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Sun Sentinel Article June 7th, 2007

Delray mom, daughter to kick off first leg of 40,000-mile bike trek — for fun

By Mike Clary
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted June 7 2007

Sun Sentinel map

Delray Beach — In search of exercise and a little fun, Rosemary Taugher and her 22-year-old daughter Chelsea plan to head out Monday on a bike ride. They’ll be back in three years.

Between departure and return, the pair expect to pedal some 40,000 miles, roll up and down the coastlines of the United States and Mexico, zip through Central America, do the length of South America all the way to Tierra del Fuego, and then island hop through the Caribbean on their way back home.

It’s an adventure so ambitious and arduous that even friends shake their heads in disbelief.

“Rosemary knows that I think she’s nuts,” said Kathy Whalen, a close friend of the Delray Beach family. “But that’s Rosemary. She has grandiose ideas. But unlike most of us, she follows through on them.”

Indeed, last summer the pair warmed up with a zigzag cross-country trip to California. Over three-and-a-half months, they racked up a total of 4,280 miles as Alex Taugher-Dias, 19, Rosemary’s son, drove ahead in a van with their clothing and camping gear.

Their route took them from St. Augustine to Louisiana, then north to Illinois and west across the middle of the continent to San Francisco.

After the twisting mountain roads of Tennessee and the heat and wheat field expanse of Kansas in August, Chelsea Taugher-Dias admits she entertained the notion of never climbing on a bicycle again. But once home for a few weeks, a daily jaunt up State Road A1A to the Boynton Beach Inlet seemed too tame.

“We got addicted to the travel,” said Rosemary Taugher, 57, who with her daughter makes a living as a business management and Web site consultant. “On the road we meet new people. Every day is a new beginning, each day somewhere different.”

Jim Sayer, executive director of the 42,000-member Adventure Cycling Association, said the Taughers are part of an explosion of interest in bicycle travel. “It’s a great activity that people are becoming more aware of, from young people to the Boomer generation,” he said. “But three years is an extraordinarily big plan.”

Eleven years ago, any mother-daughter adventures for the Taughers outside a hospital room seemed improbable. While living in the Czech Republic, then 11-year-old Chelsea nearly died after being overcome by carbon monoxide from a faulty heater.

She was on life support for weeks, suffering brain damage that showed up in loss of motor control and short-term memory along with debilitating headaches. After the family moved to South Florida — an older sibling, Paul Mahoney, lives in Fort Lauderdale — Taugher home-schooled her younger children while both she and Alex worked with Chelsea on her rehabilitation.

Now completely recovered, Chelsea said, “Brain injury no longer defines me.”

For this cycling trip, no one is following in a car or van. Alex is staying home. Both women will pull about 50 pounds of belongings, including a laptop computer, in Burley Nomad trailers behind their Dolce bicycles. They will keep working from the road.

The first leg will take the pair from Key West to Bar Harbor, Maine. From there the Taughers plan to rent a car, drive to Vancouver, British Columbia, and then continue cycling down the West Coast into Mexico and Central America. They expect to be at the Mexican border by November.

The budget for the trip is about $2,000 a month for expenses, including food and occasional lodging. Along with working online, the pair hope to sell photos, video and articles along the way. Taugher is also writing a book on the virtual office.

Following detailed U.S. road maps produced by the Adventure Cycling Association, the Taughers plan to stay most nights with friends or camp out. With five or six hours of peddling, they expect to average about 50 miles a day.

Once out of the United States, the bike routes are less clear, and general information on safety and support sketchier. But Internet sites such as crazyguyonabike.com serve as clearinghouses for cyclists who travel the world.

“As the site has grown,” said Crazyguy founder Neil Gunton of St. Louis, “it has allowed people to realize what can be done. You don’t have to be Superman, but you do have to have perseverance.”

Mark Carrera, a cyclist who became friends with the Taughers three and half years ago when he worked in a Delray Beach sporting goods store, said he has concerns about two women on the road for such an extended time.

“But the adventure side of me says, `Go for it,'” he said from his home in Dover, N.H., where he is a student. “And when Rosemary says she’s going to do something, then get the hell out of the way.”

“We are doing this to celebrate life,” said Taugher, who will blog about the trip on her Web site, www.compassroseint.net. “I would love to be an inspiration to anybody, women especially.

“We’re not bionic. There is nothing special about us. We just get up every day and go ride.”

Mike Clary can be reached at mwclary@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6629.