GRAYSLAKE – Three words kept Blake Hunter going as he attempted to achieve a Guinness World Records title for the most states visited by bicycle in 24 hours.
“Go, daddy, go!”
Hunter had recorded the words chanted by his sons as he trained early in the morning on a stationary bicycle in the family’s Grayslake home. He played them back during solitary moments on the day of his ride.
Because of that motivation and the support he received from his wife, Amelia, family and friends, Hunter now can call himself a Guinness World Record holder.
On July 16, 2021, he rode his bike more than 141 miles through six states – New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. He completed the record in nearly 12 hours.
It took more than a year for the record to officially be certified by Guinness at www.guinnessworldrecords.com.
“It felt really good to finally get that response of, ‘You’re the current record holder,” but it was more about the entire process,” Hunter said.
In all, it was an 18-month endeavor.
“Setting a goal, training, failing, asking for help, learning, growing, waiting for confirmation and finally succeeding together was the all-encompassing journey,” he said.
“My journey helped show my children that while you can do a lot on your own, it is also OK to ask for help along your journey. Our trials get so much easier with love and support from those around us. This attempt allowed me to learn a lot about myself, but also allowed me to teach my sons so much more about life and relationships.”
A fan of the Guinness Book of World Records as a child, he started reading the books again during the pandemic. He set out not only to break a record, but to teach his three young boys – 7-year-old Caleb, 5-year-old Daxton and 4-year-old Rhys.
The two oldest boys joined his wife as the support crew, heading out together at 3:30 a.m. July 16, 2021. While Blake rode his bike, the family loaded into a rented van decked out with signs and supportive messages from family and friends to provide food and water along the route.
Random witnesses were needed to verify Blake’s location and record his mileage as part of the requirements set forth by Guinness, so Amelia would drive ahead to ask people to oblige and prearrange the stops.
“I would try to go to established, well-known locations like police and fire departments, where I know people are going to be there 24/7,” said Blake, who wore a shirt bearing the map of the United States made out of bicycles. “Luckily, there was always someone to sign an affidavit saying I was there.”
Guinness also required that Blake record the entire trip, so he attached a GoPro camera underneath the cross bars of his bikes. He also had the bike rigged with battery hookups and wires to ensure the camera and the GPS on his phone continually had power.
“I’m just impressed he was able to physically, mentally, technically, logistically get all those things done in addition to working full time and raising three sons,” said Blake’s father, Bill Hunter, who lives in Dayton, Ohio.
The father and son would ride bikes together when the family lived in China while Blake was in high school.
“I’m just overwhelmed by what he was able to do. … There were a thousand little details. He knocked them all out of the park,” Bill Hunter said.
Planning out the route months before – a challenge in itself – Blake stuck with county and city roads to avoid highways.
Construction sidetracked him a few times and he made at least one route mistake. He accidentally plugged the wrong route into his GPS and ended up on a 2,000-foot hill in Massachusetts. He had originally intended to go around it.
“Halfway up, I was like I didn’t know if I could make it,” he said.
But he kept going.
Along the way, planned meetups with the van lasted less than five minutes.
“I was drinking something every half hour or so and then eating every hour after the first couple hours,” he said. “I didn’t want to hit a wall, so I had to keep hydrated and keep my energy levels up.”
The boys each had jobs. Caleb was the food guy, while Daxton provided the drinks.
Each time Blake crossed into a state, Amelia would have the boys put a state sticker on the van.
“She did a phenomenal job supporting me, but also keeping the boys busy,” Blake said.
They had seen their dad all the way through – from the 10- to 20-mile ride training days in all seasons to his longest ride to date.
“There were good days and bad days of training and it was about persevering through all of that,” Blake said, “and teaching them to do the same in whatever they’re doing, whether it’s school or their hobbies. It was a good lesson for them, I think.
“The record was cool, and I’m glad I did it, but it was more about the entire process, instead of just the one bike ride.”