Despite a harrowing breakdown in Rhode Island, John and Brielle Merrifield, the Westbrook father and daughter team riding a tandem bike from Maine to Virginia Beach, have reached Washington, D.C., safely and ahead of schedule.

Checking in from the road in Washington, D.C., Monday afternoon, John Merrifield said the pair reached the nation’s capital on July 10, one day ahead of the schedule they set for themselves when they left Westbrook at the end of June.

Merrifield said he and Brielle are both holding up very well, despite having some stretches of bad weather. Out of 12 days spent riding, Merrifield said they have had seven days of rain. “We’re having a good time,” he said.

With their arrival in Washington, D.C., Merrifield said they are about 230 miles from the end of their ride in Virginia Beach. “We plan on being in Virginia Beach next weekend,” he said.

The Merrifields are riding their tandem bicycle down the eastern seaboard through major cities and long stretches of open road, all in the name of their son and brother, Joshua Merrifield, who took his own life in March of 2004.

Calling their trip the “East Coast Bicycle Ride,” John and Brielle Merrifield are riding to raise money for a scholarship fund for Westbrook High School seniors they have established in Joshua Merrifield’s name, as well as the American Lung Association, the Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Center for Grieving Children.

The trip was going smoothly when just a few days into their journey, their bike broke down in Warwick, R.I. Merrifield said he and Brielle were coming down a hill on Route 1 when the rear tire on their bike blew out.

Normally, such a blowout would have pitched the riders off the bike, said Merrifield. However, he thinks the weight of all their gear on the bike helped them keep their balance and allowed them to ride on the wheel rim for a couple of hundred yards until they could reach a safe area with both riders uninjured.

While they were able to ride the rim, Merrifield said doing that with all the weight on the bike destroyed the back end of the bike. He said it took an area bike shop two days to fix the bike and get it back into running condition.

Once the bike was back on the road, Merrifield said they continued south to New York City, where they spent four days seeing the sights and celebrated the Fourth of July. “We did what normal tourists do,” he said.

One of the highlights of their time in New York was seeing the Independence Day fireworks. Merrifield said they went to Liberty Park in New Jersey where they had a good view of the city skyline and the Statue of Liberty to watch the 45-minute show.

“They had three sets of fireworks going off,” said Merrifield. “We could see all three. It was quite amazing.”

With their holiday mini-vacation over, the Merrifields continued on their trek, leaving the city with a bike ride through the heart of Manhattan. “We rode straight down through Manhattan on Broadway,” Merrifield said. “It was wild and crazy because it was peak time. But we had a ball doing it.”

Leaving New York, the Merrifields pushed down the coast of New Jersey and across Delaware and Maryland before pulling into Washington, D.C., where they plan to spend the next few days.

While there may be time for some sightseeing, Merrifield said they would also be meeting with Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, as well as Congressmen Mike Michaud and Tom Allen.

The other highlight of their stay in Washington will be Thursday morning’s trip to the White House. The trip was arranged by Snowe’s office, and while Merrifield is still not sure if they are going to get to meet the president, he is hopeful that the fact they have to be at the White House at 7 a.m. means they will get the chance to have a few minutes with the president.

After they leave Washington, Merrifield said they plan on riding the 130 miles to Richmond, Va., in about two days. After that, it’s just a relatively short jaunt to Virginia Beach and the end of their quest. Merrifield said he and Brielle plan to spend a couple of days in Virginia Beach for some rest and relaxation before heading back to Maine on Aug. 3. While they have been enjoying their bike tour, they plan to take the easy way back home, they are going to pack up the bike and fly.

The Merrifields have set up a Web site at to help chronicle their trip, and they are attempting to keep it updated as they head down the East Coast.

John and Brielle Merrifield have already raised about $12,000, and donations for the scholarship fund and the other charities can be sent to the Joshua Merrifield Memorial Foundation, c/o John and Brielle Merrifield, 9 Reserve St., Westbrook, Maine 04092.

Father and daughter team John and Brielle Merrifield, shown here riding in Riverbank Park last month, have reached Washington D.C. The Merrifields are riding their tandem bike from Maine to Virginia Beach to raise money for charity.

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