Lansing, Kansas – August 28, 2023: Catalyzer co-owner Chris John recently completed a 54-day odyssey across the northern tier of the continent, traveling 3403 miles, with just 5 rest days.
“I’m fixing to be 68,” John said. “I wanted to do it before I became an old guy.”
John said he pursues adventures because they are beautiful or because they are hard. “This was both,” he said.
For those who have never ridden a bike 70 miles in one day, that goal alone seems daunting. The greater challenge, however, “is riding 70 miles day after day after day,” he said.
After starting out at the Pacific Ocean, he crashed relatively early, coming down off the Cascade Mountains in Washington. “I went down really, really hard,” he said. “Probably cracked a rib. A local chiropractor helped put me back together.”
Later, one of his riding partners had cardiac issues so serious that they called 911. No one ever showed up because the two counties couldn’t agree on who should respond—the station 40 miles away in the same county or the one 10 miles away but over the county line. Fortunately, his partner was ultimately fine, but he decided to change roles and become part of the support team in the sag truck.
Once they crossed into Canada, shoulders disappeared on the 2-lane trans-continental highway and the cyclists found themselves sharing the road with polite but fast-moving 18-wheelers. Halfway through Canada, the riders switched to some former railway beds that had been converted to trails.
Even without the dangers and decisions, “Time passes quickly on a bike,” John said. In fact, when retracing part of the route in a vehicle, he thought it was taking much longer—even though riding his bike had taken three to four times as long for the same distance.
Among the things that occupied John’s mind during the “butt-numbing” hours and hours, day after day, was an insight about leadership that came even after 40 years of immersion in the discipline.
“Great leaders base decisions on reality,” he said. Not only is there an ethical and psychological foundation for priorities, he said, “There’s a physiological basis.”
He wasn’t just saying that because his body ached.
“Every human being has a brain encased in a bone vat that takes input from the senses,” he said. “The brain is a giant PowerPoint deck, a massive prediction-machine.”
“We match inputs with patterns,” he said.
For example, when Europeans arrived here, at first the natives literally could not see the tall ships and white sails right in front of them “because their brains couldn’t process the input,” John said.
The lesson for leaders, John said, is that “we need to be incredibly humble in terms of what we think reality is.” Based on previous experiences and physiological inputs, people may be processing events quite differently, he said.
However, most people would certainly appreciate the majesty of southern Canada and the northern United States. John said the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, a 73-mile paved stretch spanning the Idaho panhandle, was especially spectacular.
At the core, the trip was more than breathtaking sights and a marvel of commitment and perseverance; it was a “journey of reconnection,” John said. He connected with the country, our northern neighbors, and people from his past, including a college roommate in South Dakota for the first time in 40 years.
The trek included hundreds of miles up and down mountains, driving rain in North Dakota—and “good people everywhere,” John said. “They just like talking to bicyclists.”
John’s advice for others applies whether the aspiration is a cross-continental adventure or more mundane local interactions. “Find a buddy,” he said.
“People you surround yourself with have a profound impact on your life,” he said.
What’s next? Of Colorado’s 58 mountains above 14,00 feet, Chris John has climbed all but one, which he will summit in September. Then, it’s on to climb South America’s highest peak, 22,837-foot Aconagua, in the Argentinian Andes. There will also be a cross-country (style, not scope) ski trip. Next year: a bicycle tour in Europe with his wife.
“I’m just really, really lucky,” John said. “I’m blessed to have friends willing to do this stuff with me.”
Chris John is a founding partner in Catalyzer, a Kansas-based, veteran-owned small business that believes servant leadership drives success and changes the world for the better. “We live out that conviction by offering tailored leadership development programs, one-on-one coaching, integral assessments, and studies that help you better understand your people and their place in your organization,” said President and CEO, Stephen Ingalls.
Since inception, Catalyzer has produced and led more than 448 separate programs across diverse industry sectors, developing more than 14,000 leaders nationwide. Organizations served include law enforcement, union/non-union manufacturing companies, community banks and their associations across seven states, engineering companies, and non-profits. Prominent organizations include McDonald’s, Utility Trailer Manufacturing, Sutton Bank (Ohio), Tindall Corporation, the Boy Scouts of America, and the County Sheriffs of Colorado.