A reporter for the Cuyahoga Falls News Press interviewed Chuck and I a few weeks ago. This is the local newspaper for the city in which Chuck lives. It is really an honor for both of us to be interviewed. We thought that we would share her article with our readers. You can view the article on-line by clicking here.We have also pasted the text of the article below.
Two weight loss patients complete 325-mile bike journey
by JESSICA COHEN | Reporter
Falls News Press | Sunday, August 7,2011
Two former patients of Summa Health System’s Bariatric Care Center and recipients of weight loss surgery have successfully completed the bike trip of a lifetime, an achievement they wouldn’t have dreamt of a few years ago.
Chuck Gough, 53, of Cuyahoga Falls, underwent gastric bypass surgery in July 2009 and has lost more than 130 pounds since then. Before the surgery, he was taking numerous different medications and had to use a cane to walk the majority of the time.
“My health was going downhill rapidly,” he said of his condition before surgery. “Getting around was a problem and my balance was off.”
Of his life after the surgery, Gough said it was like “night and day.”
Gough invited Tom Bilcze, 57, of Mogadore, to accompany him on his approximately 325-mile bike journey that would begin in Pittsburgh and would take them across the Great Allegheny Passage and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal trails.
Bilcze had lap band adjustable surgery in July 2008 due to various health problems and has lost about 90 pounds.
“When I decided to do the surgery, I [had] a pretty serious attitude about making the change,” he said of his mindset before the surgery.
Gough and Bilcze became increasingly involved in cycling following their surgery and both are organizers of a bicycle club for fitness called The Spin Off Cyclists, which is targeted toward weight loss surgery recipients. Gough had always dreamt of going on a long-term bike tour and had spoken with Bilcze about traveling some of the Great Allegheny Passage while they were planning biking routes for The Spin Offs. After learning that the Passage connects to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal trails and taking a few hours to contemplate a long-term bike trip along the trails, Gough decided to take on the challenge and invited Bilcze along for the ride.
“I knew I wanted to do something like this eventually, but I thought it might be in a few years,” Bilcze said. “If I could be successful at this, it would be with Chuck.”
The biking trip began June 25 in Pittsburgh and ended July 3 in Washington, D.C. The journey proved to be a live-and-learn experience for the two friends who have known each other for almost two years.
The first challenges surfaced within the beginning days of the trip.
“We loaded ourselves down too heavy at first and ended up shipping some of our stuff off along the way,” Gough said, adding that because the first two days were solid uphill grinds, once they got past that, the pair was doing well.
“We quickly adapted,” Bilcze said of the obstacles. “You kind of learn about each person’s strengths and weaknesses [on a trip like this].”
Gough’s most memorable experience occurred toward the end of the trip as he and Bilcze switched from the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal trails to the Capitol Crescent trail, which was paved and easier on their equipment. The trail took them along the waterfront in the Georgetown area of Washington, D.C., a “ritzy” area home to many high-scale yachts, Gough said. They were searching for milepost zero, a location symbolizing the end of their journey.
“We were be-bopping along all beat-up and dirty,” he said, adding that the two must have been an interesting sight to the upper-class patrons of the area.
As they traveled through the neighborhood, they had trouble finding the milepost and gave way to their fatigue at a hotel only to learn when they got to their room that the milepost was just a few hundred feet away, a discovery that added some humor to the conclusion of their journey.
While Gough’s favorite spot during the trip was Harpers Ferry in West Virginia, Bilcze remembers a different location in West Virginia called the Salisbury Viaduct stretching over a large expanse of valley, situated in the small town of Meyersdale.
“It was a spectacular view,” Bilcze said. “We had a very nice experience [in Meyersdale]. The people were hospitable and it’s a beautiful area.”
When asked what he would tell others about his trip, Gough explains that people can accomplish more than they think.
“I’d tell people to go for it,” he said. “People tell themselves, ‘Oh, I could never do something like that,’ but they’d be surprised. If you set your mind to it, you can do it.”
“I went into this pretty sure that I could do it, but I was apprehensive,” Bilcze added. “I realized once I got started, things are achievable once you’re a team like Chuck and I became. You just have to take it one thing at a time.”
Along the way, Gough and Bilcze added daily posts and pictures to the blog about their journey entitled “Crossing Mountains, Chasing Rivers,” which can be found at www.crossingmountains.com.