Rob Jones is a humble young man. He answers questions politely, but rapidly and without flourish. His demeanor is one of a deadly serious, well-trained U.S. Marine.
As modest as Jones is, however, he recently accomplished a super human feat: He rode a bicycle across America; and while that’s a tremendous accomplishment by itself, Jones did it pedaling with two prosthetic legs.
Jones, 28, a Lovettsville native and graduate of Loudoun Valley High School and Virginia Tech, lost both his legs while clearing enemy explosives for the U.S. Marines in Afghanistan in 2010.
But don’t talk to Jones about his loss as a tragedy. His fellow Marines and commanding officer say he’s not interested in self-pity.
So it’s not surprising his decision to ride a bicycle cross-country came to Jones mere months after his catastrophic battlefield injuries. Jones says the idea popped into his head while he was learning to use leg prosthetics at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
“I wanted to be personally challenged and that seemed like a pretty big challenge,” Jones says, laughing.
Did he spend weeks planning the trip’s logistics?
“No, I just bought a truck and some equipment, picked a route and started riding,” says Jones, nonchalantly.
And how would he describe the overall experience riding from Maine to California, through mountain ranges, blistering head-winds, dangerous ice and snow, punctured tires and countless spills?
“Mission accomplished,” he says without hesitation, or mentioning he’s the only person with double prosthetics to ever accomplish this feat. (Jones also won a bronze medal in rowing at the Paralympics in London in 2012.)
Did he enjoy the scenery?
“This was like a job to me. I was mostly looking at the ground focusing on my ride,” he says.
In each state, people biked or drove alongside him, offered gifts and donations and helped with equipment and bike repairs.
But most days it was just Jones and his bicycle. He pedaled 30 miles a day, his goal, and sometimes more when he felt up to it. By the time he rode through the gates of Camp Pendleton in California on April 12, half a year, 5,200 miles and an entire country had passed underneath him.
How did Jones feel when it was over?
Without hesitation he says, “I was happy. I did what I set out to do.”
Despite Jones’ “no big deal” demeanor, he also did something remarkable for fellow veterans. His ride raised $120,000 for veteran’s aid charities. His journey will also undoubtedly inspire veteran’s struggling to overcome combat trauma and reintroduction to civilian life.
What are his plans now?
“I’m still figuring that out,” he says.
One thing for certain: Jones tackled adversity by setting a courageous, physically and mentally challenging goal, then accomplishing it without complaint or self-doubt. Is there any question he’ll thrive and succeed no matter which path he chooses next?
To learn more about Rob Jones’ bike trip, or to donate, visit http://www.robjonesjourney.com