What are your plans for your 67th birthday?
For most, an acceptable answer might be lounging around the house with friends, family, and perhaps some good food to go with it. For local endurance-fitness enthusiast Steve Rhoades, the answer is waking up at the crack of dawn to paddleboard around the island before hopping on his bike to cycle the Chilly Hilly loop, a total of 63 miles, all in one day.
Initially, Rhoades was prepping for the Race to Alaska but had to shift his plans after the event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the former Marine took matters into his own hands to do a local stamina test while also working to raise awareness for the Navajo Nation Code Talkers.
They are taking such a hard hit with this virus,” Rhoades said. “The code talkers … helped us win WWII. I have to do it.”
Rhoades’ lengthy history includes spending 15 years living on the streets and battling alcoholism, eventually being discharged from the Marine Corps in 1993. After moving to Bainbridge, Rhoades found guidance and direction in his life to help keep him sober, he even became a bicycle messenger, peddling around the streets of Seattle, getting his body back into tip-top shape, while also ministering to homeless people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.
The feat itself is incredible, but Rhoades wants the community to also recognize what it took for him to get to this point of peace and happiness in his life, while also performing an incredible endurance task.
“Parents on this island with their kids struggling with drugs, alcohol, all this stuff; when they see a guy 67-years-old paddling around the island in six hours and then getting on his bike and doing the Chilly Hilly route, I mean, something’s happened,” Rhoades said.
This isn’t Rhoades’ first rodeo with the task ahead as he completed the hybrid-endurance test five years earlier in 8 hours and 10 minutes. This time, he will face the challenge again with a new knee and hip, but he’s not looking to beat his prior time, only to simply complete the daunting test once again.
Rhoades has been preparing every other day by biking and paddling in the water. He starts by waking up at 4 a.m. to get his mental state sharp, noting that he’ll be in the water by 5 a.m. Rhoades starts the day with some silence, meditation and some coffee to get the juices flowing before hopping on his board to eat his breakfast.
“I can’t over-do it,” Rhoades said about his preparation going into Sunday.
On Sunday, Rhoades will leave for Fort Ward and start by paddling his way clockwise around the island going through Rich Passage.
“When I come back up on the east side of the island, I’ll be against the tide,” he said. “I’m doing a circle so I have to go against the tide for half of it.”
Looking ahead, Rhoades said he expects the paddling to take somewhere between 6 and 7 hours, while the biking route should take 2 to 3 hours. The total 63-mile trek is comprised of 30 miles of paddling around the island and 30 miles of biking, with much of the terrain being hilly.
“I want to try and find anyone who can try and beat this,” Rhoades said.
As for what he wants the community to take away from his personal-task, Rhoades said he wants to use his story as a microcosm of bringing hope and positivity to those who need it most.
“Everyone’s got a gift, you got to find it,” he said. “When someone sees me do this and actually knows a guy who’s 67 doing it, I mean, ‘how did you do it? How did you get off the street?’ It’s my spiritual program. I’m so blessed.”
Rhoades also noted that when schools open back up, he wants to talk to students about the value of getting outside more often.