MUKILTEO — The ride spanned eight weeks, 18 states, three flat tires and a slew of roadkill.
Behind the wheel was Deven Boyce, 14.
He rode his bike from the Mukilteo Lighthouse to the Statue of Liberty. His grandpa, Jon Boyce, 72, was his one-man pit crew, following in a 2004 Toyota van packed with supplies.
The trip was Deven’s wish and Grandpa Boyce’s know-how. Both are avid cyclists. Boyce biked across the country as an adult. Deven said he was ready now.
In early June, the journey began with Deven dipping his bike’s front tire in Puget Sound at Lighthouse Park as about 40 people cheered and prayed. The 3,000-mile journey was a big commitment for both the youngster and the oldster.
The trip, named “Light to Liberty,” is raising money for Dawson Place Child Advocacy Center in Everett, where Deven received services while his grandparents gained legal custody of him over three years.
Boyce planned the cross-country venture on a retiree’s budget.
“We ate a lot of cups of noodles with a can of tuna and a can of green beans for dinner,” Boyce said. “And a lot of Quaker instant oatmeal and hot cocoa for breakfast.”
They stayed at a few motels and friends’ places, but most nights were at campgrounds or in homes through Warm Showers, a hospitality exchange service for cyclists. Hosts included an Army buddy of Boyce’s, a math teacher fluent in five languages and a couple who collect whistles.
“I wanted him to meet America,” Boyce said. “If you want to meet the people, do it on a bicycle. In a car, it just kind of goes past you.”
He said most folks were nice.
“People would slow right down and hold back traffic waiting until it was clear,” Boyce said. “Deven got to see the best of people.”
And the best roadkill.
“Dead turtles, dead deer, dead possums, dead raccoons, dead snakes,” Deven said. “I saw at least 500 dead things.”
He also found an iPad by the road.
There was one close call.
“A guy texting came within two feet of me,” Deven said. “He looked up in time and swerved off and almost crashed into the ditch.”
Along the way, the guys stopped at numerous historical landmarks and went whitewater rafting. On Monday, Deven rode roller coasters at Six Flags in New Jersey. His grandfather sat that one out.
It was a solitary yet shared journey. Boyce spent hours alone in the car, a balancing act between giving Deven space and ensuring he was safe.
Some days, Deven biked over 100 miles.
For the teen, there was boredom on long, flat stretches of road, off the cell grid, with radio static or country music for company.
“The best part was the Appalachians,” Deven said. “The topography was nice and the views were beautiful. Whenever you got to the top of a climb you could look to your left or right and either see a forest down below or plains or rolling hills with nothing on it.”
The worst part?
“The Appalachians,” he said. “All the ups and downs wore me out.”
Everywhere they went, Boyce told strangers what his grandson was doing.
In Washington, D.C., Boyce struck up a conversation with a man who it turned out had connections at the Statue of Liberty. He arranged for them to ride in a boat with workers to Liberty Island to the monument that officially marked the end of their “Light to Liberty” odyssey.
“We got to see it when there were no tourists,” Deven said. “Normally the island doesn’t allow bikes, but we got to bring the bikes.”
Last Friday, he dipped his tire into the harbor, 3,000 miles from where he started in Mukilteo.
So far, “Light to Liberty” has raised over $5,000 for Everett’s Dawson Place for services for children who have been abused.
“We are deeply grateful to Deven and to the people who have supported the cause,” Dawson Place director Lori Vanderburg said. “We are excited by his courage and the success of his trip.”
This week, the duo jet off to Europe for a month where they will spend some time apart. Deven is going rock-climbing in France with some buddies. Boyce plans to celebrate his 73rd birthday with people his age.
Deven has a plane ticket back to Mukilteo shortly before he starts his freshman year at Kamiak High School. As for Boyce, his flight is to the East Coast to get the van. He’ll drive back home alone, with nobody to share a can of beans with over a campfire.
It’s a long way, but so worth it. Boyce is proud of Deven’s feat.
How would the teen rate Grandpa?
“Seven-and-a-half,” Deven deadpanned. “Sometimes he was a bit grumpy.”