FARMINGTON — Two and a half years ago, Jeff Conly rode his bicycle across 29 states. Now he's looking to conquer the rest of the lower 48.

Conly, 58, rode through Bloomfield, Farmington and Shiprock on Nov. 20 and 21 on the second leg of his solo bike journey across the Continental U.S. to raise awareness on global warming.

"I'm a retired math teacher and I just love riding bikes," Conly said.

He began the second leg on Nov. 2 in Fort Worth, Texas, sleeping in a tent in clearings by the highways and other out of the way locations.

Crossing through New Mexico has been physically challenging, but he says the state's people are some of the friendliest he's met.

"In New Mexico, I've run across so many nice people," he said. "Especially on the reservations."

Conly was searching for a spot to pitch his tent on the outskirts of Shiprock at dusk on Nov. 21 when he was offered a night in a hogan by a stranger. It was the second time he slept in a bed during this leg of the journey.

"It was just a wonderful time," he said.

But Conly's journey has not been without its physical challenges.

"It's been uphill pretty much all the way from Fort Worth," he said. "I'm trying to do 30 miles a day, but the cold gets to me. I'm sleeping in two sleeping bags and I'm using this one wheeled trailer on the back of my bike. The years are catching up to me. I lost 37 pounds on that first leg."

Conly was inspired to begin his bike trip after the death of his best friend, Gary Anello in January 2012 from testicular cancer.


Advertisement

"I took his loss hard," he said.

While helping the family wrap up their affairs he read "Storms of My Grandchildren," by James Hansen and was inspired to take a stance on fossil fuel consumption and global warming.

The first leg of his journey lasted from April 13 to July 17 2010. He biked across the eastern seaboard and into the Ohio River valley visiting 29 states.

"Alternatives to carbon fuels are important to me," Conly said. "You're sunk into the culture even if you don't want to be ... I know the coffee I'm drinking had to be transported using carbon fuels. There's no way to live a completely pure life."

But there are ways to reduce the carbon footprint.

"I know it can be done, but the job is monumental," he said.

While riding through San Juan County, Conly was impressed by the economic force of the local oil and gas industry.

"As soon as I left the Jicarilla Apache reservation you begin to see the gas fields," he said. "Everywhere you turn you see them. I've never seen so much economic activity for such a sparsely populated area."

Conly, however, says he is simply trying to raise awareness and wants people to educate themselves rather than force a message across.

"I'm trying not to be too heavy handed about it," he said.

Although he is not officially affiliated with the organization, Conly is encouraging those he meets to support and donate to 350.org a climate change advocacy group that is working to build global grassroots movements to solve climate change issues. The organization operates through a network of volunteer organizers in more than 188 countries.

350.org was founded by author Bill McKibben, an American environmentalist and writer, in 2007 in Berkeley, Calif.

The organization gets its name from climate scientist James Hansen's estimation at any atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide above 350 parts per million is unsafe.

350.org organizes a number of rallies and grassroots demonstrations around the world.