Man arrives in St. Louis after retracing Buffalo Soldiers’ 1,900-mile trek made in 1897
St. Louis Post-Dispatch July 26, 2022
ST. LOUIS (Tribune News Service) — At 3:14 p.m. Saturday, Erick Cedeño arrived on his bicycle in St. Louis to a crowd of about 50 people at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park, 5700 Lindell Boulevard.
After 1,900 miles, he wasn’t sure what to say, except:
“That was a tough, tough ride.” Known on Instagram as @bicycle_nomad, Cedeño rode the same route — as closely as he could — that the Buffalo Soldiers took.
One hundred twenty-five years ago, a ragtag yet triumphant group of Black U.S. Army soldiers, who became known as the Buffalo Soldier Bicycle Corps of the 25th Infantry, took a similar cross-country journey. The Buffalo Soldiers, who rode specially made military bicycles, were on a mission to determine whether it was more effective to move across the country via bicycle than by horse.
Enduring the elements, coping with cars and worrying almost constantly about things like running out of water were worth it to Cedeño to pay homage to the soldiers.
When Cedeño, 48, rode into the museum’s front drive on Sunday afternoon, the crowd erupted into applause. He parked his bicycle, took off his helmet and shook out his silvery-black dreadlocks. He greeted friends and family with hugs before making a short speech on a stage set up in front of the museum.
Cedeño, and others who have made similar journeys, admit it’s easier to do, now, with modern, multispeed bicycles.
“It’s so epic, what they did,” Cedeño said to the crowd, about the soldiers’ journey 125 years ago. He took a moment to compose himself. “I’m so emotional, because it was such a hard trip. It’s almost superhuman, what those guys accomplished.”
Janet Howard, 67, followed Cedeño at all of his stops in Missouri. She heard about his journey through her local library in Hannibal, and became interested in the history. She said she prayed for him to get through the weekend heat, and she felt his effort was superhuman, too.
“I’m just so proud of him,” Howard said. “I would do it if I could.”
Mike Higgins, 60, a retired history teacher from Wyoming, has blogged extensively about the Iron Riders — a modern-day nickname for the group — and he rode the path on his bicycle in 2010. Through their mutual interest in the story of the 25th Infantry’s cross-country bicycle trek, Higgins and Cedeño became close friends. Higgins flew from his home in rural Wyoming to be at the finish line for Cedeño’s journey.
As a history teacher, Higgins wants more people to learn the story, which to him, is like a beautiful piece of music, or a great painting. Cedeño, Higgins said, just “gets it.”
“I hope kids will learn about it,” Higgins said. “Kids need heroes.”
The 45-day journey of the soldiers was muddy, dusty, sweaty and sometimes freezing, across 1,900 miles from Montana. Cedeño’s, in comparison, was 41 days. When he began riding from Montana, the temperature was close to freezing. The heat index in St. Louis on Sunday reached 109 degrees.
Cedeño’s wife, Antoinette Reagan, 37, was relieved to see him complete the journey. Though he went on the ride with her blessing, she admitted on Sunday that it’s been stressful — because of worrying about him riding in the recent hot weather, and because she and Cedeño have a 14-month-old son, Gabriel.
Seeing Gabriel and spending time with him is what Cedeño looks forward to the most, now.
“I want to teach him how to ride a bike,” Cedeño said.