Independent Record | Tyler Manning | June 22, 2021 | Link to Article
Cyclists and Marine Corps family the Zenonis biked through Helena on Monday during the first part of their nearly 2,500-mile trek down the Great Divide.
Retired U.S. Marine Corps MSgt Dean Zenoni wanted to bike the length of the Great Divide from Canada to Mexico and brought his wife Lorri along for the ride. The couple is from Sandy, Utah, which is just outside of Salt Lake City. They hope to raise $100,000 for Semper Fi & America's Fund and to draw attention to the healing that service members can find through exercise.
"You know a lot of people do 5K rides or 10K rides," Zenoni said. "I thought to myself 'There are a lot of Ks between Canada and Mexico.'"
Lorri said The Fund was started by Marine Corps wives and thus over the years every dollar is accounted for and spent well. She said they don't spend a lot of money on advertising, preferring instead to help Marine families. According to Lorri, this ride hopes to bring more attention to The Fund and the importance of nature for combat-wounded veterans. In particular, Lorri said they hope to bring attention to The Fund's sports program, which is admittedly a small part of The Fund as a whole.
"We've seen firsthand how important it was for my husband," Lorri said. "We've seen vets get injured and not want to go outside. Getting them outside and getting them active can give them a sense of comradery, competition and purpose."
Following the start of their trip on June 11 at the Roosville border crossing north of Whitefish, the couple arrived in Helena on June 20. Originally they had planned to only stay a single night, but damage to Dean's bike caused them to spend an extra night in town to get it fixed. They originally had no intention to spend more than a single night anywhere along the trail.
The two-month trip is expected to end sometime around Aug. 11 and will see the Zenonis through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. The two have meticulously planned and prepared for their trip over the past six months.
Dean said he began talking with Lorri about the possibility of the trip back in November or December. The first of the two trail bikes they would ride was under the tree for Christmas, the second bike would come a few months later. They spent time down in Arizona training for the trip and getting riding time in on their new bikes.
According to Dean, this is one of his first experiences with off-road biking. He primarily has experience with road biking and is a road cycling coach. Dean was a mountain warfare instructor in the Marine Corps, lending a lot of experience on what to expect in the conditions along the Great Divide. They carry minimal food and water on them at any given time and they stop regularly at post offices to pick up packages they had mailed to themselves via a friend. That same friend is keeping many spare parts, which Dean said are in short supply these days.
"I think we are pretty well prepared," Dean said. "And we get to bring attention to The Fund. A lot of vets I talk to don't even know about these resources."
Dean himself is a formerly injured veteran who suffered multiple injuries, surgery and trauma after four tours in Iraq and deployments to Somalia, Haiti, Cuba, Liberia and other locations. Dean looked for a way to manage his pain and stay connected with his fellow servicemen. Cycling was introduced to Dean as a form of healing and therapy.
Since his first encounter with cycling, Dean has participated in events with Team Semper Fi and The Fund to connect with fellow Service Members through various physical fitness activities.