Cat prompts Tucson man to bicycle across the nation

Ever since Tucsonan Kyle Lyons adopted a cat, he’s gone through some massive changes.

Newly adopted Lieutenant Whiskers/submitted photo

Newly adopted Lieutenant Whiskers/submitted photo

The 27-year-old Geico insurance adjuster is taking unpaid leave from work and has already gotten rid of his car and his apartment, living with friends and in a Tucson hostel.

He’s spent the last 11 months riding his bicycle up, down and around Tucson, building up calf muscles the size of Texas.

No, this is not part of some torture of the gods or a man’s stab at martyrdom – it’s all preparation for his goal: a bicycle trek across the country to raise money for the Humane Society of Southern Arizona.

His 4,018-mile journey kicks off Aug. 23 in San Diego and ends Oct. 15 in Boston.

To make it work, he needs to ride at least 75 miles per day. His route includes back roads, side roads and a trek through the Rocky Mountains where temperatures easily dip below freezing at any time of the year.

Cross-country biker-to-be Kyle Lyons/Ryn Gargulinski

Cross-country biker-to-be Kyle Lyons/submitted photo

“I just had the vague idea that I wanted to do it,” the animal lover said of biking across the nation. “I knew I wanted to do it for some kind of charity, but I wasn’t sure which one. Then I adopted a cat from the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. I saw what was going on in there. They were clearly hard-working people who could use some assistance.”

Once he had the charity in mind, he said, the rest was easy. Kind of.

Getting time off work was a piece of cake once Geico heard of his noble cause. Giving up his car was part of the bicycle training plan.

Getting rid of the apartment – well, that was a tougher one.

“So I’m homeless,” he wrote in his online journal at His lease expired at the end of July and he had to choose between renting an apartment he wouldn’t see for more than two months or sponging off friends. He chose the latter. His friend is watching his new cat, since named Lieutenant Whiskers.

“Do you have any idea how many gummy bears I can buy with the two months rent I’m not gonna have to spend now?,” he asked in his journal. “You can’t even fathom it.”

Lieutenant Whiskers (right) hangs out with buddy Luke/submitted photo

Lieutenant Whiskers (right) hangs out with buddy Luke/submitted photo

The trip itself, however, is no cheap undertaking. In addition to stocking up on all the necessities, Lyons said he needs about $4,000 to finance his way.

Food is the major cost, especially when he needs to consume between 8,000 to 10,000 calories per day.

He also needs at least three changes of clothes, special shoes, a tent, air mattress, sleeping bag, a bicycle pump and other biking equipment, his laptop to update his online journal along the way and random freeze dried treats when he needs a quick energy boost.

He expects the necessities to add about 50 pounds when saddle-bagged to the new bike he bought in May.

“My biggest trepidation is not being able to finish,” he said when asked. “But I don’t think that will be a concern. Then there’s always the vague fear of getting hit by a car or eaten by a bear. There’s nothing I’m really terrified of happening to me.”

His mom, however, sees it a bit differently. “She’s kind of freaking out,” he said. “I wasn’t going to tell my parents, but somebody spilled the beans. Dad is taking it OK but mom is kind of panicking a bit.”

Lyons most looks forward to the finale in his native town of Boston, where friends and family, including a very relieved mom, will be waiting for him.

He has also already raised $360 of his $1,000 goal for the Humane Society. Folks can donate online through the Society. Even if Lyons doesn’t hit his goal, he said none of his efforts will be wasted.

“It’s one of those once in a lifetime things,” he said.


NOTE: Two questions came up after this column aired on the radio Thursday. Here are the questions, along with Lyons’ answers:

1. Why is his goal so low at $1,000?

“The $1,000 goal is just that, a goal. If I get to $1,000, I’m certainly not going to stop accepting donations. $1,000 is kind of the minimum I’d like to put together for this thing.”

