Written by: Catie Wegman,Treasure Coast Newspapers
Cycling is Billy Klingensmith's passion. The 54-year-old special needs athlete from Vero Beach only picked up the sport about eight years ago, he said, wanting to try something new. Over the years he competed in 5K and 10K races, but the coronavirus pandemic gave him a new goal.
Klingensmith has been participating in the virtual Amerithon Challenge — a 3,521 mile journey from California to Washington, D.C. — since June 14. Now 10 weeks in, he has cycled 1,467 miles so far.
The online challenge is described as a way to "exercise your way across America without leaving your neighborhood."
"Cycling is fun. I enjoy it, and this is a great challenge," said Klingensmith, who is autistic and has a mild intellectual disability.
bikes about 25 to 30 miles every day, he said, mostly on the dirt roads
of his neighborhood and down the long stretch of State Road A1A. It
usually takes him over two hours. The Amerithon Challenge is one of the greatest things Klingensmith has ever done, his mother Peggy Ward said. "I just admire his dedication and determination," said Ward, 70. "He just loves it."
The weather has proved to be the biggest obstacle, Klingensmith said. South Florida's summer thunderstorms and subsequent wet, muddy roads don't make for a safe cycling terrain.
He first got involved with athletics through Special Olympics Florida
when he was a teenager, playing basketball and track and field, and is
now on its cycling team. The nonprofit organization has helped
Klingensmith with his learning disabilities tremendously. "I meet new friends, learn to communicate better and strive for new goals," he said.
Klingensmith also participates in Vero Beach's Sunday Strong, a local fitness organization for adults with intellectual disabilities.
He's not sure what will come next after finishing the Amerithon Challenge, he said. But, he does know that he isn't done yet, and the next adventure is out there.