A war veteran with a hard-core attitude rode into Dolores Tuesday, and his story captured the hearts of a group of fellow veterans and locals who met him at the Rio Grande Southern Bed and Breakfast.
Marine Rob Jones was severely injured during the war in Afghanistan in 2010 while pushing into Taliban territory with his unit. He was nearly killed when an improvised explosive device detonated, and had to have both his legs amputated, one above the knee.
During his year-and-a-half in military hospitals, Jones learned how to walk on prosthetics, then began training on a bike. Restless, he soon got an idea.
"I decided to ride across America, then I figured why not raise money for veterans charities while I'm at it," said Jones, 25, after resting up and devouring a meal of chicken-fried steak courtesy of the Ponderosa Restaurant.
Beginning in Bar Harbor, Maine, he's gone 6,335 miles so far, and has raised more than $91,305 for three charities: Ride2Recovery, Coalition to Salute America's Heroes, and the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund.
"I'm pretty fatigued from Colorado mountain passes, and I'm looking forward to some nice straightaways in Utah before the next round of passes," Jones said. "Donate to may cause of helping injured veterans; that is what I urge people to do along the way."
Visit robjonesjourney.com to learn about Rob's epic journey and how to donate to the cause.
The fresh-faced Jones has a steely look of determination about him, an attitude that serves him well climbing the mountains of the West on a standard road bike with prosthetic legs. He covers 30 plus miles per day and is traveling with his brother Steve Miller, who escorts him in a modified U-haul truck they both live out of when not staying in hotels.
Miller says they've angered some drivers, "but once they realize the cause they chill out. I've learned a lot about bike repair."
Jones shrugs off perceived difficulty of the trip by his audience. "It is just a regular bike. It has not been too much, and the weather has held out nicely."
Because of his injured legs, he has adjusted to using his gluteus maximus muscles to power the bike. A barrel-chested core with arms the size of tree-trunks work in tandem with prosthetic legs as he powers down the road.
David Johnson, commander with the Montezuma County VFW Post 5231 recognizes the imperturbable attitude.
"The toughness and strength of this Marine will carry him throughout his life. His severe injury will not slow him down," he said. "Whatever community he ends up with will be blessed."
Local banks donated to the cause. Susi Sieber, owner of the Rio Grande Southern B&B donated two rooms for Rob and his brother, Lizardhead Cyclery gave Rob's bike a tune-up, and the Pony Espresso provided food and coffee.
Jones is not sure what he plans to do after the trip, perhaps becoming a comedian, or return to competition rowing.
In 2012, Jones and his partner Oksana brought home the bronze medal for rowing during the 2012 Paralympics in London, England.
"I really love rowing, the competition, the training," he said.
With 3,500 more miles to go, Jones will continue to amaze residents with his story of perseverance and service to country.
"My message to veterans is to set a goal and commit to it until it is complete. You will find success," Jones said. "The generosity and support I've had across the country has been impressive."