention that is part of the Aspen Hope Center’s focus.

The center has trained some 1,400 community members in how to respond to others, be they friends, co-workers, family members or strangers, whom they feel are depressed or contemplating suicide. Those interactions lead to referrals and help for those who need counseling, and the center served 607 clients in its first year of operation.

Kane and McDaniel expect to be on the road for six weeks. Their journey will take them first over Independence Pass and down to Colorado Springs before they head northeast across the country and cross into Canada, then drop into New York – some 2,800 miles in all. Add an organized ride with supporters from New York to New Jersey, where Kane grew up, and the odometer will probably hit the 3,000-mile mark, they estimate.

Their touring bikes will be loaded with camping gear, water, solar-powered battery chargers for their cell phones and a few other essentials, adding up to about 100 pounds per bike. There will be no support vehicle – just two guys making their way east and counting on the kindness of strangers from time to time.

Riding on the cheap, they have the financing they need to complete the tour, said Kane, but letters are going out to a few hundred people to solicit donations for the Aspen Hope Center. Funds raised along the way will go to the center as well, though there may be an opportunity to help other, similar organizations they encounter, as well, Kane said.

Despite the adventure’s serious side, Kane and McDaniel intend to have a good time, starting Sunday with a 10 a.m. sendoff at Peach’s Cafe in Aspen. Followers can track their adventure at

Kane acknowledges the good fortune that gives him and McDaniel the opportunity to make a memorable trip, but he hopes others see the possibilities in their own lives.

“We hope people see it’s not so difficult to find the joy in life,” he said.

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