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To Dare Mighty Things

Charlie Schroeder

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Candyce and David
(Courtesy Candyce Deddens)
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When the Tour de France wraps up in Paris, the riders will have covered a total of 3,500 kilometers, or 2100 miles. That's roughly 2/3 the distance across the United States. Now, that might seem like an awfully long time to be on a bicycle, but not to Candyce Deddens. She's no stranger to long bike rides.

When Candyce Deddens was 50 years old, she lived in Denver, Colo., and was going through a tough time. She was divorced, and her kids were grown up and out of the house. Whenever she watched the news, she was reminded of man's inhumanity to man. And all this just really depressed her.

"On top of just living in a big city, with traffic and people and crime and all that," she says, "it was just all too much all at once."

However, there was one thing she kept thinking about that would make her feel better. For years, she dreamed about getting on her bike and riding across the country, but that idea didn't sit well with her friends. "Many people said, 'Oh no, you better not do that. It'll be too dangerous. You're a woman. You're too old. It's a bad idea.'"

For a while, Candyce believed them. Then one day while driving to work, she heard someone on the radio quote Theodore Roosevelt. The next day she saw the same quote in the paper, later that week she heard the quote again, on TV. The quote that goes: "Far better it is to dare mighty things�even though checkered by failure than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy, nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."

After hearing the quote over and over again, Candyce decided to do as Roosevelt suggested and dare a mighty thing.

"I told my boss I was quitting," she says, "and I sold my house and got on my bike and took off."

At 50, Candyce hit the road, alone; just she, her bike Teddy--named after Roosevelt--and a few of her belongings. She started in Missouri and headed east, then circled back out West.

"And although I was not traveling near Christmas time, I know a lot of Christmas songs, so I'd sing Christmas songs," she recalls.

In eight months, she pedaled through 23 states.

All those warnings from her friends that it was risky for a 50-year-old woman to ride alone across the country never amounted to much. In campgrounds, people cooked her meals. When she met other cyclists, they invited her to stay in their homes. One woman even offered her money because she thought Candyce was destitute.

"I said, 'No no, I'm doing this on purpose,' and she just insisted, and then finally I just allowed her to give me a small amount of cash because she was so worried and concerned."

Candyce, who'd been so down on so many things, had a renewed faith in her country.

Toward the end of her trip, she rode through Washington State, where she lived for a bit as a child. Although he wasn't much of a biker, her brother, David Jones, joined her for the ride. While there, they visited familiar places from their youth like the "forbidden trestle," which was off limits to the kids because it was located just beyond the outflow for the sewage-processing plant. Every now and then, the young siblings would sneak into the nearby waters for a springtime swim.

"Because that's where the lake got warmest�after the ice melted," David says.

David's an aerospace engineer, so the job of calculating distances fell on his shoulders, which worked pretty well for the pair, until the last day of their journey when he underestimated the distance by 50 miles. That day they ended up riding 125 miles.

"We didn't have any choice," he says. "We had to keep rolling."

David is a former marathon runner, and for years, Candyce had been trying to get him into cycling, but it just didn't give him the same high as running.

"I said, 'You're not riding long enough or hard enough,'" she says.

But that day, churning out 125 miles, everything changed for David.

"People think twice about driving 100 to 150 miles," he says. "At least I do. That idea that you could do that on a bike�that was just intriguing to me."

Candyce eventually finished her trip, but for David, it was just the beginning. Soon thereafter, he rode 200 miles in a single day. Later he rode 300 miles in a day.

"And I think that's when the real competitive thing started to come in for me," he says.

Now David competes in the Race Across America, a grueling 3000-mile coast-to-coast race. He did it for the third time this year at the age of 61. He rode 22 hours a day. Candyce was his crew chief.

"It was to the point of where he would fall asleep on the bike," she says.

It took David a little over 11 days to cross America. It took Candyce eight months. One ride was existential, the other competitive, but oddly, both Candyce and David came to a similar conclusion.

"That I can do things," Candyce says. "That even when the going is hard, that I can keep going."

"That I had those reserves," David says. "That basically everyone does."

And that until you put yourself in that place, where you have to be tested, you don't know those reserves are there.


  • Comment | Refresh

  • By Laura Deddens Gerard

    From Houston, TX, 02/24/2014

    That's my mom. She's doing it again, this time age 65. The plan is to start in Houston, TX and ride to Banff, Canada as a "Training Ride". Then she will go off pavement in the Tour Divide Race from Banff to Antelope Wells, NM. Here's wishing her a great ride.

    By Tim Woudenberg

    From San Francisco, CA, 06/08/2011

    Great writeup. I have been an admirer of David Donkey Jones and Franklin Roosevelt for some time. Now I get to meet Candyce next week.

    Looking forward to the adventure

    By Rich Tunney

    From FL, 07/26/2008

    I can well understand her desires and enthusiasm. I cycled 4 1/2 months summer 04 thru Europe, alone no set plans other than to see some things. Flew into paris one afternoon, rode around the city for 4 days then headed to Chartres, the WW2 invasion beaches, chateaux in the Loire area on to Belguim, Neatherlands, Berlin, Dresden,Prague, Budapest, Vienna, over the Alps to Milan, and 5 spectacular and glorious days in the Italian alps nr Courmayer, hiking and climbing.When I returned to the US I could not stop riding, so I packed my bike some gear and headed for the west coast,rode across the BIG BRIDGE in SF then headed down the PCH 12 days later I arrived in Malibu
    Next Sept I headed out to Africa and climbed KILI,and was the oldest person climbing in the group of about 40
    If you think you can do it,you will do it

    By Michael Burns

    From Carlsbad, CA, 07/26/2008

    Thank you Candyce for following Teddy's advice.

    I havetraveled 100,000 miles around the U.S. and Canada in a 20 foot camper van solo for a numbrer of years. I can not walk or stand and use a wheelchair.

    They said that couldn't be done either but I do it and yet I decided as well to "dar the mighty thing."

    By pam huffman

    From OH, 07/26/2008

    I wish Candyce would write a book or at
    least be on Oprah! I want to know what kind of bike Teddy is, how she mapped her trip, if she camped along the way, and did she keep a journal, take photos?
    I bet I am not the only listener who wants "all the details." Thanks to you Candyce == your story is fabulous!

    By Karen Townsend

    From Minneapolis, MN, 07/26/2008

    Wonderful!When I was 21 I left from Minneapolis to bicycle towards the North Shore of Lake Superior.Without a plan or any obligations to return to I ended up pedaling for 3 months through Canada to the east coast,down to Massachussets before pedaling home.I travelled alone and in many ways I had never felt safer in my life. Those days blessed me with a sense of peace, hope for humanity and closeness to nature that I had never experienced before...as well as countless stories I will never forget.
    Thanks for sharing!

    By dan leibert

    From MD, 07/26/2008

    got no time to read now

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