Feeds:
Posts
Comments

 

To the followers (all half-dozen of you!) of this TransAmerica 2010 blog, I am embarking upon a new cycling expedition across Europe, from Lisbon to Istanbul.  This ride is in support of Yaowawit, the Thai children’s charity, and to promote awareness of climate change.    The fun begins on June 1.  My new blog, Travels with Todd, is alive and kicking:     Travels with Todd : TransEuropa 2011

3700 miles, $37,000

 

Phang Nga, Thailand:   This last day of the year and of TransAmerica 2010, and both end on a high note.   During the summer I cycled 3,700 miles coast-to-coast across the United States to raise awareness and funds for A New Day Cambodia.  In total, I raised just over US$37,000, a sum 20+% above my fundraising target.  With the generosity of over 100 friends and industry colleagues, US$10 was contributed for every mile that I cycled across America.  This money will go a long way in helping 100 very deserving children a real chance of a productive life free of poverty.  Thank you all so much for your interest in and support of this mission.  

With the recurrence of the number of 37, I did some research in numerology to understand its significance.  It appears 37 is full of Judeo-Christian symbolism, and the number represents “the individual evolution in the cosmic organization.”  Yup, that sums up my year.

Two nights ago in a lovely Thai beach community, I hosted at my residence a cocktail reception for about 30 neighbors of Natai beach.  A fellow neighbor and good friend, Kung and her extended family, did all the heavy lifting for this cocktail party; my role was to speak about my cycling trip and A  new Day Cambodia, and what motivated me toward TransAmerica 2010.  It was very befitting that Dorine, a friend who lived in Phnom Penh until recently and introduced me to A New Day Cambodia almost a year ago, was on hand at this charity event.   THB75,000 was raised at this charity acution event, which took my fundraising over the $37,000 finish line.  Many friends contributed items for the auction, from babysitting services to home-cooked breakfasts, home-made dumplings and yoga lessons.  A good industry friend and talented artist in Singapore, Janine, contributed a beautiful original piece of artwork of an ostrich with an important reminder that we should keep our head out of the sand.   How appropriate.  Rather than speaking about cycling, I spoke about chasing dreams, and my ability this year to realize one particular dream in cycling across the US.  A New Day Cambodia also enables its students, through education, to dream of a productive life beyond poverty. How empowering. 

The ability to chase one’s dreams is a very special privilege.  With 2011 comes new beginnings, new aspirations.  My new big dream is to cycle around the world in stages, and I am already deep in  intensive research as I prepare to chase this new dream.  

God bless.  Follow your bliss.  And wishing you a very happy new year.

Todd

31 December 2010

Good Karma

 

Hong Kong:  First I will start with the good news.  I have (slightly) surpassed my fundraising target of US$30,000 for A New Day Cambodia.   These funds will support the 100 children who have been rescued from scavenging the municipal dump of Phnom Penh.  To reach this fundraising target it took  much longer than the 50 days I spent cycling across a continent, and it was much, much harder.  How I got over the financial finish line is a story I want to share, because it oozes with good karma.   

In late September I was about US$4,500 short of my target as some pledges surprisingly did not materialize.  Without knowing the specifics of my fundraising situation, the good people at Disney Channel in Singapore heard about my ride and decided upon A New Day Cambodia as the beneficiary of a regular internal charitable effort.  Guess how much the employees of Disney Channel Asia collectively contributed?  US$4,700, just enough to get me over the top.    That’s what I call good karma and extraordinary generosity.

There’s more karma.  Over the past few weeks, through coincidence and good old-fashioned networking, I have made contact with several other extreme long distance cyclists.   These interactions affirm my new goal of, eventually, cycling around the world.   I’ve come into contact with a Brit who us currently cycling pan-Eurasia from Hong Kong to London.  Next week I will meet Mark Beaumont,  the author of “The Man Who Cycled the World.”  Shortly thereafter I look forward to meeting Rob Lilwall, who recently relocated to Hong Kong also authored a book — “Cycling Home From Siberia” — and starred in an eponymous National Geographic series.  In early December I will have dinner with a former Hollywood studio executive (sound familiar?) who cycled around the world a decade ago.  Finally, a friend has introduced me to an Australian couple who are planning to cycle across South America. 

