Greg Taylor never really considered himself a cyclist, but that all changed after he arrived back home to Jacksonville to complete an 11,500-mile cross-country trip on July 17.
He returned to Southern Swells Brewing Company in Jacksonville Beach to a large group of family, friends and people who had heard about his trip and just wanted to be there to congratulate him.
Taylor went into his journey hoping to raise money for local Ponte Vedra Beach-based nonprofit Chem Noir to help in its fight against cancer.
“I wanted to be able to give back to Jacksonville in a big way, that I felt like a lot of people couldn’t,” Taylor said. “I kind of just wanted to give myself the challenge to see if it could get done.”
According to Taylor, he has a history of cancer in his family, so the meaning of the ride was personal on many levels.
He was able to accomplish his goal in a big way, as Chemo Noir raised roughly $120,000 throughout the ride.
“Someone like Greg is indescribable,” Chemo Noir Founder and Chairman Katrin Casey said as she began to tear up. “He’s got it all, and he did this completely selflessly. He’s a hero to me.”
The ride started when Taylor left Crucible CrossFit on Vine Street in Jacksonville on Feb. 20 and began heading west to San Diego.
It took just less than five months to complete the trip, which was ahead of his estimated timetable of six months.
“Believe it or not, I wasn’t a cyclist before at all,” Taylor said. “I was a CrossFit athlete, but it seemed something that was easily transferable.”
A bike ride that long does not come without its share of adversity along the way, and Taylor experienced plenty of that.
“You name it,” Taylor said. “Mountain climbs for four hours going straight up hill and hail, sleet, snow and wind. Whatever you can think of to come across, I promise you that I hit it.”
Taylor performed the trip solo, which is a remarkable feat considering the magnitude of the ride.
However, he would get local cyclists along the way that heard about his story and rode along with him at times.
“The mental choice was made before I left, so if I wasn’t good with it day one, I knew I wasn’t going to be good with it day 150,” Taylor said. “Once you commit to that goal and isolate it, it kind of just turns into a day-by-day battle more than anything else.”
One of the reasons he was able to carry on even through the difficult times, was the fact that he knew he had the support back home from his wife and the Chemo Noir family.
“It’s really been the entire network that has been involved,” Taylor said. “It’s a thank you to everybody connected with the Chemo Noir name.”
During Taylor’s ride he also was able to see a lot of states he had yet to have been to.
“I had never been north of San Diego and had not seen a lot of the Northeast,” Taylor said. “It was mind-blowing to put into perspective the things you read about after seeing them in-person. It was cool just to broaden my own horizons.”
Taylor rode 94 miles on the final day after starting in Brunswick, Ga., and Casey rode alongside him for the final 10 miles.
“The poor guy was cramping, but he just muscled through it those last 10 miles,” Casey said.
After months of planning and prep work prior to Taylor leaving in February, the two could not help but have their emotions take over as they headed down the home stretch.
“The second that Greg and I turned onto Beach Boulevard it was water works,” Casey said. “He is a rare human being.”