Blog Archives

10 Lessons From Cycling the World: Lesson #1

A Seven Minute Readimage22-e1422877813997

(Dancing in India: Verdara, Rajasthan)

Lesson #1- You are the Only You: Be Yourself

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, Writer

—-> Of all the messages I learned around the world, I believe this is the most important one of all. Just be yourself. Out in the wild reaches of our Earth I was forced to come to terms with who I was. On those long days, the bicycle allowed me to come face-to-face with my own shortcomings, failures and things I would like to improve. It taught me about who I was as a person and who I would like to be in the future.

When things went wrong during my trip, I had no one to blame but myself. If I didn’t pack enough food or water, took a horrible road or forgot to buy extra bike parts. In those moments, I got to experience myself just as I was. Things went wrong quite often. In the beginning, I would get stressed out about the little things. Soon I came to realize that it was all part of the puzzle that was this adventure. A new personality began to take shape. When I was alone, if something went terribly wrong there was no one to complain to. I usually said nothing and got on with fixing the problem or finding a solution. There was no one there to keep me motivated. I had to figure things out myself.

I believe that knowing ourselves is the most important thing we can have in life. However, in the modern age with all of the distractions and busy lives it is hard to cut through the noise. Past the advertisements, Facebook pages and familial influences, there is a person that is just you. Getting past all of the outside influences can be tough, but there is a great deal we can learn from ourselves.

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” ~ Dr. Seuss, Writer

For two years I was stuck with myself. On that type of trip, you have to know who you are before setting out. I had already done a great deal of group and solo travel beforehand. I always found that I do better on my own. Sometimes it is hard to like yourself all of the time. But, if you always need other people around, you never get down to the true spirit of your personal being.

Remember you are an individual. You are your own person. You have the power to control your future and be whomever you would like to be. Don’t forget to be you.

My 10 Lessons From Cycling the World:

Lesson #10 ~ Everything Will Never Be Perfect: So Start Today

Lesson #9 ~ You Don’t Need All That Stuff: Cherish What You Have

Lesson #8 ~ The World is NOT Scary: Travel

Lesson #7 ~ Exercise is the Best Medicine: Get Outside & Explore

Lesson #6 ~ Times Will Change: So Will You

Lesson #5 ~ The World is Full of Delicious Food: Have a Taste

Lesson #4 ~ We Can Make a Difference: Give Back

Lesson #3 ~ Never Give Up: It’s Not That Bad

Lesson #2 ~ People Are Friendly: Say Hello

Lesson #1 ~ You are the Only You: Be Yourself

Thank you for reading all the way to the end. I believe all ten of these lessons do not just pertain to a bicycle ride, but are part of a much larger picture of how we can live. Take care of yourself, explore and be the best person you can be.

_____________________________________

*Two days ago we reached the final goal for the fifth school in El Trapiche and the ultimate goal of $50,000. I am overwhelmed with the support over the course of the last two years. Additions are always welcome and will be put towards work in developing the community of El Trapiche. Updates on all of five of our schools to come soon! CLICK DONATE.

** Stay tuned for future posts and thank you for continuing to read!

Can We Auto-Correct Humanity?

10 Lessons From Cycling the World: Lesson #2

A Five Minute Readimage27-e1459911284563

(The Cycling Crew: El Trapiche, Nicaragua)

Lesson #2- People Are Friendly: Say Hello

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” ~ Desmond Tutu, Social Activist

—-> Ni Hao, Tashi Delek, Salaam Alaikum, Privet, Namaste, Ç’Kemi, Ciao, Bongu, Jambo, Moni, Hallo, Bonjour & Hola. All of these mean the same thing. Hello or greetings. The most important word in the beginning of a conversation with someone I had never met before. Hello is the link that separates us from strangers and finding new friends. That simple exchange has left me with friends from all parts of the planet. The worst part of ‘Hello’ is ‘Goodbye’.

We have the notion that the world is full of horrible people. If you watch the evening news, that is what we would be made to believe. You hear pieces of the good and a full dose of the bad. Countries throughout the world are painted with a broad stroke of the media’s brush. They do not show the normal people that live in these countries. Places are vilified because of a few individuals and greedy governments.

The most welcoming countries on my journey were Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Sudan, South Africa, Paraguay, Colombia, and Mexico. These are typically all places you do not hear much about in the world. The only time you do hear anything about these locations, are when terrible things happen. When was the last time you heard a positive story out of Sudan? But, I assure you that the vast 99.9% of people there are kind and welcoming. I have never felt so at home in a country, that was so foreign.

