One adventure down, another one to come

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By Steve Smith

No one will ever accuse former Prairie View teacher and baseball coach Matt Nylund of being a couch potato.

After retiring from Brighton School District 27J, Nylund has taught school in Kansas, hunted bear in Kansas and in Canada and finished a cross-country bicycle ride to help raise awareness for diabetes.

He called it “rewarding.”

“It was different, and it was satisfying to help someone else (Noah Barnes) and his cause,” Nylund said. “It was a sense of personal achievement. But mainly it was nice to do something for a good cause.”

Nylund met the youngster and his father, Robert, almost a year ago while Nylund was on another trip to Kansas. They were walking from southern Florida to Blaine, Washington.

Nylund knew it was something he wanted to do. He just had to make sure he could do it on a bicycle. Nylund was not a bicycle rider before this cross-country trip from Santa Monica, California, to Savannah, Georgia.

“It’s nothing you do every day. Rarely do you get up and ride 60-plus mile toward the East Coast,” Nylund said. “I had to make sure I could ride a bike without training wheels. I knew I was going to say yes. It was a good cause. I just took a month to be sure.”

Mentally, Nylund knew he could handle the rip. The physical part was another story.

“I didn’t know about the physical part. If I got injured, would that compromise my health?” Nylund asked. “Ice baths? I took those nightly. I had leg massages at least once a week. We got to Blythe, California, and my legs were beyond sore. We’d biked 73 miles that day. I pedaled and screamed – and coasted as much as I could.”

The traveling party made it to a hotel by 9:30 that night. The next day, no one rode. Nylund needed and took a massage.

“That was the most terrible pain I’ve been through,” he said. “She (his masseuse) had me flipping like a fish. But afterward, I felt so good.”

When the trip resumed, Nylund started having problems with his right knee because of overuse.

“I thought this was it,” he said. “I pedaled slow to the border so I could say I did one state. Forty-four days later, we were in Savannah, Georgia. I don’t think any of it was easy. I was just doing something good for an 11-year-old boy with Type 1 diabetes.”

Nylund rediscovered something on this trip.

“The people were incredible,” he said. “The news does an incredible job of throwing bad in our face. It was great to see all these people rallying for you. People in their late teens pulled over and offered us water, a place to stay. It was absolutely moving.”

Nylund’s next stop is a one-year teaching assignment in Nome, Alaska. It starts in August. He’s looking to rent his house for a year. Email menylund@gmail.com.