From one Manhattan to another, Mike Mariona is touring the country.
On Tuesday, Mariona made his way through Warren County on a bicycle trip which began on Sept. 11, 2011. Setting out from Manhattan Beach, Calif., he intends to plant American flags at Ground Zero in New York City.
The journey has many layers of meaning, Mariona said, as he rides for the victims of the terrorist attacks, the military servicemembers and his own children. He also wants to bring attention to the problem of gangs in his area of Canoga Park, Calif. as well as Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums, a special operations unit of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Times Observer photo by Colin Kyler
Riding for a reason
Mike Mariona stops in Youngsville on his way to New York City.
"They're abusing the power invested in them," Mariona explained.
After driving north to San Francisco, Mariona said he has followed a route east through the middle of the country. He claims it was inspired by God who gave him the best route in answer to his prayers.
In Wyoming, Mariona said he had the worst time. Originally a group of three members, he said they were rescued by police and city workers during a blizzard. His brother suffered frostbite and they had to rest for a few days.
Though his brother stayed with him to Chicago, Mariona said he couldn't continue. Now that he continues the journey alone, he maintains he'll reach his destination whenever God wants him to.
"Throughout this country, I've met so many wonderful people and seen the most beautiful things," Mariona said. "I'll never be the same. It's changed my life."
While he's always wanted to travel across the country, Mariona said he never thought he'd do it on a bicycle. He just made the decision overnight.
Austin May of Youngsville said he took him in after he had intended to stay the night in the woods. Now he has given Mariona another flag to plant in New York, one which he said he had while serving overseas.