Parking my bike on the side of the road and walking up to a person I said ‘Salam Alaikum’ (Peace be unto you) then asked for a safe place to sleep. With a curious smile whomever I asked quickly assured me I would have a safe place to sleep. Oftentimes, the places I slept were right out in the open, a few feet from the road. I never felt the least bit uncomfortable. No one ever even thought of saying no and often whisked me off for dinner or into their home for the night.

Throughout my journey, I said ‘Hello’ in dozens of languages to thousands of people. Almost none of them treated me unfairly. Mostly, I was met with unconditional kindness and genuine curiosity. People I had just met welcomed me into their home, gave me a place to sleep, food to eat and water to drink. We shared stories, smiles and laughter.

It all started with a ‘Hello’. Don’t be afraid to take that first step.

__________________________________

*We have now reached the fundraising goal for fifth and final schoolhouse in El Trapiche, Nicaragua for a grand total of $50,000. I can’t say how thankful I am to everyone for their wonderful contributions. Thank you to the last three donations by Chris & Doug Good, my wonderful fiancee Eliza as well as the final donor Marina Quattrocchi, to take us to the $50,000. Over the course of over two years, there have been more than 300 indiviudal donors. I am happy to report that our fundraising journey for ‘One Adventure Please’ has met our ultimate goal. This type of dream is something I never imagined we would achieve when I set out on this adventure. It really shows you the power of collective action. Thank you for making change a reality for the kids in El Trapiche, Nicaragua as well as our other four communities in China, India, Kenya & Ecuador. An update on all five of our schools will be coming soon. Thank you one and all!

**If you would still like to donate to help with other projects you can still, CLICK TO DONATE. The following donations will continue to help with the community of El Trapiche. A specific need will be identified later on.

***The final installment of the ‘10 Lessons from Cycling the World’ series is tomorrow. Thank you for reading and stay tuned. 🙂

Greetings Around the World Clip

10 Lessons From Cycling the World: Lesson #3

A Six Minute Read

image1-e1452448451942

(Extreme Roads: Bolivia)

Lesson #3- Never Give Up: It is Not That Bad

“Never give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about.”Sir Winston Churchill, English Prime Minister

—-> Life is not that complicated. However, we do a good job of making it just that. Sometimes the present seems impossible. We think we’re up against a terrible resistance and the end is nowhere in sight. Maybe something happens that impacts our life, seemingly irreversibly. Though some horrible things may come our way throughout life, it is important to keep focused on what is still important to us. It is important to focus on who you are. There is a bigger picture. Like in cycling, every up eventually has a down.

If you want something enough there shouldn’t be anything that stands in your way. Obstacles will come, changes will be needed and hard decisions are likely to ensue. Do not be a victim of circumstance. The world, your family and friends need you to be the best you. There are others out there that depend on you and you in turn will depend on them when things get tough. We need each other on the good days and the bad.

No matter how awful you think things may be in the present moment, years, months and weeks down the line, you will wonder why you felt so upset over those little things. We get bogged down by our present situation and forget what really matters. The tiny details that stress you out are but minor inconveniences in the grand scheme of our lives. Why stress about all the little details when they impact your overall persona but really do not matter?

I am sorry to say, but we’re all not that special. We share the world with over seven billion other people. Thinking the world revolves around you and your personal desires is not only detrimental to your present state, but impacts everyone else around you. Being selfish and ignorant of your surrounds, will get you nowhere. Being aware and in the moment is the most important aspect to enjoying life as it is and as it comes at you. Looking forward to certain dates is something we all do. However, don’t let it get in the way of living in the moment.

Whether it is getting over something traumatic or setting your sights on impossible looking goals the most important thing to remember is that you can never give up. Each day is a new one with struggles and annoyances, but eventually you will get there. One day at a time.

On my journey, sometimes I would get wrapped up in distances and deadlines. I would forget to stop and take it all in. During those moments, I sometimes lost sight of why I set out in the first place. I set out to experience the world, see the beauty of nature, make a difference and talk to the people that share our world. Sometimes I had to catch myself and slow down. Rolling through everyone else’s normal for two years, it sometimes came to be my normal. At times I was spoiled by the beauty I was rolling through. Sometimes I took myself for granted as well, pushing too hard and too long on the bike. I had to use these instances to step back and really look at where I was. Even when the road was tough and I wanted to throw it all in, I had to remember why I was there in the first place. Taking into account past decisions for my present circumstance, was something that always helped me make sense of it all.

Our present state is a culmination of our decisions. At one point we wanted something more than anything else. Living with our decisions and moving forward is one of the harder aspects in life, but in time things get easier. Don’t give up, it is all part of our greater history and journey.

