“The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s feet.”
You’ve likely all heard some version of this famous quote from Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu. If he were alive today; however, I hope he would consider changing the last word to “wheel.”
One impressive journey began in 1972, when four college students – Dan Burden, Lys Brant, June Jenkins and Greg Siple decided to ride their bicycles from Anchorage, Alaska to the tip of South America. Keep in mind that this was at a time when a steel frame, Schwinn Varsity 10-speed was state of the art, and lightweight toe clips were a source of velo-desire. Back then, this type of trip was the cycling equivalent of Columbus heading into the open waters of the Atlantic for the first time.
Somewhere along their way south, the thought occurred to these cyclists that the U.S. would soon be celebrating its bicentennial. Wouldn’t it be great, they thought, to create and map a transcontinental bike ride to celebrate the event? (Given the enormity of this undertaking, I’m quite certain that this idea came to life after massive amounts of tequila while the group rode through Mexico.)
Nonetheless, they pulled it off. In 1976, with thousands of hours of support from volunteers and local, state and federal governments, the 4,250 mile Trans-America bicycle trail was launched. That summer, more than 4,000 people of all ages traveled it in celebration of the country’s 200th birthday. Since then, thousands of others have continued to ride that same original route.
Based on the success of that endeavor, those original college students formed a non-profit, Adventure Cycling Association, to promote bicycle touring. Almost forty years later, Adventure Cycling is now based out of Missoula, Montana and has more than 47,000 members. To help riders explore other parts of the country, the organization has mapped twenty routes totaling more than 43,000 miles and now runs more than 100 self-contained and fully supported tours for almost 2,000 riders each year. In addition, Adventure Cycling advocates for U.S. bicycle routes, multi-modal travel (trains, airlines and other public transportation) and provides scholarships for young adults to participate in educational courses.
And all this has been accomplished by a very passionate, talented team of less than forty people.
I’m very excited to have been asked to join Adventure Cycling as a member of their Board of Directors. I’ve experienced first-hand the value of cycling throughout my life. It’s an activity that improves health, engages you with your surroundings at a pace that allows you to appreciate them, helps you develop a new community of friends, and, provides perspective and much needed respite from the daily pressures of life. Here’s an example of the type of experience that Adventure Cycling enables. Take a few minutes from your busy day, grab a cup of coffee and take a look.
When you’re ready to begin your journey – whether it’s a solo cross-country tour or even a short ride through your neighborhood – consider joining Adventure Cycling.