MILLTOWN, NJ - On March 1, borough resident Nick Grisi is setting out on the trip of a lifetime; a cross-country bike ride along the ACA Southern Tier Bike Route. The trail runs from San Diego, California to St. Augustine, Florida, stretching 3,092 miles. Grisi is making the trek to celebrate a major accomplishment in the last year; a 100-pound weight loss.
The 40-year-old event food and beverage consultant decided to make a big change last February just as the coronavirus pandemic was making its way toward the Garden State.
"I decided it was time after gradually gaining a significant amount of weight over the previous years," Grisi explained. "This was due to a hectic work schedule of travel, long late hours, and unhealthy eating. I was becoming uncomfortable and everyday tasks were starting to become a challenge, so I decided to join a gym and dedicate my time to losing weight and becoming healthy. Also, my upcoming 40th birthday was a factor in this decision. I got on track quick and then the gym closed due to the pandemic so instead of abandoning everything I had done to that point I acquired all the equipment I could and continued with my routine at home."
Shut up at home, Grisi stayed on track with his weight loss program by walking, weight training, using an elliptical, and cycling along with making significant changes to his eating habits. In just four months, he shed 100-pounds and has kept the weight off while enjoying a lot of time on his bicycle thanks to the virus-induced statewide lockdown.
"The pandemic put a screeching halt to my industry," Grisi continued. "This meant spending a ton of time on my bike."
The idea for a cross-country bike ride came to Grisi while on a 75-mile trek through Crook County, Wyoming. Like most kids growing up, he enjoyed riding his bike and got his first mountain bike at the age of 18. Riding across the country has always been a dream of his.
"As I spent more time on my bike I thought there’s no better time than now to do it," he added.
To prepare, Grisi has spent the last year riding his bicycle anywhere he could. He's riden numerous bike paths in his home state of New Jersey in addition to exploring parts of California, Wyoming, and Florida. Grisi has also stuck to his exercise regimen and healthy diet in order to be in the best shape possible to make the 3,000-mile plus ride.
The ACA Southern Tier Bike Route was put together for the bicentennial in 1976 by the Adventure Cycling Association. A trek across the trail typically takes eight to 10 weeks depending on Mother Nature. Grisi will be making the ride solo, but he's connected with other cycling enthusiasts through social media who will be riding the trail the same time he is.
"I am told you will meet plenty of another people on the road, but everyone is on their own journey at their own pace," Grisi said. "So, people will come and go along the way."
His goal is to ride about 50 miles a day and camp most nights though he does plan weekly respites in a hotel to "recharge his batteries" a bit.
Grisi has set up a GoFundMe to help finance some of the trip's costs, but 50% of the donations received will go to support Milltown's Karma Cat and Zen Dog Rescue Society. He and his girlfriend Stef Andara adopted their cats Po and Mantis from the rescue. His GoFundMe has already raised over $5,000.
"My girlfriend and I are cat lovers and once Karma Cat and Zen Dog Rescue took their space in Milltown it was a good way to help animals through a local organization," he explained. "We’ve donated items for their fundraisers over the years and my girlfriend has volunteered there when time permitted. This is an opportunity to do something bigger for them, and they are such a great organization, help so many animals, and do things in conjunction with the local community. So, it’s really a no-brainer to make an effort to help their mission."
Grisi is hoping he doesn't run into any snow or scorpions on his journey, but otherwise isn't nervous about setting out on his cross-country biking adventure. He's excited to document his trek with his new GoPro 360. Grisi will be sharing photos of the trip on social media as well as updating his GoFundMe page as he makes his way across the southern United States. He is really looking forward to those extensive miles of uninterrupted time riding his bicycle.
"Seeing your surroundings from a bicycle is a totally different way to view the world," Grisi said. "You really get to appreciate the scenery a lot more. I love Arizona, and we hope to move there one day, so I am very excited the bike route goes through that area. Also, just the simplicity of being out there and carrying your gear to take as much or as little time to get to the next stop."
People can stay updated on Grisi's journey once he begins on March 1 through his Facebook and GoFundMe pages.
"I want to thank everyone thus far and going forward for being so generous and helping myself and Karma Cat and Zen Dog Rescue through their donations," Grisi said. "I also want to thank my girlfriend Stef and our cats Po and Mantis for being so unbelievably supportive through this whole venture."
"Without her, none of this would be possible," he added. "I love you Stef!"