_______________________________________

**You can expect Lesson #2 tomorrow. Almost there! 🙂

***Bolivia, one of the most challenging, wild and unforgettably beautiful countries on my trip. If something is worth doing, it won’t be easy. I had some extremely tough and wonderful days in Bolivia. Days I wouldn’t trade for the world. Never give up, it will be worth it in the end!

10 Lessons From Cycling the World: Lesson #4

A Five Minute Readimage5-e1438805529127

(Study Group: Masaai Mara, Kenya)

Lesson #4- We Can Make a Difference: Give Back

“We so often feel powerless to do anything about the many problems in the world around us. We are so often left to wonder whether one person can possibly make a difference.” ~ Craig Kielburger, Free the Children/ME to WE

—-> In the grand scheme of things Canadians are pretty lucky. I read an article the other day that said Canada ranked number two in the world for the highest quality of life. After cycling around the world and visiting over sixty countries throughout my life, I can say for certain that the article is not far off the mark. We have it very good here. Yes, we complain about the rising prices of goods, gas and taxes, but the services we get in return, cannot be matched. We are well off and monetarily we live above many other places in the world. With our disposable income and time we have the power to make change a reality for people in struggling parts of the world.

It doesn’t mean we all need to start a fundraising campaign to build schools, health clinics and clean drinking water projects around the world. What it does mean is that we all have the power to make change happen. This can be right in our home community. I also understand there are plenty of Canadians that are going through a tough time and need our help as well. Volunteering at the local shelter, lending a hand to an old neighbour or using whatever skills we possess to help the less fortunate are just some way you can help. We don’t need to change the whole world with our actions, but we have the power to change individual lives in the present. I know when I give back, the feeling of having done so goes a long way for my present state of mind.

On my cycling trip I decided to partner with Free the Children, because I was passionate about education. As a teacher I knew the power that education can have on the lives of people around the world. In the modern age, without education, many people are lost and without much hope for the future.  Because of that initiative, four schools have been built and one final school in El Trapiche, Nicaragua is on the way. It is hard to believe, but we are almost there. With less than $320 to the final goal of $50,000, I am blown away. When I look at the long list of over 300 individual donations from great people throughout Canada and beyond, it leaves me speechless. If you would like to donate on the last push of the fundraising journey, please CLICK HERE.

______________________________________

*A full update on all of the schoolhouses constructed under my cycling journey will come once the final goal of $50,000 is met. Not long now!

**You can expect Lesson #3 tomorrow. Almost there! 🙂

Free the Children – Who We Are

10 Lessons From Cycling the World: Lesson #5

A Six Minute Readimage4-e1417505798966

(Spice Markets: Kabul, Afghanistan)

Lesson #5- The World is Full of Delicious Food: Have a Taste

“Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.” ~ Doug Larson, Columnist

—-> With transportation, trade and communication bridging the gap between countries around the world, we are privileged to a wider array of ingredients, flavours and information than ever before in history. People used to sacrifice their lives bringing spices from China and India, now they are available in almost every town. We eat the foods that were once only available to the richest and most powerful people. We have the opportunity to eat, healthy fresh and delicious food from around the world.

However, many of us fill our stomachs, baskets and fridges, with subsidized junk. Food that lacks energy, takes zero effort to make, expands your waistline and does nothing more than fill that empty hole. In return, we get the sluggish people, slow minds and self-inflicted sickness. Taking a bit of extra time to prepare something healthy will repay you in the long run. With the food selection today, healthy does not just mean salad anymore.

When I was on my cycling trip and actually had the opportunity to visit a ‘real’ grocery store, I would often go in and spend hours just gawking at the excess. Coming from the mountains, desert or countryside into a big city and visiting one of these stores, I felt like an alien. Typically I would shop at local markets and tiny shops on my route. Almost every grocery store in Canada is packed to the brim with foods that can make us feel awesome, but we oftentimes choose items packed with salt, sugar and fat. If you don’t know how to cook, buy a beginner cookbook, take a class or ask a friend to help you. It’s never to late to learn.

“If we’re not willing to settle for junk living, we certainly shouldn’t settle for junk food.” ~ Sally Edwards, Author

image9-e1409805647162

On my website, I almost always made a point of sharing at least one recipe from all of the countries I made my way through. I believe to understand and experience the food of a culture is half the battle. It is the gateway into people’s homes and lives. Whenever I passed through new lands I always ate what the local people ate. Often times, it was the cheapest and most delicious thing to be had. Chow Fan in China, Kabuli in Afghanistan, Biryani in India, Kushari in Egypt, Shawarma in Turkey, Pizza in Italy, Chips Mai in Tanzania, Braai in South Africa, Encebollado in Ecuador, Ceviche in Panama, Tacos in Mexico and Barbecue in the United States. The list goes on. My stomach growls just thinking about it all.

image41-e1411314897578

In any big city you can experience food from all over the world. A quick Google search will allow you to step into new culinary adventure in any big city. You’ll find hidden gems that will keep you coming back. Remember, in Canada we are able to eat bananas in December and mangos in February. We are a lucky people. Take a chance and have a bite of someone else’s culture. You might just be surprised.

