- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—David Higgins suffered sexual abuse as a child.

The Children’s Advocacy Center of Stevens County, Washington, helped him and his family to get through the crisis.

Now the 21-year-old Northport, Wash., native is is riding across the country raising awareness for child sexual abuse prevention and Children’s Advocacy Centers. He plans to visit seven to 10 children’s Advocacy Centers across the country.

“We’re honored that one of your stops was here,” said Sue Ascione, executive director of the local center, said in welcoming Higgins to New Castle at Jameson South on Monday.

Anyone interested in following Higgins’ on-the-road blog diary can follow his progress at his Facebook Ride2Recover.

Arriving at the Lawrence County site at lunchtime, Higgins said he’d camped in a nature preserve outside Youngstown on Sunday night and was anticipating traveling 60 miles to Freeport, Armstrong County, by evening.

Beginning in Neah Bay, Wash., on June 21, Higgins expects to end his ride at the Stature of Liberty in New York City on Aug. 4.

“From there I’ll go to Washington, D.C. to lobby congressmen on behalf of Children’s Advocacy Centers and continued funding for them,” he said. “I plan to fly from Washington, D.C. back to Washington state on Aug. 15.”

Higgins is making his ride “totally unassisted.”

His Kona Sutra steel-frame touring bike is equipped with four water-proof saddle bags that contain his tent, sleeping bag and mat, a hammock, two pairs of pants, two pairs of shorts a few tee shirts “and a lot of socks.”

To find his way, Higgins relies on the GPS of his cell phone. To keep the cell phone going, he ties a solar to the back of his bike using sunny days to charge up the cell so he can charge his phone at night. Other gadgetry he relies on is a pocket shower which fills to 10 liters of water.

“This gives me a five to 10-minute shower, if I go through the bushes and hang it from a tree,” he said, adding, “After a day of riding in 90-degree heat, a warm shower is the one thing a bicycle rider looks forward to. With all this camping, it’s a good thing that I was a Boy Scout.”

“Hotels are expensive,” he added saying he is “stealth camping” on friendly-looking spots across the country.

Higgins said he rides until dark on most nights.

“I’ve found I don’t like mosquitos,” he said adding that his mosquito netting is one of his most-used supplies.

The bike is also equipped with a tire pump and three bottles of water. Higgins said he tries to drink a gallon and one-half of water each day

Higgins said the travel bug bit him at age 11 when he and a brother spend two months in Mexico. He said didn’t start riding bicycles until age 18. At 19, he said, he rode an old Schwinn bike to college in California. “It broke down and I had to take a train back home.”

On this trip, Higgins said he has enjoyed some of the most beautiful scenery he has ever seen as he pedaled through Glacier National Park in Montana Battling headwinds in excess of 60 mph on this trip, Higgins again reverted to train travel in order to meet his schedule, taking the train from Minot, N.D., to Bismark, N.D. and from Fargo to Chicago.

He said he tries to average 60 to 80 miles per day, “But in some areas I was able to do 110 to 116 miles per day on level ground, but that’s the maximum,” he said.

“I didn’t wake up one day and decide to pedal across the USA,” he said. “I started planning this two years ago.”

Higgins said he and his family retain a good relationship with his contact at his local CAC.

“When I said I was was going to do this, I was asked ‘What is your cause?’ I didn’t really have one so I decided to make Children’s Advocacy Centers my cause, to raise awareness of what they do. This is my way of giving back,” he told the 13-member staff of the Lawrence County Children’s Advocacy Center.

“It’s a simple thing to ride a bike,” Higgins said. “What you do day to day is huge. You invest your heart and emotions to help children and families. By raising awareness for Children’s Advocacy Centers, I’m paying your organization back for what you did for me. Crap happens to people but you don’t have to let it define you.”

To show their appreciation, Ascione presented Higgins with two bottles of water, a Lawrence County CAC tee shirt and a small donation. She also gave him a voucher to eat lunch at the Jameson South cafeteria as a way of thanking him for his effort to bring awareness to the organization.

(Email: [email protected])

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