BIRCHWOOD, Wisc. -- A Wisconsin man recently found some unexpected inspiration on a cross-country bike trip.
Bill Laney left his home in Birchwood, Wisconsin in the end of September. He would go on to spend the next 35 days on his bike, traveling south to his winter home in Mercedes, Texas.
The 68-year-old retired doctor was inspired while reading the book "The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey" by Rinker Buck. The book follows Buck and his brother as they travel the Oregon Trail in a covered wagon with a team of mules.
"On the back of the covered wagon they had a sign that said, 'See America Slowly,'" Laney recalled.
Laney went on to pedal more than 1,900 miles, donating a dollar for every mile to Bethlehem Academy in Faribault. All five of Laney's grown children attended school there.
"The tuition has risen with everything else through the years where a lot of the kids in Faribault can't afford it. They have a lot of fundraisers aimed at easing the tuition burden," Laney said.
Bethlehem Academy tracked his journey and encouraged people on their Facebook page to match Laney's donation. While Laney was focused on raising money for Bethlehem Academy, he also came away from the trip inspired by strangers.
"I can't tell you how much help I got with finding a place to stay. People would offer me to stay in their yard," Laney said. "So it was usually somebody's home that I put my tent up and they all offered me to use their bathroom and I mean that's how nice people were."
A thousand miles into his journey, Laney's bike broke in Ada, Oklahoma.
"I thought the ride was over at that point," he said.
While Laney waited on repairs, he met a young couple at a local coffee shop who invited Laney to set up his tent in their yard.
"They invited me in their home for dinner and we became friends," he said. "I'd say that was the high point of the trip. You know something I thought was going to end my thing, turned into probably the best part of the whole trip."
The trip also restored Laney's faith in the country, with him saying, "I found the presidential campaign so vitriolic and unpleasant that I just, you get down after awhile. Doing this changed all of that... We have a lot of good people and our country's going to be okay."
According to Laney, the trip raised at least $6,000 for the school. That money will be used to help establish a new learning center for students who need extra academic help.