(You can expect a post on my top ten favourite dishes from around the world in the future.)

________________________________

*Less than $320 to go to the final goal of $50,000 and the last schoolhouse in El Trapiche Nicaragua. CLICK HERE TO DONATE.

**Tomorrow you can expect Lesson #4 from the road. Thank you for reading! 🙂

Kabul Pulao – Afghan Cooking

10 Lessons From Cycling the World: Lesson #6

A Six Minute Read

Sunset

(Stunning Sunsets: Kerala India)

Lesson #6- Times Will Change: So Will You

“Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn’t stop for anybody.” Stephen Chbosky, The Perk of Being a Wallflower

—-> We are not the same people we were in the past. It is important to always be working on ourselves and not look back with regret with who we used to be. People change. We have to accept the people we knew throughout our lives are always adapting, growing and changing as the pressures of the world mould their new selves. The world is a difference place than ten years ago. A good many things have changed. Being ready to say ‘yes’ to something new is key. It may sound hard, but being open to the wild and wonderfully new may change your life forever.

If we were the same person throughout our lives, I think it would be pretty boring. As our careers, interests and life expands, we become new people. In fact, every seven years we biologically become a new person as cells and blood is replaced. Over the course of that time all of our skin cells have been replaced and replenished by new ones. So if you look at it from a biological standpoint, by the time you are 35 years old, you are just beginning your 6th self. If you look at yourself as a multitude of people, and not one singular being, it is easier to let go of your past and move towards a new future.

We may look back at nostalgia at the old days and think that nothing will ever be as good as that one point in life. I think that thought is flawed. It leaves your present self at an unfair advantage. As if you will never be that fit, charming or intelligent again. The game is never over until the end. I say don’t fight for the good days, make every single one count and never idolize the past to the point where the present moment is forgotten. It is important to remember that those past ‘Glory Days’ have shaped you dramatically, but they do not need to define you wholly.

“But all he kept talking about was, Glory days, well they’ll pass you by.” ~ Bruce Springsteen, Songwriter

By working on aspects of our personality, physique and the impact we would like to have on our surroundings, we continue to grow as people. We can make ourselves into something better. Stagnation in our development is never going to help us turn into a happier person in the future. If you don’t like something about yourself, change it. Learn a new language, try something that scares you, hit the gym or take a trip to somewhere new. I know I have my flaws and I am trying to work on them. No one is perfect, but realize personal development is a never-ending journey. Stay motivated.

______________________________________

*Less than $320 to go to the final goal of $50,000 and the last schoolhouse in El Trapiche Nicaragua. CLICK HERE TO DONATE.

**Tomorrow you can expect Lesson #5 from the road. Thank you for reading! 🙂

Waking Life – The Gap/Stories of Progress

10 Lessons From Cycling the World: Lesson #7

A Five Minute Readimage5-e1449691163956

(Endless Road: The Paraguayan Chaco)

Lesson #7- Exercise is the Best Medicine: Get Outside & Explore

“Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.” ~ Plato, Philosopher

—-> Take care of your body. You only get one. We have to ability to be as healthy and active as we want to be. It is all about motivation, time management and caring. Even those with the busiest of lives can find a few minutes a day to get that body moving. In a society with a rising blood pressure, obesity and clogged arteries; we can’t blame everyone around us. It comes down to our own choices.

I know in my experience, when I haven’t been paying particularly good attention to my body, I feel lethargic, weak and tired. Just like anything in life, you get back what you put into it. As I traveled throughout the world, I found that for most people, life takes place outside. However, in North America and Europe, I found much more closed types of lifestyles. People’s homes in the developed part of the world are very comfortable. Inside there is a television and more gadgets than you can think of. Kids spend more free time inside in these societies and less time running around. These sedentary habits carry over into adulthood.

Start a routine that suits you. If you really don’t like running or biking, then don’t run or bike. You are sure to give it up, if it is something you really don’t enjoy. Find another activity which you do like and keeps you active for a little bit each day. There are lots of options. It is important to get that heart racing each day. Once you get into that rhythm, you will feel younger and all other aspects of your life will benefit. Exercise is a stress reliever and mood enhancer.

Adventure is right there in your neighbourhood or not far from it. Exploring old places, in new ways, will give you an added respect for your home country. Ride a bicycle, go for a hike or camp wild. Leave the phone at home and get that heart racing.

