ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE — The click-click-click of bicycle spokes penetrate through the calm morning air as a rider streaks across the South Korean countryside. Beads of sweat glide down the major’s forehead and his legs strain to keep pedaling, but his mind is not on his physical discomfort. Instead, he is focuses on the road ahead and a singular goal to finish what he started.
In preparation for the 2018 Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa in late August and to honor service members who made the ultimate sacrifice, Maj. Anthony Bares, a former 28th Bomb Wing Inspector General office inspector, planned a 375-mile solo bike ride during a recent deployment to South Korea. The memorial ride took place from May 25-28 and went from Busan to Seoul.
“My ride across South Korea was to help bring attention to the fallen,” said the B-1 weapons-system officer. “I tried to help people realize that our freedoms come at a cost, and we should remember their sacrifice.”
Bares recalled his six-month tour to South Korea, away from his loved ones, and the experiences he had while pedaling through the country. The new sights and smells, and the interesting people he met were just a few of the things he remembered about his time there.
“I learned so much about the South Korean people,” he said. “[They] made my ride so much more enjoyable because they understand how hard they and the U.S. fought to protect their way of life.”
Bares found the experience to be particularly eye-opening. He was able to see firsthand how hospitable the South Korean people could be and was also amazed by their resiliency.
“I remember stopping for lunch at a small restaurant on the trail,” the cyclist said. “I walked in, and the restaurant was actually inside this woman’s home. It was fascinating to see local customs and see how they lived their day-to-day lives. I just noticed how simple everything was, and it made me think about how well these people had adapted to their surroundings. I realized how tough these people were and how they were taking on the challenges of life.”
A multi-day trail ride can be difficult for even the most experienced cyclists. It takes endurance and determination to get to the end of the journey. When Bares struggled during his ride across the Four Rivers Trail, he thought of the Korean War veterans he was riding for — some of whom are still listed as missing in action — and it helped him push beyond his limits.
“I can’t imagine how tough it is to have lost a loved one who was serving far from home,” Bares said. “I want to let the families know we have not forgotten their sacrifice and we will continue to support them.”