WEST BARNSTABLE — Cycling enthusiast and West Barnstable resident Connor O’Reilly went for yet another bike ride on Tuesday — this time, for over 180 miles around the Cape. O’Reilly left at sunrise with the hope of finishing his ride by sunset that same day. “Longest day of the year and longest ride of my life,” O’Reilly said. As O’Reilly and his partner, Raja Sinjab, pulled into the parking lot of Sandwich Marina Park at 5 a.m., O’Reilly admitted that battling nerves of the long ride ahead was part of the challenge. “I think really for me, it's just getting in the headspace because you know, there is a physical (component) to it for sure. But really, the last third of the ride will be uncharted territory for me, and that’ll definitely be the hard part. And that will be the mental game of, ‘do I just stop or do I just keep going?’” O’Reilly said.
O’Reilly is no stranger to long rides and pushing his limits.
Biking to raise awareness about issues is something O'Reilly has done before. In September 2020, he began his bike ride across the country to raise money for WellStrong, a fitness and wellness community based in Falmouth for people in recovery for substance abuse disorder. He spent time riding in Cambodia in 2019, and recently arrived back to the U.S. from a ride through Mexico with his partner only a few weeks ago.
O’Reilly is completing the Cape Cod ride to raise awareness and donations for his new nonprofit, Real Eyes Truth. The nonprofit, created by O’Reilly and Sinjab, uses holistic practices in group settings to help people who might be dealing with mental health issues — from mild depression and anxiety, to childhood and cultural trauma, to substance abuse recovery. The nonprofit became official in mid-February. “I got inspired to start my own nonprofit with my partner, who is in the mental health field, and our life, [which] has kind of been surrounded by holistic practices and healthy living,” O’Reilly said. The ride was the “launch” of the nonprofit.
“This is a way to bring awareness to something that's really important to us. It's something we're working really hard on, and we need to build a team of people to support this movement,” Sinjab said. A therapist herself, Sinjab did her doctoral research in historical and generational trauma, and notes the amount of work she does with youth who are struggling with their own mental health. She sees the results of everything from depression and anxiety to overdoses and suicidal thoughts, and believes in the help holistic-minded practices bring those who are struggling.
“We just feel really passionate about doing something about it. We just can't, like, sit on the sidelines anymore,” Sinjab said of her and O’Reilly’s inspiration behind their nonprofit. Going above and beyond to make a point. “Connor is somebody that goes above and beyond to make a point, to push himself for something he's really passionate about. And that's what he's doing today. And maybe it works, maybe it doesn't, but the fact that somebody in recovery himself can do something way beyond [what] he was prior is just like a message for hope that we want to promote,” Sinjab added.
While O’Reilly has biked many places off of the Cape, it’s this ride he hopes to use to connect with his community.
The idea for the ride came to him while biking in Cambodia. A bike ride to connect to the local community, O'Reilly says
“I wanted to do something closer to home. And I wanted to do something that people in my community could experience as well. I had done all these trips out of the country, and then across the country, and I was away from my hometown,” O’Reilly said. “This was the biggest challenge that was like, comparable to the cross-country ride, but in a day,” he continued.
While O’Reilly doesn’t consider himself a "professional cyclist," he has a passion for cycling nonetheless. “Biking has been my vehicle for expressing myself in a profound way and this is just another example of that,” he said. Part of O’Reilly’s ride was to check in through social media stories. He had a meeting planned with a friend at Nickerson State Park in Brewster, while Sinjab spread the word of their work by teaching a holistic class in Chatham for teen girls that same afternoon. O'Reilly didn't have an organized training regimen, and said "most of it is a mental battle"
O'Reilly prepared for this ride, and said he is “in shape” from his constant cycling, but didn’t have any sort of organized training regimen.
"What I realize for me, is that my mind is my first obstacle. And everything I do, whether it be a mental or physical thing, what my mind tells me might not always be true," O'Reilly said. "I‘ve learned to overcome that and I can do more than what my mind tells me I can do."
O’Reilly cites his own personal struggles and the incorporation of different holistic techniques into his life as something he’s constantly learning how to work with. “The one part that I feel like I've been missing is sharing that with others and feeling like a part of a community of people that have the same intention,” O’Reilly said. “So I think getting people together and creating a space for people to heal each other and connect on, like, a deeper level. That's really why I'm doing it. We just want to be another resource for people to access and maybe try something different,” he said.
That passion fueled O'Reilly's Cape ride. He intended to ride to Provincetown, Chatham, Woods Hole and back to Sandwich by sunset.
The opening of Real Eyes Truth will be July 9 at Nové Yoga and Wellness Studio in Dennis from 4 - 6 p.m.
Real Eyes Truth will also have workshops at Cape Cod Wellness Centera. Sinjab noted their use of sound healing guided meditation classes as a way to create therapeutic space with holistic practices and “move emotions out” of the body.
O’Reilly’s bike ride on Tuesday is another example of how he lives that holistic philosophy.
“It's working through the fear and doubts of limitations, like how you can overcome your own personal limits,” Sinjab said.
“He's never rode this many miles in one day. But I know he's more than capable of doing it.”
BOSTON (CBS) - Connor O'Reilly has been a cyclist for a long time. He has biked for fun, for exercise, and as a means of transportation when his addictions cost him his driver's license.
Right now, he is biking to prove that when he stops putting limits on himself, and steps outside his comfort zone, he can achieve almost anything.
He is also biking for a cause he believes in.