_________________________________

*Less than $320 to go to the final goal of $50,000 and the last schoolhouse in El Trapiche Nicaragua A special thank you to my Aunt Fran Quattrocchi for her nice recent contribution to bring us that much closer. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE.

**Tomorrow you can expect Lesson #6 from the road. Thank you for reading! 🙂

Danny Macaskill ~ The Ride

10 Lessons From Cycling the World: Lesson #8

A Six Minute Read

image18-e1433734710794

(The Solo Road: Sudan)

Lesson #8- The World is NOT Scary: Travel

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.”Anais Nin, Cuban Essayist

 —-> We live in a world that is becoming increasingly complex. Wars are fought with ulterior motives, religion is at the forefront of debate, fourteen killed here, a rainforest chopped down there and Donald Trump is crazy. This is what you hear about the different places of the world. But beyond those imaginary lines, there are beautiful vast expanses of our world. Rugged mountains, wild plains, desert badlands, clear lakes and rolling hills. These wild landscapes have moved in shape over thousands of years. We get to experience but one piece in our Earth’s extensive history. Embrace the outdoors, wind, rain and sun.

They say that travel is the best medicine. It teaches you the things you will never learn in any classroom. It shows you the complexities of our world. It allows you to see the beauty of the Earth and learn a lot about yourself. It allows you to spend time by yourself. Whenever I am traveling I have a feeling of being completely free. Like the unknown is welcoming me forward. Some say travel can age you; however, inside you will feel younger than those that never go anywhere.

I meet many people who think that they need to travel with someone. Though this does have benefits, it limits you in many ways. You are less likely to meet new people if you already have that other person to talk to. You are less likely to go outside that comfort zone and explore beyond your personal boundaries. On my bicycle ride many people asked me, if I ever got lonely. The simple answer is, almost never. There were always people to talk to. The more you explore this world, the better you will understand how difficult it is to actually get away from people. We inhabit most of the planet, in one way or another. Very rarely on my journey outside regions of Bolivia, Sudan, Kyrgyzstan and Western China, was I far from someone I could talk to. We are a social species.

“Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain, Writer

I believe that unless you travel alone, you never get down to that bare bones of self-reflection. I understand that this is not for everyone. I get it. But, people often wondered why I travelled on my own. On a journey over two years, you have to know yourself. I knew traveling with someone else was not right for me on such a trip. You are not forced to look inside yourself and see who you really are. Thousands of hours of contemplation while cycling, meals alone and hundreds of evenings spent in my tent, taught me more about myself than I ever thought possible. I now know who am I am what I hope to accomplish in the future. Travel wide, wander free and see our world. It can teach you a great deal.

You can see all of the wonders of our world, but don’t stop to look at what’s in-between. Talk to the people where you are visiting, eat their food and spend a little time on yourself.

_____________________________________

*Less than $550 to go to the final goal of $50,000 and the last schoolhouse in El Trapiche Nicaragua. CLICK HERE TO DONATE.

**Tomorrow you can expect Lesson #7 from the road. Thank you for reading! 🙂

Walter Mitty ~ Downhill Longboard in Iceland

10 Lessons From Cycling the World: Lesson #9

A Five Minute ReadEthiopia

Lesson #9- You Don’t Need All That Stuff: Cherish What You Have 

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.” – Will Rogers, Humorist

—-> Bank memories, not things. That is the message. At the end of your days the last thoughts will not be on the newest iPhone or that expensive car you once had. Well, hopefully. You will more likely be looking back on the people and memories you are leaving behind. Did you live a good life? Did you treat people with kindness, love and compassion? What legacy are you hoping to leave? Did you do what you loved?

We really do not need all of the things we fill our lives up with. The feeling of buying something new can make us happy, but it is only a fleeting moment. The memories we look back on with the most nostalgia are the ones spent with family, friends and the people that shared this experience we call life. I know remembering a funny moment with a friend long ago, has more value to me than the memory of buying my iPad.

On my journey, I had but four small bags and a tent. All of the items I had with me were essential in my daily life. I was self-sufficient and living in the now. My life was not cluttered in any way. All of my things had a place that was their home for two years. There were very few extras necessities, especially when considering places like the Peruvian Andes with massive seventy kilometres climbs. Life was simple and sweet. My things were few but my memories and experiences will last forever.

Throughout all my travels I can honestly tell you there is only a certain level of possessions we need to make us happier. Beyond a certain plateau of material wealth, we do not become any more content inside. We simply become more competitive to keep up with our neighbours. It becomes an internal lifelong race to beat the credit card bill. This idea that happiness can be bought or sold is flawed to the very base. What we will all remember are the people we are leaving behind and how we lived our lives. Everything else is a distraction.

