Unity bike enthusiast recovers from fall and prepares for rugged charity ride in Utah
Ray Charley is ready to ride again – and this time it will be “a ride to the skies”.
On October 3, the Unity man, who co-owns a number of local Shop ‘n Save supermarkets, plans to set off with several other adventurous bikers on a 12-day, 440-mile ATV ride over rugged terrain in Utah.
“It’s supposed to be one of the most breathtaking landscapes in the country,” Charley said of the Hayduke Trail MTB Circuit. Also known as Trans-Utah, the Point Route near Kanab to Moab allows cyclists to see millennial rock formations in Capitol Reef National Park and the Bear’s Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments.
But this point of view does not come without some effort and the support of the tour operator Lizard Head Cycling Guides. There will be both desert and mountainous areas to traverse and overnight campsites in remote areas, as Charley and his fellow bikers climb to over 30,000 feet above sea level.
“It promises to be an extremely difficult race,” said Charley, 70. I haven’t camped since I was a child. We need to be prepared for anything from snow to 90 degree temperatures. “
In 2019, Charley took part in a charity bike ride across the country of more than 3,000 miles, from San Diego to St. Augustine, Florida. First foundation of Feherty’s troops, providing assistance and support to wounded veterans in Iraq and Afghanistan.
What happened to Charley the following year inspired his next off-road trip and his new choice of beneficiary.
He was riding a bicycle in January 2020 when he was seriously injured during an encounter with a distracted motorist.
“I fell to the left,” he said. “It was a blessing. If I had fallen to the right, the car would have run over me.
Still, he broke his pelvis and was unable to walk for more than five months. He underwent surgery through the Excela Health Orthopedic Institute, followed by several months of physiotherapy at Excela Square in Latrobe and with a private therapist.
“I told the medical team that I wanted to be able to cross the country again, if I wanted to,” he said. “I was serious about getting strong, coming back and being able to do some great expeditions.
“It was the good medical care and therapy I received that allowed me to be able to resume walking and even get back on a bicycle.”
That’s why, while hiking in Utah, Charley plans to match donations made to benefit Exela Health Orthopedics.
Customers will be able to make donations at the cash desks of their Shop ‘n Save stores in Greensburg and Murrysville, where screens will plot its route. Donations can also be made by visiting ExcelaHealth.org/RayRidesAgain.
“It gives me a lot of giddiness in my walk,” Charley said of those who support his cause. “I can’t let down these people who support me.”
Charley chairs the Westmoreland / Frick Hospital Foundation, which supports two of Exela’s three hospitals. “In order to maintain excellence in any discipline, you have to invest money,” he said.
Charley has vowed to no longer share the road with motor vehicles. While recovering, he switched from recumbent tricycle to mountain bike. His mountain bike has a lower frame than a bike intended for street use and is easier to ride.
Charley rides several days a week, often accompanied by his wife, Kate. They especially enjoy mountain biking on the trails in Linn Run and Laurel Mountain State Parks.
“My wife is my biggest cheerleader,” he said. “She continues to encourage me to get stronger and keep going.”
In August, Charley completed the 335-mile bike ride from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC on the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal Trail. He was joined by the Texan and fellow cycling enthusiast, Kip Othold, who competed in the 2019 cross country and will share a tent with Charley on the hike in Utah.
Charley is still in pain from his injury. But that didn’t stop him from continuing to do what he loves: enjoying the outdoors from the seat of a bicycle.
“It’s a state of mind,” he says. “You just don’t give up. You keep pushing.