2. Why doesn’t he just give the $4,000 to the Society instead of using it for his journey?

“As for the cost of the trip itself, you have to understand a lot of that money is simply bills I need to pay while I’m not earning money at a job. The remaining could’ve theoretically just been sent to the Humane Society without me doing anything, but what if this really takes off and I end up raising $2,000 or $5,000? Even if I only make the $1,000, that’s still $1,000 dollars they didn’t have coming in before, and I get the experience of doing this cross-country ride. The same argument could be made about ANY fundraising activity: they all cost money that technically could simply go to the charity instead.”

Donate through by clicking here.

Read Lyons online journal by clicking here – WARNING: mature language not meant for kids

Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and Ryngmaster who adopted both Phoebe, the barking wonder dog, and dearly departed Stanley, the hairless rat, from the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. Listen to a preview of her column at 8:10 a.m. Thursdays on KLPX 96.1 FM. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. E-mail

What do you think?

Would you bike across the nation for your favorite charity? Would you even bike to the store?

What is your favorite charity?


About Rynski

Writer, artist, performer who specializes in the weird, wacky and sometimes creepy. Learn more at
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19 Responses to Cat prompts Tucson man to bicycle across the nation

  1. radmax says:

    Noble cause, not sure of the method. Sounds like something the guy has always wanted to do though, so more power to him. Hope he surpasses his goal-and doesn’t get hit by a car or something. Oh-Mornin’ Rynski!

  2. Rynski says:

    Mornin’ RadMax – Yes, awesome cause (Phoebe came from HSSAZ) and awesome idea. I, too, hope Kyle surpasses his goal and has a safe and exciting journey….i think it’s automatically going to be exciting, even if he doesn’t meet a bear!

  3. azmouse says:

    What a story! All I do is have yardsales so I can donate money to the Humane Society (where all my pets are from) I need to get more creative.

    Lieutenant Whiskers is beautiful.

  4. MarcyMom says:

    The biker not Sawyer. Just in case I wasn’t clear.

    • Rynski says:

      sawyer was just dialing your number! i know how you love when he whines into the phone (with phoebe barking in the background – haha).
      hey – as a mom – would you freak out, as kyle’s mom did, if your son or daughter were to bike across the nation with just saddlebags and a mission to raise money for an awesome cause? (it seems more of a son thing, as i have no intention of inflating my bike tires anytime soon – haha).

      • MarcyMom says:

        In my experience, it’s more like a daughter thing. Yes, I wouldn’t be happy. I would probably end up donating the thousand myself.

      • Rynski says:

        hahhaha! you could always ride alongside – that way you could make sure i didn’t camp in weird places. and you could guard for bears all night, after riding all day. doesn’t that sound fun? i’ll call the humane society now and tell them to put us down for next april.

      • Rynski says:

        …or you can just send the $1,000 and I’ll tell them to forget it (you can make the check out to me…ahhahah)

  5. Jennatoolz says:

    What an awesome story!! I wish I had the guts/will-power/desire to do that type of thing. My boyfriend just got a new bike, and I’ll be purchasing one sometime within the next week or so…that way we can go out riding together.  I can’t wait! I highly doubt we’ll be making any cross-country trips though. *FYI – I refuse to go alone..too many “menacing figures” about 😉

    Kudo’s to Mr. Lyons for doing this for a good cause. I like how he set a lower goal amount than one would expect. It makes it easier to reach, and I really do hope he actually exceeds it by far! It’s just if it were me, and I set a higher goal amount, and I didn’t reach it, I would feel a slight bit of disappointment. Go Kyle, go!! =D

    • Rynski says:

      yes, jennatoolz – kyle is one heck of a guy, for sure. guts, a cool cat and a mission!
      i, too, thought his goal was way low but now understand why. I, too, would shoot too high and then, in addition to feeling disappointed if/when i didn’t hit it, i would just scrap the whole ride and go make art or something (haha).

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  7. leftfield says:

    I have nothing against cats; I own one myself; but, fifteen comments on the bike ride and no comments on Afghanistan? 

  8. compoundcaptive says:

    Good thing he didn’t get a ferret–the ride would never end…

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