Eventually the pearly gates will come calling for us all. They will not care what types of things we carried with us throughout our lives. The extra bits that wore us down under all that stuff. We have the ability to live as simply as we like. The less you crowd up your life with, the freer you will be to move. Quit wasting your time buying things. These are moments you will never get back. Get out there and start living!

*Less than $550 to go to the final goal of $50,000 and the last schoolhouse in El Trapiche Nicaragua. CLICK HERE TO DONATE.

**Tomorrow you can expect Lesson #8 from the road. Thank you for reading! 🙂

What’s in your Backpack  – Up in the Air (Video Clip)

The Home Stretch: Cycling the States

A Seventeen Minute Readimage

On the road to success there are always obstacles that will stand in your way. Some will seem like they are impossible to overcome, while others will just be minor annoyances. Overcoming these roadblocks are all part of the larger struggle that leads to new avenues of personal development. Change in the face of opposition can be the hardest mountain to overcome. But, with determination, all good things will come to light.

After over twenty-three months on the road I have finally completed my journey around the world. However, it does not stop there. My trip continues on in my heart and my mind. There are a good many things I still have left to share and a message I want to make known to the world. The bicycle served as a guidance system to bring me through the challenges I needed to face. In many ways, the ride was more of a mental struggle than any other aspect. It was a daily obstacle course that involved split second decisions and chance encounters. I believe that the game of life is no different. We just do not see the consequences of our actions as quickly. The impact of our actions are in fact compounded over time.

In the quiet moments over the last few days, I have had periods to contemplate the ride. Sometimes I think I have a handle on all of the things that happened over the last two years and in other moments it seems to just be a cloudy dream. Images of people and places jump out like stalking lions. Some lay on in plain view. It will take some time to make sense of all that has happened. I have taken the messages from the road and know what obstacles I must overcome to move on. At the moment I am encouraging people to, ‘Find Your Bicycle Ride.’

You can check out the recent story on my completed ride and homecoming by Global News Canada by CLICKING HERE.

————————————————

“The great thing about the United States and the historically magnetic effect it has had on a lot of people like me is its generosity, to put it simply.” ~ Christopher Hitchens, English American Author

Our story picks up at the Mexican border post in Brownsville, Texas. Crossing over from Mexico was like stepping into another world. The affluence of the United States instantly blew me away. Throughout my journey stepping into a new country was always different. However, sometimes the changes were more apparent than others. Instantly people spoke English and I understood the world around me much better. In Southern United States there is still a heavy Spanish influence, but most people are able to speak English well. It really felt like I was coming home.

After a quick and relatively painless border check, I went to stay with some old friends who I hadn’t seen in five years, David and Diana. We had all taught English together in South Korea. During my break my good friends ensured I got a taste of American culture through some of the awesome food, sights and events in the area. It was a wonderful time catching up with them. Almost as if we had never been apart of one another. I even made the front page of the Brownsville Herald and was awarded a special honour from the Mexican consulate thanks to their help. It felt good to be with people who I had known from a different life. You can read the article in the Brownsville Herald HERE.

After a good rest and a hard goodbye, I was off cycling into a northern headwind. The landscape was flat and punctuated by massive ranches. On the first night I had rode all day and as the sun went down the wind began to pick up. I hid my bike and tent behind a wall of a ranch entrance, hoping no one would discover me in the night. Waking early the next morning I found that my water supply was running a bit low and no service stations were present at all. I saw a guy waiting in a rest area and asked him for water, to which he happily gave me a few bottles. Eventually I made it up to Corpus Christie and continued onwards through the beginnings of rolling hills. The views were quite pretty and the camping was fairly easy.

One evening in a small town the police said I was not allowed to camp in the local park. The sun was going down and I saw a man on his porch so I asked if I could camp. Mike said it would not be a problem as long as I didn’t cause any trouble. He made it be known that he had lots of guns and was not afraid to use them. Later that evening he came out to my tent with a huge venison steak, a couple sausages and tortillas for my morning breakfast. I was blown away and very thankful for his generosity. Throughout the United States I was taken in by people or the recipient of random acts of kindness just like this.

“A huge dollar bill is the most accurate way to teach children the real motto of the United States: In the Almighty Dollar We Trust… Until the average American realizes that capitalism damages her livelihood while augmenting the livelihoods of the wealthy, the Almighty Dollar will continue to rule. It certainly is not ruling in our favor.” ~ Kyrsten Sinema, American Politician

The following morning on I went north. Throughout my time in the United States I also spent a great deal of time getting caught up on my calories in the various gas stations. The excess and consumption was sometimes hard to handle after so long in countries where people struggle for the basic necessities. However, many people went far out of their way to help me through this section of my ride. It was humbling and endearing to witness. There are simply too many stories to share from this leg of the ride in a single post. I spent a great deal of time camping in trailer parks, where I met down to earth locals and people with genuinely curious smiles. I ate with rehabilitated criminals, chatted with remote farmers and shook hands with cycling enthusiasts from all over the United States.

