Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Close to Home

Lexington - August 23rd

Lexington is the last major stop before I reach the finish line in Cincinnati, and I can't believe the journey is coming to an end. I arrive at The University of Kentucky and I am greeted by the familiar faces of my childhood friends, Colton Deter and Benjamin Abourjeily. Colton jokingly said that I was an ordinary guy accomplishing extraordinary things. To which I replied, we all have the chance to accomplish extraordinary things if we work in a collective effort. I cycled over 2,500 miles, climbed 9 mountains in the Rockies, and delivered informative presentations in 50 cities across the United States. At the start of this journey I had zero cycling experience. I had very little public speaking experience, and I never dreamt of becoming a public advocate for a community outreach program. But throughout this journey I was able to adapt and improve in order to make a positive impact in the Support My School campaign. I gained strength from those who supported my commitment to this initiative, and through our collective effort we where able to accomplish more than I ever could have imagined. In my last discussion at UK I spoke about the value of solidarity and community interaction. Where we develop our communities and insure that our children have the opportunities to become successful. Where we not only improve ourselves, but where we also motivate one an other to improve collectively. Even though my cycling journey is coming to an end, my initiative to inspire and serve others is just beginning. I will continue to be active in the effort to improve educational standard in India, and hopefully my tour will be the first of many Support My School bicycle tours. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Ohio River

Louisville - August 21st
On my right side there is a 6 inch shoulder filled with a mixture of garbage and gravely rock. On my left side there is no shoulder and semi trucks whiz past me at 75 miles per hour. I have come too far to turn back, and honestly, I don't think i could turn around safely even if I wanted to. I am peddaling on highway 64, and in order to aviod traffic it is imperative that I stay on the 4 inch berm line that runs alongside the edge of the road. So I keep my head down, my upper body completely still, and I peddle forward. I shut out the rest of the world completly, and I focused on moving in an absolutely perfect straight line. I cross over the Ohio River and into the great state of Kentucky, and I thank God for allowing me to make it this far. As I got off my bike in Louisville I though about the collective effort that made this trip possible. I beamed with pride as I thought about the impact that my journey had made. All of the people that I inspired and spoke with in person. All of the people that we touched with our online video calls. And most of all, the children in India that where positvily impacted by Support My School. During my talk at the University of Louisville I discussed the importance of a collective effort. I started by explaining how countless individuals came together to help me prepare for this cycling journey, and how I utilized this united effort as motivation.Then I went on to explain how Support My School was also successful because of a collective effort, and how Indian communities came together in order to accomplish a common goal for better education. I closed with a challenge. Encouraging the group who surrounded me to find more information about Support My School at our  website at , http://www.ndtv.com/micro/supportmyschool/default.aspx, and also encouraging them to become active in their own communities. I stressed the importance of a life of service for others, and I commented on how every contribution makes a difference. My final statement was a quote from Mother Teresa, which states, "We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean, but the ocean would be less because of that missing drop." 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Community Effort

St. Anthony - August 17th

After speaking at 4 local churches and trekking across Illinois in just three days, I made my way into Indiana.  Days seemed to pass by just as miles passed by on the open road. Riding seemed effortless at this point, and the roads where becoming familiar again.  I could sense the end of my journey getting near, but I tried to stay focused on the task at hand. I didn't want to worry too much about the big finish or reflect too heavily on my previous rides. Instead, it was important for me to appreciate the current moment and stay active in my present rides. It was this attention to detail and  the present moment that allowed me to finish strong. I was covering long distances in less time, and I felt like I was exerting less energy than every before. At the beginning of the ride I was huffing and puffing my way up and over hills, but now I had enough energy to whistle as I powered through straight aways. I felt like I was on a mission and nothing could stop me in my quest to spread awareness. There was an unbelievable feeling of enthusiasm that motivated me, and I wanted to share this emotion with anyone I came in contact with. I arrived in St. Anthony, and I knew this would be a great opportunity to share the message of Support My School with a large number of people. The local fire department was putting on a chicken dinner fund-raiser and the entire community came together to show their support. There was live music, dancing, and some of the finest fried chicken I have ever tasted. I sat down to eat with a group of strangers and it wasn't long before I was telling my bicycle story. Little did I know, I was sitting with the Fire chief's wife. The chief's wife was very excited to hear about my cross country journey and she wanted everyone at the event to learn about our cause. Before I knew it, I found myself up on stage giving a presentation to over 200 people. I discussed the impact that Support My School was making in India and I commented on how it was similar to the community effort in St. Anthony. In both cases neighbors came together to support a cause that would benefit the entire community. In rural India people came together to provide basic amenities such as clean drinking water and public restrooms. In St. Anthony's people came together to support the fire department and raise money for a new safety training program. After my talk, the crowd responded with a great roar! The band picked up again and people rushed over to talk with me. Even though I was just passing through, the people of St. Anthony made me feel very welcome, and we were connected by our common interest to improve local communities.  

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Different Perspective

St. Louis - August 12th

Its amazing how a stranger can travel to strange places and feel welcome. Throughout this journey people asked me if I felt lonely, board, or even vulnerable? Most people didn't seem to understand why I would want to bicycle across the county. Some couldn't fathom being away from home for over 2 months. Others didn't grasp the need to improve conditions in India, when there are many issue in the United States that need attention. At times this journey may have been misunderstood but it was critical for me to ignore the doubt and focus on my primary goal. That goal was to raise awareness for Support My School. When I first discovered this organization I was inspired by their efforts to strengthen communities and develop opportunities for children. I'll admit there where some difficult times, but I stayed true to my purpose. I thought about all of the people that where counting on me in the Support My School organization, and I continued on knowing that my efforts impacted others in a positive way. When I spoke in St. Louis I didn't talk about how difficult it was or how I missed home. Instead I emphasized how everyday was a new adventure, and how I felt liberated in sharing my experiences with others. I spoke about the kindness of strangers and the caring people that I met along the way. I tried to explain the beauty of nature and how I was motivated to climb mountains when it was surrounded by nothing but complete wilderness. St. Louis was a large city with a small town feel. With its many different ethnic neighborhood and a diverse population, it seemed like no one was excluded. This open environment shifted the discussion in my presentation, and as a result I felt more comfortable in sharing some details on the beauty that inspired me throughout my journey. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Katy trail to MizzOU and Beyond

Columbia - August 9th

I found the trail that I would travel on over the next 4 days. I found the trail that I would use to cross the entire state of Missouri. I found the Katy trail. It was an old railroad track that had been converted to a bike trail about 30 years ago. The trail wasn't paved, instead it had a thin chip-seal kind of gravel. The path was dusty but it was certainly much safer than the road. There was almost no one on the path and the was constant shade from the tick canopy of trees that flanked both sides of the trail. It was like traveling down a tunnel with an endless strait away.
After miles and miles on the mundane trail I made my way to Columbia, the place I consider to be the true heart of Missouri. It was a combination of a quaint cultured town, with a fair dose of college influence. The town was filled with historic buildings and family owned businesses. The college campus grounds where detailed with beautiful landscaping and a cluster of exquisite monuments. The most beautiful of all were the great stone pillars that stood tall in the center of campus. It was this atmosphere of kind people and the illustrious scenery that help prepared me for my next talk. I gave my next speech on behalf of Support My School at the outdoor circular amphitheater on campus. The sound was ineradicable and as I spoke my voice was amplified by the surrounding walls. The crowd of Mizzou students seemed to share an enthusiasm for service and I was proud to share the message of Support My School with such a receptive group.