O'Reilly is cycling across the country—from Falmouth, Massachusetts to Santa Monica, California—to raise money for WellStrong Fitness & Wellness Center. Its mission is to create sober, active communities for people recovering from addiction.
He has embarked on the cross-country adventure alone.
There is no support van trailing him over the span of 4500 miles; no "pit crew" fixing flat tires and providing food and water.
He is traveling with everything he needs on his bicycle. The challenge is both daunting and exhilarating.
"It's been a leap of faith for me to take this on—to put my life aside back home and...take a big leap of faith to do this," said O'Reilly. "I've just proven to myself that in putting one foot in front of the other, everything falls into place if you are trying to do the right thing. There are so many parallels to early recovery."
He cites the kindness of strangers—like the physical therapist who gave him a collapsible foam roller for stretching in Amarillo, Texas—as a blessing that has become a hallmark of the journey."
O'Reilly loves to travel.
"As a gift of recovery, I've been able to travel to different places around the world. In doing that, it's enriched my recovery," he explained from his campsite in New Mexico.
His wanderlust during the pandemic and the inability to travel out of the country sparked the idea to ride from coast-to-coast.
The inspiration for the journey, he says, came from an experience he had in Egypt. He met two men who rode their bikes across Europe before flying to Egypt and embarking on a bike trip to Nairobi, Kenya.
O'Reilly began researching cross-country bike trips on YouTube. And after repeatedly seeing the same bicycle—outfitted with saddlebags for traveling—in the produce section of a grocery store, he bought a bike online and committed to the trip.
Then, he considered how to make it even more meaningful.
"How could I do this for more than myself? How could I raise some money?" O'Reilly asked himself. "I put it out on the internet, and, 24 hours later, WellStrong reached out to me. Two and a half weeks later, I was on my way."
O'Reilly pulled away from WellStrong and a crowd of cheering supporters on September 1. He smiles when he describes the sense of community he feels.
"The support from WellStrong, the people who have reached out to me on social media and the people I've met, without their support I don't think I would have been able to get through the obstacles I have overcome so far."
He also marked a proud milestone on the road—five years of recovery. He celebrated via Facebook Live with the WellStrong community. A sobriety coin was shipped out to him and he received letters and small gifts.
"That was pretty cool," he says, smiling.
O'Reilly's ride is dedicated to power and potential of living sober.
The biggest "wildcard" on the trip is the weather. Biking an average of 65 miles a day, he has pedaled through 25 mph headwinds, extreme cold, and back pain. He says he has doubted himself many times but, not unlike his early days of sobriety, he says he has faced scary, uncomfortable situations on the road and grown more comfortable over time.
His message to other people who are wrestling with their own challenges?
"You can not only survive through hard times in life, but you can actually thrive," said O'Reilly. "And after recovering from whatever you recover from…you can do extraordinary things."
Among O'Reilly's favorite spots so far are New Mexico, the rolling hills of Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri and Joplin, Missouri, where he picked up Route 66.
He will stop riding where the iconic route ends.
He plans to celebrate by jumping into the Pacific Ocean at the Santa Monica Pier sometime between November 14-22.
First published on October 30, 2020 / 11:20 PM
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Sobriety fuels West Barnstable man's cross-country bike ride
Cape Cod Times
SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO — A West Barnstable resident set out on his bicycle from Falmouth on Sept. 1, pedaling to Fall River, following a rocky dirt road through Greene, Rhode Island, and into Connecticut. Using Google Maps, he biked through New York City, through Washington, D.C., and through Virginia on the Trans America Trail.
After more than 50 days of staying in church basements, in hostels, underneath covered pavilions or in his tent, he most recently stopped in Santa Fe, where he rested for a few days in a hotel and waited out a snowstorm before continuing his journey to his final destination — Santa Monica, California.
Connor O’Reilly, 31, is riding across the country to raise money for WellStrong, a Falmouth fitness and wellness organization for people in recovery, and to show what is possible for people recovering from addiction.
“It’s really raising awareness of the power of life after addiction,” O’Reilly said. “You don’t have to just exist and get by. You can do amazing things and you can thrive.”
O’Reilly, who during his cross-country journey celebrated five years of sobriety Sept. 27 while in Carbondale, Illinois, ended his first long bike trip in India, Nepal and Cambodia a week before the United States shut down because of the pandemic. While at his job painting houses on the Cape, he found himself daydreaming about where to go next by bike. With all of the COVID-19 restrictions, he decided the best plan would be to ride across the country.
Cape Cod Man Riding Bicycle Across The Country To Celebrate His Sobriety
By Joey BrooksNov 4, 2020
Connor O’Reilly has biked for fun, for exercise and as a means of transportation, but now he’s cycling for a cause he believes in. He’s riding his bike across the country, from Falmouth, Massachusetts to Santa Monica, California to prove that by not putting limits on himself and stepping outside his comfort zone, he can achieve pretty much anything.
The trip is 45-hundred miles long and the Cape Cod man is doing it alone, without a support van following him or giving him water. Connor’s carrying everything he needs for the journey on his bike. He set off on September 1st and has celebrated a proud milestone along the way - five years of recovery and sobriety. And he’s also raising money for WellStrong Fitness & Wellness Center, which has a mission to “create sober, active communities for people recovering from addiction.”
He also has a message for people who are struggling with their own challenges. “You can not only survive through hard times in life, but you can actually thrive,” Connor says. “And after recovering from whatever you recover from…you can do extraordinary things.”
Photo Credit: Getty