On I went through Texas towards Arkansas. The hills continued to roll and the scenery was beautiful. I loved the roads through Arkansas with their wide shoulders and quiet swamps. One night I slept on the lawn of a family who brought me out beef stew and some ice cream bars. I was a happy camper as I passed my way through Arkansas experiencing the Southern hospitality. While resting outside a dollar store one afternoon, a man walked up to me and gave me a dollar. I tried to return it to him and explain that I did not need any charity, but he was not hearing it. When he came back from inside the store, he gave me a flashlight from his car and would not take no for an answer. What a guy.

Throughout the United States there were many people who walked up to me just to ask where I was coming from and where I might be going. Sometimes I did not want to get into the whole story, but if they were able to get it out of me, they usually did not believe it at first. I had gone to many countries on this trip that people are taught to fear. I continually tried to convey the message that even people in the ‘dangerous’ parts of the world are just that, people. Ninety-nine percent of people are not out to get you. Most would simply like to go about their business and be left alone to enjoy their lives. During the course of my journey I can say that people are not inherently bad. People become bad when they are pushed enough by internal and outside influences that cause them to rebel against certain factors. It is important to remember that the people throughout the world are not a statistic, but living breathing humans with similar wants, desires and dreams. We are all not that different.

Cruising along through Arkansas I eventually made it through a horrible crosswind along a flattened road to Memphis, Tennessee. I was in the house of Elvis and took my second day off since beginning my cycle across the United States towards Canada. With so many roads available, my route was continually changing. In most cases, the howling wind usually had a direct impact on where I ended up and who I met. Wherever I found myself at the end of the day, it always seemed right. It never felt as if I was lost or on the wrong track. There was always a new face to talk to or give me the motivation to continue onwards. Throughout the United States it was a mostly a mental battle I was waging against myself. I was trying to make it back to Canada in time to meet my lovely fiancee Eliza, who I had not seen in eight months. She was flying into Toronto and I needed to be there on time.

I rested up in Memphis and made my way onwards through spitting rain towards Kentucky. Very quickly the hills came rolling along with a ever increasing headwind. By the end of the day I got soaked in a cold rain. I was feeling low and miserable. Over the next few days this type of thing played on repeat with a cool northerly wind whipping across the landscape and hills that undulated for days. One evening I camped out in the yard of a retired Navy Veteran named Roy. He was a well travelled individual himself. We talked into the night about the history of Kentucky, shared travel tales and ate strawberries from his garden. I later found out he was a big fan of barbecued raccoon. Check out a few recipes for raccoon…HERE  😦

I left Roy’s house late in the morning after a second cup of coffee. I pushed onwards through roaring wind towards Indiana. As a made my way onwards I entertained myself with some FM radio after months of the same music on repeat. Biking through different regions allowed me to listen to a wide variety of music and genres. It was always entertaining as were the commercials. “Maybe your not fat, maybe you’re just bloated,” went the radio. “Take just one pill and see the results immediately.” I cracked a smile with the drone of the radio and advertisements in my ears.

“The United States gave me opportunities that my country of origin could not: freedom of the press and complete freedom of expression.” ~ Jorge Ramos, Mexican-American Author

Arriving in Indiana I pushed onwards towards Ohio and another friend’s home who I also taught with in South Korea. However, along the way I ran into a bit of bicycle trouble. My rear wheel seized one day on the side of a fairly busy highway. I pulled off the road and tried my best to fix the problem. I had been stubbornly fixing the same issue for months and it had finally given out. I was tired of repairing spokes and could not get the wheel to budge. I got the bike to the next service station and flagged down a ride to the nearest bike shop in the next town. I quickly got a new near rim, replacing the one that had rolled with me since Brazil. Truthfully, it owed me nothing at all. I continued on my way through Southern Indiana past a few ‘Donald Trump For President’ signs.

Later that same day, I got a flat. This was nothing new, as I was getting multiple flats almost every single day on my bald old tires purchased in Panama City. After patching the tube, that was now looking like swiss cheese, my bicycle pump broke. I was stuck on the side of the road again with no air and a very flat tire. As I was debating what to do, a man rolled up in a convertible. His name was Jim Jones and he offered to help me out. Stuck at the time, I welcomed his help. With the bike loaded up in his convertible we were off to get a new pump for my bike. Along the way, with the wind in our hair, he told me that he lost his leg on the very same highway when a transport truck hit him on the side of the road the previous year. His story of survival was amazing. As we drove he offered for me to join his family for a pizza, pasta and salad buffet. It was like a dream come true. We had dinner and shared some stories together.

