When we last saw Deven Boyce, on June 2, he was dipping his bike’s front tire into Puget Sound at Lighthouse Park in Mukilteo.
About 40 people cheered and prayed.
It was a sendoff for the 14-year-old Mukilteo boy’s 3,000-mile cross-country bike ride to the Statue of Liberty with his grandpa, Jon Boyce, in tow.
What’s up with that?
Deven is doing all the pedaling on the “Light to Liberty” bicycle tour. Grandpa Boyce, 72, is his one-man pit crew, following in a 2004 Toyota van packed with supplies and keeping in contact via Deven’s Bluetooth helmet.
Now, with seven states under their respective tires, they are on course to stop in Mark Twain’s hometown in Missouri on Friday and cross the Mississippi River into Illinois on Saturday.
“We are in the fast lane to get to New York,” his grandfather said Tuesday.
Some days, Deven bikes 100 miles.
“I don’t find it very tiring,” Deven said. He was on a pizza lunch stop in Washington, Kansas, population 1,042 or thereabouts, on Highway 36, about 175 miles northwest of Kansas City.
“I ride all day and go to bed early,” he said.
Dinner is often a can of tuna, a cup of noodles and green beans.
The weather so far: “Hot, and really hot,” Deven said.
Heat isn’t the worst part.
Ever driven through the never-ending state of Kansas?
Imagine it by bicycle. The extreme boredom alone … Deven is on long, flat stretches of road, off the cell grid, with radio static for company.
“It’s mostly just country music,” Deven said. “I’ll listen to it for a bit, then I get annoyed. It’s either that or talk shows.”
At night, the duo camp or stay at host homes through Warm Showers, a global hospitality exchange service for touring cyclists.
“There’s a lot of nice people out there,” Deven said.
He met some friendly Shetland ponies by the road in Washington. One Warm Showers host was a math teacher who speaks five languages, plays seven musical instruments and has bicycled on every continent except Antarctica. In Montana, their husband-and-wife hosts were retired FBI agents who let him pose with a taxidermy cougar shot with a pistol.
“Ahead of us we have five Warm Showers hosts lined up like a string of pearls,” Boyce said.
Over the July 4th weekend, they stayed in Courtland, Kansas, with Boyce’s Army buddy, who has a vineyard in the backyard. Deven got to light fireworks.
In Idaho he went whitewater rafting, and in South Dakota he explored Petrified Wood Park.
“I’ve never been this far east,” Deven said.
He is earning merit badges toward becoming an Eagle Scout.
The bike trip is raising money for Dawson Place Child Advocacy Center in Everett, which annually provides medical, therapy and other services to about 1,100 children who have been abused. Deven counts himself among those children and is using this trip as a way to give back and move forward.
The first stop after leaving Mukilteo in June was to thank workers at Dawson Place for their support. Deven mapped out child advocacy centers to visit on his journey and stopped at one in Montana.
Deven has lived with Boyce since he was 11 and shares his grandfather’s love of cycling on the open road. The duo did a 1,000-mile bike ride in Europe in 2018. A year later, the two pedaled through Europe again. The Boyces host travelers on wheels in their Mukilteo home.
Last year, Boyce and his wife, Marilyn, became their grandson’s legal guardians.
“He said, ‘Papa, if I get to stay with you and Grandma, can I ride my bike across America?’” Boyce said. “I said, ‘Here’s the deal: You cannot walk one inch. When you tell people you biked across America you literally will have biked from one ocean to the other ocean.’”
Boyce followed the “no walking one inch” rule on his bike ride 42 years ago from Newport, Oregon, to Newport, Rhode Island. He was 31, a lot older than Deven at the time, and he did it solo, with instant oatmeal for breakfast daily.
That’s what Deven’s eating, too, when there’s not a diner around to save him from yet another bowl of oatmeal.
They hope to get to the Statue of Liberty by the end of July. Deven plans to dip his front tire in the Atlantic Ocean.
Before the trek, Deven asked Papa, “When we get to New York, can we go to Europe and just keep bicycling?”
It was a pipe dream at the time. Not anymore.
After doing sightseeing on foot in NYC, the travelers are heading to Europe to meet up with good friends to do a little, not a lot, of biking.
“We are going to the Netherlands. I just bought the tickets for Aug. 3,” Boyce said. “Deven is going to fly back (to Seattle) on Sept. 3 because he has to start school at Kamiak (High) as a freshman.”
Boyce is staying overseas another week to celebrate his 73rd birthday, then return to the East Coast to pick up the van and head home.
It will be a lonesome drive back.
The “Light to Liberty” journey:
Follow 14-year-old Deven Boyce’s cross-country adventure on his blog at www.dawsonplace.org/light-to-liberty.
There you can also send messages to Deven and donate to Dawson Place Child Advocacy Center in Everett.