Theo Williams completes bike ride to Cali, raising $25K for the Aspen Hope Center
Nearly 1,000 miles and almost two weeks after setting off from Aspen, Theo Williams arrived in Santa Monica a changed man. He battled weather, physical fatigue and self-doubt — not to mention flying trashcans and traffic cones — but finished stronger than he began on his journey of, well, hope.
“It feels like it hasn’t sunk in yet. It’s very strange how I feel like I didn’t do anything special,” Williams said Friday, just over a week after finishing his 12-day bike trip. “I didn’t realize the momentum behind it or how important the message was. I didn’t know how — I don’t like the word love — but I definitely felt more respected, a little bit, in the community, that people were actually getting behind me.”
Williams, a native of England who has lived in the Roaring Fork Valley since 2013, cycled roughly 979 miles from Aspen to Santa Monica, California, beginning Oct. 18 and finishing Oct. 29. Originally he was doing this for his own mental health, as this past year has been as tough on him as anybody, but he also decided to partner with the Aspen Hope Center with the original hope of raising around $5,000 for the local nonprofit. Word got out quickly and before he had even started his 12-day trip, he had raised more than $10,000 and readjusted his goal to $20,000.
As of Friday night, Williams said he has raised $25,320, which he hopes will go toward putting counselors in schools to help kids who may be going through difficult times.
“It was fun and I’m super pumped of the money that was raised, but it was hard,” Williams said. “It’s been unbelievable in terms of I don’t really understand how much $25,000 is until I spoke to the charity and they say that’s actually a significant amount of money to raise.”
Williams chronicled his trip through Strava, Instagram and Facebook, often using the hashtags #MentalHealth, #DepressionAwareness and #BreakTheStigma. Here’s the breakdown of his journey to California, according to his Strava profile:
Day 1: Aspen to Rifle (67.98 miles)
Day 2: Rifle to Fruita (87.69 miles)
Day 3: Fruita to Green River, Utah (98.69 miles)
Day 4: Green River to Torrey, Utah (102.99 miles)
Day 5: Torrey to Panguitch, Utah (73.33 miles)
Day 6: Panguitch to Hurricane, Utah (79.46 miles)
Day 7: Hurricane to Mesquite, Nevada (63.33 miles)
Day 8: Mesquite to Las Vegas (87.63 miles)
Day 9: Las Vegas to “Somewhere on I-15” in California (56.78 miles)
Day 10: “Somewhere on I-15” to Barstow, California (95.67 miles)
Day 11: Barstow to Palmdale, California (77.67 miles)
Day 12: Palmdale to Santa Monica, California (64.18 miles)
Riding on fumes most days, Williams said he felt the strongest on Day 12 riding into the Los Angeles area and his finish line.
“Day 12, of all of the rides, was the only day that my legs felt great, my body felt great. If there were any hills to climb, I nailed it,” Williams said. “It was relieving. The feeling that I didn’t have to cycle the next day was by far the most important and best feeling about it. I had some family and friends that welcomed me in, and that was a surprise.”
Of the bad days, he said Day 5 — Torrey to Panguitch — was the most memorable. That was the day he got caught in a bad windstorm on trash day, one that literally sent both a trashcan and traffic cone flying into him on separate occasions that took him off his bike. To his surprise, a local family helped him up and drove him 40 miles north and out of the storm so he could safely continue his journey.
After completing Day 11 and getting to Palmdale, the eve of his finish, Williams posted on social media a “rant,” as he put it, which summed up the purpose of the journey.
“I created this idea with a selfish goal in mind. Some time for myself to get away and do something for me,” he wrote. “(Aspen Hope Center) came into the picture late but I’m thrilled it did. I’ve learnt on this trip that it’s important that we all do actions that are ‘good selfish.’ It’s OK to do things that better us individually. If you get the opportunity to do something for you, definitely go ahead and do it. It’s way more important than I ever knew.”
Williams doesn’t see this as the end of his work with Aspen Hope Center, but the beginning. As difficult as his 12 days were and as happy as he was to be home, he was already talking about what he could do next year to raise more money for the nonprofit.
He wanted to thank his employer, Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate in Aspen, as well as valley locals Simon Chen, Bob Perlmutter, Murray Cunningham and Bob Stumpus for their support and for providing occasional company on the road.
“It was hard. I definitely feel like I changed and grew a lot as a person, for the better,” Williams said Friday. “I really want to help people more. It’s always wonderful to have a Range Rover, but my mindset has definitely shifted. I feel like I grew more internally than ever before.”
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As of Sunday, everyone in the 970 area code has to dial all 10 digits in a phone number. The change in Colorado is part of a national switch that will enable the national rollout of 988, which will be the National Suicide Hotline. That number will take callers to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, which will go live July 16, 2022.