Andrew Mortensen is making the most of his down time.
At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the United Airlines employee stepped away from his job and moved back to his parents’ basement. Rather than dwell on his unfortunate layover, he took to the road.
Mortensen decided to bike across America to raise money for The Trevor Project, motivated by his own coming out experience. The ultra-marathoner started volunteering for the LGBTQ suicide prevention organization last January, following the suicide of two friends.
“For me, riding a bike feels a little like coming out,” Mortensen told Outsports. “It’s liberating, yet full of unexpected hurdles. I want to give back to those those on their own journey — of self-discovery, of coming out, of anything in between — so they have the affirmation and support to flourish. I’ve seen firsthand how this support can make all the difference.”
Covid-19 has had a disproportionate impact on LGBTQ youth, who are already more likely to suffer from mental health issues. New polling from The Trevor Project shows 35 percent of LGBTQ kids report feeling more lonely since the start of the pandemic. The organization estimates more than 1.8 million LGBTQ youth in the U.S. seriously consider suicide each year.
With that in mind, Mortensen’s cross-country efforts came at the perfect time. He began in the northwest corner of Washington state, and traveled through 11 states in total before ending at Victory Monument in Yorktown, Virginia. Mortensen wound up riding 4,412 miles, and raising more than $5,000.
“The Trevor Project applauds Andrew Mortensen for completing this monumental, transcontinental ride to raise awareness for LGBTQ youth suicide prevention,” said JB Stark, Senior Director of Individual Giving for The Trevor Project. “We are so thankful for Andrew’s generous support and determination, which will help us ensure that we are there for every single young person who needs us, 24/7 and for free.”
Buoyed by strong support and strong legs, Mortensen decided to keep riding when he arrived in Virginia. He took his bike trip to the southernmost point in the U.S., appropriately landing in Key West. Then it was on to Mexico. As he shared on Instagram, the road keeps “coaxing” him back.
After biking through Central America — and understandably taking time for self-reflection at the Panama Canal — Mortensen is making one last push towards Patagonia, the remote region at the southern end of South America.
He’s raised more than $7,500 — 83 percent of his $9,000 fundraising goal.
Mortensen says the experience has been invigorating, both physically and spiritually. He’s realized the power in pushing on with each day.
“I think we all have a tank of willpower far larger than we ever imagine,” he said. “Arriving at the Chilean border on my bike was surreal. By pushing myself a little each day, I’d arrived someplace unthinkable to me just months before. I always envisioned willpower as this roaring, herculean effort, but what if it’s just having the confidence to move forward, day-after-day?”
You can donate to Andrew Mortensen’s ride here. Follow him on Instagram, @andrew_mort.