LOWVILLE — Dr. Manoj R. Vora, who has climbed the highest mountains on Earth, is fueled by his wanderings and wonderings.
“When you are training, it is amazing how wonderful you feel,” the Lowville internal medicine specialist said. “It always makes me wonder, ‘Why don’t I do this year-round?’ That’s one of the reasons why I always like to dangle a carrot.”
Dr. Vora’s current carrot is a 3,600-mile rolling path across the U.S. from Portland, Ore., to Portland, Maine. He’s taking part in “The Bucket List Trip” hosted by Trek Travel. The bicycle touring company calls the training for it “intense” and the ride itself “the challenge of a lifetime.”
I met with Dr. Vora at his Lowville home in early August to join him on a training ride for his latest adventure. He’s now on the road, somewhere in South Dakota, on his cross-country trip, which began Aug. 24 in Oregon and concludes Oct. 7 in Maine.
We talked on his back deck before riding. Joining us on the ride was Da Ongchhu Sherpa, Dr. Vora’s guest for the weekend from Tibet. The pair shares a special bond. In 2013, Mr. Da Ongchhu guided Dr. Vora to the top of Mount Everest. It was the doctor’s final climb in his goal of reaching the world’s “seven summits” on the world’s seven continents.
The other six he climbed: Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa; Mount Aconcagua in South America; Mount Elbrus in the Caucasus range in southern Russia, the highest point in Europe; Mount Kosciuszko in Australia; Mount McKinley (Denali) in Alaska, the highest point in North America; and Mount Vinson Massif in Antarctica.
But Dr. Vora’s goal of cycling across the U.S. has been something he has wished to do since he was a boy growing up in Ahmedabad, India.
“So this is a 40-year-old dream that is coming to its culmination,” said the 53-year-old doctor.
The dream of cycling across the U.S. was right behind his leading dream of becoming a doctor.
“Having grown up in a relatively poor family back home, I wanted to have a better life for myself and I’ve always had the adventurer spirit and the wanderer spirit in me,” he said.
His visions of the United States were aided by the magazine Span, published by the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.
“Everything about the U.S. fascinated me,” he said. “It’s the most free nation in the world, the richest nation. Young, impressionable kids all over the world gravitate to the USA and what it stands for. Everybody wants to come in and to make a better life.”
Now he’s seeing the freest nation on Earth from his bicycle saddle. Daily rides during “The Bucket List Trip” range from 37 to 125 miles.
But he hopes to slow down at times to capture some of the country’s character.
“This is not a race,” Dr. Vora said. “It’s an enjoyable recreational trip. Being in the saddle for seven hours a day is nobody’s idea of fun, but we will be taking a lot of breaks. If there’s a town like Lowville along the way, you could say, ‘I want to take a picture with Lady LeWinda Milkzalot, the famous Lowville cow.’”
(LeWinda, a popular roadside attraction at the Lowville Producers Dairy Cooperative, stands over 11 feet tall, is 16 feet long and weighs well over a ton.)
There will be four guides and 28 other riders on the ride, Dr. Vora, said, although a handful or riders had planned to end their trip in Montana.
The man who has braved Everest and other mountains around the globe was not without intimidation about his cross-country journey.
“There is going to be attrition,” he said. “I’m hoping I’m not one of those people who will have to bail out for whatever reason. I’m going to do my best to avoid injury, accidents and to stay fit throughout the journey, which is going to be a Herculean task.”
(In one update on his blog post about the ride, the doctor said he took a few minor tumbles but it wasn’t enough to sidetrack him.)
In some ways, he said, the cross-country ride, which has four rest days, will be more difficult than his mountain climbs. On the climbs, he said, he can have delays of several days due to weather.
“The Bucket List” riders will travel in all kinds of weather, with days off few and far between. But there will be a support vehicle trailing the riders, who will stay in hotels as part of the trip package.
Dr. Vora sees similarities between cycling and mountain climbing.
“For me, it’s the solitude, the oneness with the elements,” he said. “It’s the ability to let your mind wander on meditative thoughts. You are there on your bicycle and in a zone. One has to experience it to understand what it’s all about. Certain things, you can’t describe.”
Following the interview, Dr. Vora adjusted Mr. Da Ongchhu’s bike, provided for the day’s ride by Jacob K. Steria, owner of Cycle Therapy in Lowville.
Mr. Da Ongchuu said he has a bike in Nepal, but it’s a mountain bike, much sturdier than the road bike he rode this day. After a few tips from Dr. Vora, Mr. Da Ongchhu rode it down the doctor’s driveway. He was a little wobbly, but his line straightened once into the ride. He handled the hills flawlessly.
“It’s light and nice,” he said of the bike after the ride. “And I like the gear system.”
I wished Dr. Vora luck on his cross-country ride as I left and asked him if he had any plans after he finished his latest adventure.
“I’ll have to find a new carrot to dangle,” he said.
I then recalled an additional comment he said about the cross-country trip while we previously talked on his deck:
“This is the way to see the country,” he said. “The next best thing would be walking across it.”
He gave no further indication that he was planning to do such a thing. But nowadays, somewhere in the saddle between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, he has a lot of time to think of the logistics of such an adventure.
If you want to tackle your own multi-day ride, the Wildlife Conservation Society will host its inaugural seven-day Cycle Adirondacks Tour from Aug. 23 to 29, 2015, beginning and ending in Saranac Lake.
The cost is $1,495 for riders and $995 for travel companions. The tour is limited to 600 riders.
The tour offers three catered meals a day and fully stocked rest stops, a beer and wine garden with live entertainment, baggage service, gear drop, sag vans, lodging shuttles and wildlife education programs.
For more information, go to the event’s website: cyclead irondacks.com.
If you have been inspired by a bicycle or a bicycle trip, write to Times staff writer Chris Brock at email@example.com.