After dinner we got the bicycle pump and he had originally planned to drop me off near where I left off. However, it was getting late. Jim suggested I come stay with him and his wife for the night. I was thrilled at the opportunity. When I arrived his wife was just getting home and she quickly welcomed me in as well. I was able to get a nice shower, wash my clothes and a soft bed for the night. I was blown away by this man. Even with his recent disabling accident, he had a lust for life and a genuine care for his fellow human. Saying goodbye the following morning was difficult, when he dropped me back off near where he found me the previous day. On I rolled towards Ohio with a heart full of hope and wonder for our world.

I had a good start on the day and had hoped to make it to my friend’s Zach and Bethany in two days. However, once I got rolling I decided to turn those two days into one. I arrived in Miamisburg, Ohio at 9pm after a huge 178km day over rolling hills and a crosswind. I was tuckered out and very excited to see some familiar faces once again. It was so nice to catch up with old friends and share some stories from old days working back in South Korea. I took two full days off to rest after my haul up from Memphis and was even treated to dinner at a Korean restaurant for old times sake.

From Zach and Bethany’s it was a long three day ride through the rest of Northern Ohio on into Michigan. I put in some big days and camped out along the side of the road. The wind was in my favour for once and pushed me forward through the final stretch of the United States. The terrain was almost entirely flat, so the long days were a little easier to handle. On the final few hours of my ride through the states I had to pass through the busy morning traffic of Detroit. At one point I ran into some construction, hit a patch of water and then a patch of gravel. Before I knew it, I had crashed and was rolling across the pavement. I was not impressed. I said I would replace my worn out tires as soon as possible back in Canada.

Finally, the Ambassador Bridge leading across the Detroit River to Windsor came into view. Even with my recent crash I was excited about my return back to Canadian soil. I wound around a loop of trucks and traffic as I made my way up the bridge. When I was nearing the halfway point of the bridge, a security lady jumped out of her truck, stopping both lanes of traffic. She yelled at me to get into the truck and put my bike in the back. The surly traffic police woman claimed I was not allowed to bike on the bridge. I had never had this problem my entire trip and was a bit annoyed. Especially, since her blocking both sides of traffic made the situation even more dangerous for everyone in the process. We got in the truck eventually and I asked her to just drive me the rest of the way across the bridge to Canada. She said, “no”, it wasn’t possible as I was on the American side of the bridge.

When I arrived back at customs no one was pleased to see me. I sat down in the group of other ‘randomly selected’ people and waited for the them to figure out what to do with me. I apologized for breaking the rules, I did not know existed, and was told to go down to the tunnel where I could get a shuttle to the other side. Apparently, biking back to Canada was not going to be a possibility. I came outside with all of my belongs gone through on a table. Begrudgingly, I put things back together and was off towards the tunnel. I asked if I could bike under the tunnel, but was told I had to wait for the shuttle. A bit annoyed once again, I waited for the shuttle and the ten minute ride over to Canada.

When I arrived back I was greeted by a few friendly border guards who asked a bit about my journey. They laughed when I told the story about the bridge. We all wondered why they just wouldn’t let me go. In total it was over 3,000km in twenty-two days of cycling through the states. I moved like the wind up from Mexico and had the massive expanse of beautiful country behind me. From customs I rode out into a sunny afternoon. I pointed my bike in the direction of home and let my pedals do the talking. It was good to be back. 🙂

———————————————–

*I am proud to announce with the recent outpouring of support from schools all around the Eastern Ontario region we are less than $3,000 from the final goal for the fifth school in El Trapiche, Nicaragua with Free the Children. This is like a dream come true not only for myself but mostly importantly for the young people we are helping around the world. A few donations are still to be posted online. #BeTheChange PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE.

**After arriving home I have been busy speaking about my ride. If you would like to have me talk about my experiences in your area please contact myself at markquattrocchi@hotmail.com to arrange a date. I use my ride as a platform to help others, ‘Find Their Bicycle Ride.’

***To view the live interview I did last week with CTV Morning Live PLEASE CLICK HERE.

****Thank you to everyone near and far who have made my journey a wonderful success. To my family, fiancee, friends and online supporters who have made my trip an unforgettable experience, I cannot thank you enough. I will be sharing the final leg of the journey home through Canada in a post coming soon. Please stay tuned and thank you for following along! 🙂

imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

%d bloggers like this: