Couple raises funds for veterans while biking through Wyoming

Courtesy photo

SUBLETTE COUNTY – The Forest Service ranger informing the Zenonis they were in the path of a mother grizzly and her two cubs somewhere near Togwotee Pass was just another byproduct of Dean’s quest to maintain motivation.

Dean and his wife Lorri have become avid cyclists in and beyond the borders of their Utah home. Their latest adventure, however, has been their most ambitious. Together they would bike the duration of the Continental Divide Trail from Canada to Mexico. They’re planning to be on their bikes for 62 days to complete the nearly 2,500 miles of the course – including nearly 165,000 feet in cumulative elevation change.

Dean admitted they could do it faster. He and Lorri both know cyclists who would tackle it for the challenge. They’re doing it because, for Dean, the challenges have come off the bike.

He’s not sure if it’s the traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder, or any number of contributing factors he somehow picked up during his time in the military, but his motivation isn’t quite what it once was.

“If I’m at home I’m not motivated to do things,” he said. “For me, to compensate for that, we have to put what I like to call ‘positive stressors’ on the calendar.”

That’s come in the form of various cycling events before. But this ambitious journey comes with the purpose of motivation, activity and awareness. The Zenonis are riding the trail on their 70-pound bikes for Semper Fi & America’s Fund, a nonprofit organization that provides resources and support for wounded military veterans. It’s an organization Dean doesn’t endorse lightly. They were there for him, providing him with resources when he needed. And since the nonprofit doesn’t spend money on advertising, relying heavily on word of mouth rather than executive marketing salaries, he’s spreading the word across America’s borders.

“The bike ride is great because you can just get up and ride. It’s not an option,” Dean said. “Tomorrow we’re getting up and we’re leaving. We’ve got to get to the next spot. There’s no debating or thinking if I’m going to the gym to work out or do this to stay fit. The alarm’s going off and you’ve just got to go.”

They’re both familiar with the different 5K or 10K charity races. But when looking at trails for what to do next, Dean calculated “a lot of Ks” when finding the Continental Divide Trail.

They started in Montana, entered Wyoming for a few-day stay in Pinedale where they checked their bikes and took in the Fourth of July festivities in American Legion Park. They even went to the VFW Club to meet people and swap stories.

“We’ve met amazing people along the way and you just enjoy it,” Lorri said. “We’ve never been here and are surprised by the size of this town. It allows you to say, ‘I may want to come back here’ because there’s so much beauty here.”

Along with that beauty came the warning near Togwotee Pass. Lorri said they’ve stayed bear aware in these areas. That’s provided some mental awareness and respect for their environment, along with the physical demands of the trail.

They’ve been fortunate with cooperating weather, the trail not getting washed out or stalling them too much. They were ahead of schedule by the time they arrived in Pinedale, giving them some leeway for the second half of the journey.

The stop in Pinedale was Day 25 of 62. They then traveled throughout Sublette County on the trail towards Atlantic City and then Rawlins. It was a planned seven-day ride from their Sublette County stop to Steamboat Springs, Colo. From there they’ll head to New Mexico and, eventually, the Mexican border.

Along the way will come more weather updates on the satellite tracker and stops at different water sources. They’re documenting the entire journey online through Instagram (@ZenLifeAdventures) and Garmin (share.garmin.com/zenlifeadventures). As of July 16 they’d already raised $18,550 for physical and mental health services for service members. (That fundraiser can be found at give.thefund.org/fundraiser/3167508.)

Mental and physical are intertwined to Dean, so the couple is hopeful they can meet their goal of $100,000. They hope their 62-day journey can raise awareness, or at least motivate.

“That’s the message we wanted to get across, too,” Lorri said. “Whatever that movement is for you, get outside and enjoy. Our country is so beautiful, so enjoy some of this gorgeous scenery.”

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