All these encounters are helping to shape and to stimulate my new cycling ambitions.  

Finally, last week in Los Angeles I caught up with three fellow cyclists from this summer — Michael, Matt, and Alex — and we had a great time rekindling and reminiscing about the good ‘ole days of summer 2010 spinning across America.

After all these interactions, I am convinced some things are just meant to be.  Karma.  Very good karma.

Hong Kong:   Recently a friend who publishes a terrifically cool blog, The Groovini (http://thegroovini.com/), asked me to write a summary of TransAmerica 2010 for that blog to help with my fundraising.  Three weeks after I completed the journey, the following 1,139-word result tries to sum up my coast-to-coast experience.  Also included are some new photos which I recently received from tour leader and master photographer Mike Munk (http://www.bamacyclist.com/).  Thank you again, reader, for accompanying me on this journey.

  

 

Most people have dreams….some modest, some fanciful, some lingering.  For years I have had a particular aspiration to cycle across the United States.  But I never imagined I would have the time and the energy for such a journey.  For me, pedaling coast-to-coast was an aspiration that I imagined had a similar probability as, say, winning the lottery.  

When my employer agreed to a two month sabbatical from my day job in television, two things quickly resonated.  I wanted to chase this dream and to pedal with a purpose.   Settling on a transcontinental bike trip was the easy part.  It took me much longer to settle on the charity to support.   

I spent months evaluating various causes, and happened upon A New Day Cambodia (ANDC)  through a friend’s introduction.  I visited Phnom Penh in January, met the kids and the founders, and observed the charity in action.  I immediately connected to the good work A New Day Cambodia does, and to the 100 very special kids in Cambodia that benefit from this work.  ANDC rescues children from scavenging the municipal dump and emphasizes education and English language learning to break the poverty cycle.  What really impressed me about the kids at ANDC is their hopefulness, confidence, sense of future; many whom I spoke to aspire to professional careers.  None of this would be possible without ANDC’s nurturing.   

I got jazzed thinking how in chasing my particular dream, I was also enabling some deserving children in Cambodia the capacity to dream beyond a life in poverty.   Sign me up.  This is a cause I wanted to go the distance for.  I dubbed the whole endeavour TransAmerica 2010.

So on a cold and grey morning in Astoria, Oregon on June 21, I set off — along with 46 other cyclists — on a 50-day cycling journey across America.  It was a start without fanfare or fuss; sometimes the momentous events in life are like that.   On that first day I felt like I was cycling across town, not across the country.  I was part of a commercially organized, fully supported trip by America by Bike, a company specializing in ultra long distance cycling journeys.  To my amazement I was not the only one with such a crazy dream and collectively we had one big goal:  to safely get to the other side of the continent. 

The route across North America was straightforward:  Head East from the Oregon coast.   Bear right in Boise.  Go over Teton Pass in Wyoming.  Cycle pass cornfields for thousands of miles.  Cut through Canada, then climb over Vermont’s Green Mountains before coasting to the Atlantic.   In total we cycled across all kinds of terrain in ten states and one Canadian province and through many weather conditions, good and bad. 

3700 miles and 49 days later, I reached the Atlantic Ocean at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, at high noon.  Ceremoniously escorted by police for the final stretch and fuelled by determination, my quads and plenty of delicious ice cream along the way, I crossed a continent and was greeted on the other side by family, friends and a huge banner that said, “Thank You Todd Miller Love ANDC.”     

Upon reaching the ocean at Wallis Sands beach, I carried “Bubba,” my trusty Cannondale bike to water’s edge and dipped the front wheel into the cool Atlantic.   I hugged my family and many of my fellow riders, and did what came naturally after actualizing a dream and crossing some of the continent’s biggest mountain ranges, largest rivers and lakes, and climbing cumulatively more than 100,000 feet:  I got teary-eyed.   

