MUKILTEO — Jon Boyce was 31 when he rode a bike coast-to-coast in the summer of 1979.
Deven Boyce figured if his grandpa could do it, so could he.
No matter that he’s only 14.
What’s up with that?
Deven last week started a 3,000-mile trek from the Mukilteo Lighthouse to the Statue of Liberty. Grandpa Boyce is his one-man pit crew.
About 40 well-wishers with signs and dogs gathered at the Mukilteo waterfront for a sendoff. Deven ceremoniously dipped his front tire into the Puget Sound saltwater. In about two months, he plans to repeat this in the Atlantic Ocean bay.
Deven finished his eighth-grade studies early at Harbour Pointe Middle School for the “Light to Liberty” ride.
Boyce, 72, is following Deven in a van, with three spare bikes in tow.
“I’m going to be the mother hen on the bad stretches of road, but on the good stretches, I’ll take my bike off and we can bicycle together,” Boyce said.
Deven has lived with Boyce since he was 11. The duo did a 1,000-mile bike ride in Europe in 2018. A year later, the two pedaled through Europe again. The Boyces have also hosted travelers on wheels in their Mukilteo home.
“He knows more people who have done exotic bike rides than he has fingers and toes,” Boyce said.
Last year, Boyce and his wife, Marilyn, became Deven’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 solo ride 42 years ago from Newport, Oregon, to Newport, Rhode Island. His first date decades ago with Marilyn was a bike ride. She no longer rides.
On the “Light to Liberty” odyssey with his grandson, Boyce is driving a 2004 bronze Toyota Odyssey packed with supplies.
“A lot of sunscreen, a lot of water, a lot of bike tools,” Deven said. “Uno. Extra tires. More food. Gimbal. Stove. My tent. His tent. Bug spray. Flashlight. Binoculars.”
The Osmo gimbal smartphone stabilizer is so Deven can blog. The Uno cards are for beating Papa.
“I’m undefeated,” Deven said.
His list of places to stop includes Mark Twain’s hometown in Missouri, Chillicothe in Ohio from a historical book he read, and Courtland, Kansas.
“Because one of my grandfather’s friends is there, who he met in the Army,” Deven said.
He has mapped out 17 child advocacy centers to visit along the way.
The first stop after leaving Mukilteo last week was to downtown Everett at Dawson Place Child Advocacy Center.
The trip is raising money for Dawson Place, which annually provides medical, therapy and other services to about 1,100 children of abuse. Deven counts himself among those children.
“The bike ride is part of his healing journey. It’s his way of giving back,” said Lori Vanderburg, Dawson Place director.
Deven and his Papa have already made new friends along the way.
On the first day in Skykomish, they met some friendly Shetland ponies by the road.
A Warm Showers host over the weekend was a Wenatchee math teacher who speaks five languages, plays seven musical instruments and has bicycled on every continent except Antarctica.
They stop at new sights and new faces. And sometimes people stop them.
“The easiest way to talk to people is to be on a bike,” Boyce said. “Show up in a car, people are skeptical. Walking alone, skeptical. On a bike, not skeptical.”
When are they coming back to Mukilteo?
“Deven said, ‘When we get to New York, can we go to Europe and just keep bicycling?’” Boyce said. “If we can go to Europe, we’ll go to Europe.”
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.
You can also send messages to Deven and donate to Dawson Place Child Advocacy Center in Everett.