Flynn Donoho crossed America on a bike pulling a small trailer in an effort to raise money for the American Cancer Society. (Don Leach, HB Independent / January 24, 2014)

  • Related
  • Photo Gallery: Biking across America Photo Gallery: Biking across America
  • Anthony Carpio Signature

  • Topics
  • Tornadoes and Wind Storms
  • American Cancer Society
  • Justin Bieber
  • See more topics »

Flynn Donoho has braved a plethora of difficult weather and road conditions during his three-year journey cycling across the United States.

He's ridden through snow and hail, pedaled up mountain passes, dodged hurricanes and even stopped to watch a tornado form as he made his way to all 48 continental states to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

"In Marlow, Okla., I took pictures with my phone of an EF-4 tornado and a funnel cloud right above me," he said. "Everybody thought I was crazy and told me I should be under cover, and I go, 'Why, man? I've been in over a thousand earthquakes in California. I'm not going to miss a tornado.'"

Donoho, 55, originally from Little Rock, Ark., was back last week in Huntington Beach, the city where his quest began in January 2011. He finished his journey in November 2013 in Wyoming.

He covered more than 20,000 miles, going through seven bicycles and several tow trailers, as a way to remember those in his life who have died from cancer, including a step-sister, grandmother and friends. He is also honoring his sister-in-law, who is a breast cancer survivor.

Donoho registered his cause with Team ACS, a third-party group that helps organize personal fundraisers and national events, and began to cycle to the corners of the country in hopes of raising $1,000 along the way.

"Every dollar counts," American Cancer Society media relations manager Katherine Row said about Donoho's modest target amount. "And for every dollar he raised, he also raised awareness."

Donoho traveled north to Washington and headed east from there, but once he reached New York, his plans to travel to Florida were delayed when Hurricane Irene hit the Eastern Seaboard.

Eventually the weather cleared and he was able to bike down to the gulf and back across the country to California in January 2012, but he didn't reach his fundraising goal. So he set off on another bicycle ride to more states to try to inspire more people to donate.

In 2012, he was joined by his dog, Diva, a red chow-Labrador mix he adopted in Arizona, as he cycled around the perimeter of the country and crossed through the center yet again.

For most of his journeys, Donoho traveled on rural roads and highways, passing through smaller towns rather than major cities.

"The people are nicer," he said. "Man, in the cities, they'd rather yell at you to get out of the way or out of the road instead of in the towns, where they wave."

Donoho said he did it all for cancer awareness.

In his eyes, cycling was all he could do to give back. He is a former drug addict whose wife left him, and he had no money or job.

He has been homeless for about 10 years and hasn't seen his children in seven, but Donoho said he trusts that God will reunite him with them one day and protect him wherever he goes.

Donoho left Huntington Beach on Jan. 28 and headed to Ohio, where he plans to stay with some people he met on his journey and work.

"I got whatever I need," he said. "I'm not going to get a Maserati or the Justin Bieber Lamborghini and the fancy house he lives in. I'm content with my tent."