Shelby Co. teacher bikes across country

SHELBYVILLE, Ky. (WDRB)-- Jeff Bracken is back in the classroom at Shelby County High School for his 11th year of teaching. His AP class is discussing Nat Turner's Rebellion, but what he did over summer vacation might be the best lesson he can offer his students.

"How can we adapt and overcome and inspire and lead lives that fulfill your potential," said Bracken.

The teacher is slowly losing his hearing and vision as a result of Usher Syndrome Type Two.

"It's a progressive disease. My tunnel will progressively get smaller and smaller and smaller. There's no cure for it," he said.

The diagnosis came about nine years ago when he was just 24 years old.

"I thought this is going to be a huge burden on my wife. She was pregnant with our first child and she's going to have to be driving everywhere. She's going to have to do all the errands, take me to work, pick me up from work," he said.

He surrendered his license and decided to take up biking to take the burden off his wife. They even moved to a house connected to a bike trail so he can take his kids to the park, even bike to the grocery store.

"I just made some adjustments and adaptations and i just made it a goal of mine, a bucket list item to bike across the country," said Bracken.

He tackled that goal this summer spending nine weeks on his bike, riding from Seattle, Washington to Washington D.C. and absorbing the beauty around him as he went.

"The mountains in the northwest, the flats in Nebraska riding along trains the whole time and the corn fields in Illinois. Everything had it's own uniqueness," he said.

He and his group averaged about 75 miles a day, often hitting challenging weather.

"Like when I rode into 28 degree weather in Butte, Montana and it was snowing and I got a flat tire 3 miles into a 4 mile climb and the last mile I had to walk my bike up the mountain because I couldn't feel my fingers to change a tire."

And as he pedaled, he spread awareness about the disease that's slowly taking his hearing and vision.

"I got to speak with them and share what my journey is and try to empower and inspire," he said.

Back in the classroom, a small map hangs in the back of his classroom as a reminder to him and his students that life is full of challenges that can be tackled.

"To not give in or give up but rather find ways to adapt. Find ways to over come," he said.

Bracken has an 8 year old son and one day hopes to bike across the country with him.

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