Biker pedals across the U.S. -- backward

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Biker pedals across the U.S. -- backward

Postby palmspringsbum » Wed Jan 30, 2008 4:56 pm

The Miami Herald wrote:<span class=postbold>KEY WEST</span>

Biker pedals across the U.S. -- backward

<span class=postbigbold>To raise awareness for the homeless, HIV/AIDS patients and a federal medical marijuana law, a Kansas native is riding his bicycle across America -- backward.</span>

The Miami Herald
Posted on Sun, Jan. 27, 2008

<table class=posttable align=right width=300><tr><td class=postcell><img class=postimg src=bin/wright_curan.jpg></td></tr><tr><td class=postcell><span class=postbold>Curan Wright turns heads as he rides his bike backward along U.S. 1 into Key West during a journey to raise awareness for medical marijuana, homelessness and HIV/AIDS.</span></td></tr></table>KEY WEST -- Like many people before him, Curan Wright is biking across America for a good cause.

Wright is just facing the wrong way.

''It was quite a freakish, slightly surreal experience,'' said British tourist Owen Darbishire of Oxford, who saw Wright recently in the Keys. ``Visually, he looked like he was riding his bicycle toward us, but when we got closer we realized he was riding backwards.''

The 36-year-old former bounty hunter recently stopped in Key West, the halfway point of a cross-country-and-back-again journey with a somewhat controversial mission: raise awareness for homelessness, people suffering from HIV/AIDS and the need for a federal medical marijuana law.

Wright's trip began in August in California and took him through the heartland of America to Washington, D.C., where he was frustrated he couldn't meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

''They act like they don't have to hear me,'' he said during a rest break in the Keys. ``I don't have money. I'm a nobody to them. I'm just a homeless man with HIV, who got it on my own because I didn't practice safe sex and used needles.''

Wright admits he has nobody to blame but himself for contracting the virus, which he was diagnosed with about 19 months ago.

He said he's done some ''disgusting'' things in his life, including having sex for money to support his methamphetamine habit while living on the streets of Hollywood, Calif., in 2006.

But Wright said he is now clean of methamphetamines and before he dies wants to try to do some good with his life.

The only way he knows how is using his unique talent: riding a bicycle backward. In 2000, he said, he rode 672 miles backward from Kansas to Indianapolis to raise about $15,000 for the Wichita Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

''But this is the ride of my life,'' he said.

It's an unusual feat, considering the modified Redline bike he rides has only one gear. Most cross-country cyclists use bikes with about 27 gears. Despite suffering from the virus that produces weakness and fatigue, Wright has ridden backward over mountain passes that soar to more than 8,000 feet.

He also has ridden the one-gear bike through scorching desert heat, snow flurries and clogged metropolitan city streets.

He saw planes searching for missing millionaire aviator Steve Fossett in Utah and drew attention riding down State Road A1A and U.S. 1 from Jacksonville.

''Initially, I didn't believe him when he told me about his plans,'' said Wright's caseworker, Abdu Brown of Common Ground, the Westside HIV Community Center in Santa Monica, Calif. 'I've worked with a lot of clients, so I told him he needed to show me. But he did a lot of footwork necessary to do the ride. I said: `If you are serious, I'll work with you and do what I can to support you.' ''

Brown helped Wright make pamphlets describing the journey and its mission to raise awareness.

Wright has handed them out to the curious, many of whom can't believe he does not use mirrors and has had only one crash on this trip.

He relies on his peripheral vision and experience of riding about 10,000 miles backward, beginning when he was in his teens.

Brown said Wright has paid for most of the trip from his Social Security disability checks. Wright said the money is for being diagnosed with a mild case of paranoid schizophrenia.

<span class=postbold>COLLECTED DONATIONS</span>

Wright also has received a donated bike and minor contributions to help cover expenses that include four sets of tires and four tents.

Brown said he does not advocate marijuana use for the general public, but he does believe in its benefits for some of his HIV clients.

''It's called wasting, when they lose a lot of weight and you can see sculptured features of their faces,'' Brown said. ``Medical marijuana helps them eat -- the whole munchies thing. And it helps them sleep.''

Wright said he has been self-medicating during the trip, primarily to help him eat, which is especially necessary when burning thousands of extra calories a day cycling long distances.

Marijuana is legal with a prescription in California but is not legal in Florida and 36 other states.

Wright's pamphlet says: ``The greatest danger in the medical use of marijuana is its illegality, which imposes such anxiety and expense on suffering people, forces them to bargain with illicit drug dealers and exposes them to criminal prosecution.''

Wright has documented his journey with photographs, videos and a blog at It's a mix of angry, bitter comments about not being able to get proper medical treatment and his disdain for politicians as well as happy, idyllic words about putting smiles on people's faces and living a dream of seeing the country at 10 miles per hour.

<span class=postbold>NEW YEAR'S EVE</span>

Wright spent New Year's Eve on Duval Street in Key West talking to people about his causes.

He has left the Southernmost City and is now on the West Coast of Florida on his journey back to California.

His plans are to continue through the Florida Panhandle and then on to New Orleans, Houston, Tucson and back to Venice Beach, Calif., his starting point.

''I've done horrible things,'' Wright said. ``But I don't want to be remembered for my negatives. I want to be remembered for my positives. I just want to make a difference and go to heaven.''

<span class=postbold><i>See Also</i>: Pedaling for Pot - 21 May 2006
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