VETERAN RIDE: Navy vet’s 1,000 mile bicycle ride for charity culminates on Island

Special to the PRESS

Jonathan Cathey, a Texas-born Navy veteran, completed an arduous journey not many could finish: travelling over a 1,000 miles across rugged Texas terrain, from the Panhandle to the tip of Texas on South Padre Island. No big deal, right? Well, imagine doing it on a bicycle.

That’s exactly what Cathey did to raise money for his non-profit startup organization called Armadillo Adventures. Cathey initially planned the trip to celebrate his 40th birthday and to commemorate his late father, who retired to the Rio Grande Valley in 2008, only to die shortly thereafter. The former Navy vet realized he had an opportunity to do much more on his journey. “I’m a big fan of outdoor activities, whether it be rock climbing, mountain biking, fly fishing or even kayaking. To me, the way I combat my own depression is by staying physically active.”  With that idea in mind, he conceived the idea of Armadillo Adventures, a non-profit whose goal is to provide outdoor adventures to veterans with depression, disabilities and Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Jonathan recalled a childhood ritual he and his father used to enjoy together that inspired the idea for his trip. “We called it the Donut Run,” he said, smiling. “We’d ride 15 miles to downtown, stop for coffee and donuts and visit with the locals, do a loop around town and head home. It was probably a 50-mile round trip.” Cathey says he didn’t train for this trip, but with his Navy training, active lifestyle and degree in psychology, he embodies the perfect combination of counseling, skills and preparation to assist fellow vets in need. He knows all too well how debilitating injuries can be, both physically and mentally, and wanted to use his talents to help other vets with similar struggles.

Cathey’s journey was almost over before it began. Only 150 miles into his trip just outside of Tulia, Texas, he was struck from behind by a Fed-Ex trucker who had fallen asleep behind the wheel driving at a speed of 70 mph. Although all of his equipment and rig were smashed to bits, amazingly he escaped with no broken bones. He recalled the accident. “I was laying on my back with the wind knocked out of me and I started doing the pat-down,” he said, referring to his Navy training of self-examination to check for injuries. “My toes were shoved through my sandals, but I stood up, moved around and realized I was basically okay.” A witness to the event told Cathey later that he expected to find a mangled bloody mess when he walked up, only to find him alert and talking.  Many friends and family members told him he didn’t have to finish his trek, but he said “I didn’t want to milk it or become the focus of the story – I wanted to complete the ride.” A cousin from Amarillo came and picked him up, and he recuperated for about two weeks before resuming his journey.

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