Let me put some perspective to these numbers.  I cycled 6,000 km in total across the northern US.  In comparison, Sydney to Perth is just 4,000 km and my home of Hong Kong is 6,000 km away from Dubai in a straight line.  In elevation gain, I cycled the equivalent of about 3.5 times from sea level to the summit of Mt Everest.

When I embarked upon TransAmerica 2010 I intended to cycle Every Friggin’ Safe Inch of the country.   I did.  Amazingly I crossed the North American continent without neither incurring a flat tire nor falling.   I set out to enjoy myself, and along the way made some friends and perhaps even some lasting friendships.   I set out to find the tastiest ice cream in America, which I did at Beernsten’s in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.   And I endeavored to find the prettiest barn in America, which I reckon to be one outside Dayville, Oregon.   This happened to be the first striking barn of the trip, and it stuck with me for all these miles.  

After 16 years of living in Asia I also aspired to immerse myself in America, reconnecting with my home country.  I went native in the process, fully experiencing Americana at its best.  Or, depending upon your perspective, worst.  I watched the Legend of the Rawhide parade in Lusk, Wyoming.  I visited the Corn Palace and stampede rodeo in Mitchell, South Dakota — it was a revelation that a corn palace even exists.  I chatted up the 1993 Bologna Queen in Yale, Michigan, and enjoyed the vibes of Brattstock in Vermont.   I visited Bliss, Idaho.  It’s hard to top Bliss.  An American flag that flew on the back of my bike survived the journey to the Atlantic.      

What I didn’t quite succeeded in doing is to raise US$30,000 on behalf of A New Day Cambodia.  I am still a few thousand dollars  short.  Any contribution, small or large, will have an impact on these kid’s lives.  You can also help by simply forwarding this fundraising appeal to spread the word about A New Day Cambodia. 

I think of this moment not as the end of a dream, but as the creation of a new one.  My new aspiration, eventually, is to pedal around-the-world, and there are many more momentous experiences in life I look forward to tackling.   When you spend about 300 hours on a bike you have some time for thinking and planning.     Now back in Hong Kong and back in the corporate world, I have resumed cycling and still have some unfinished business and other activities for A New Day Cambodia in Asia, including a fund-raiser in December and some potential speaking engagements.  

I learned many things on this trip, including that America’s a big country with lots of corn fields.   While I’m still trying to process the full impact of this experience, three life lessons stand out.   First, this trip proves any big challenge can be accomplished through a series of doable, smaller tasks.  Second, life isn’t a race and there’s much to gain from living in the moment.   Finally, and absolutely, chase your dreams. 

Albert Einstein said life is like riding a bicycle.  To keep your balance you need to keep moving.   

Keep pedaling, and chasing those dreams.

 

Hong Kong:  It’s been nearly two weeks since I completed this transcontinental journey, and I am still basking in the “halo effect” of this enriching and empowering experience.  Here are some of the things I learned while cycling from sea to shining sea.  This ride across America is definitely a life altering experience, but I am not quite sure exactly how it will impact me long-term.   So far this is what I learned:

Live in the moment.  Life’s not a race.   My need for speed evolved on this trip.  In the early days of the journey I was more focused on getting to the day’s destination somewhat quickly; by the very end of the trip I was deliberately among the last to finish each  day.  My mantra “Are we there yet?”  evolved to “What’s the rush?”  What changed?  My desire to enjoy the journey, and frequently stop along the way to get a sense of the place I was traveling through.   These “slow” days were among my most favourite.   I think this can be an important lesson for life. 

Conquer big challenges through small tasks.  When looking at a map I still have difficulty getting my head around the fact that I cycled across the country.   This journey is a powerful demonstration that any challenge can be broken down into a series of doable tasks.   I feel I can now do anything I really set my mind to, by breaking down any future challenge into a series of small daily steps.

America.  It’s a big, beautiful  country.  I already knew that.   What was surprising is the extent to which the world’s largest economy is still an agricultural-based economy, and particularly how much corn the country grows.  What especially struck me, coming from one of the most densely populated places on the planet, is how vacant the Western US is.  The first four states I cycles accross — Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming and South Dakota — have a combined population less than Hong Kong.   I found the regional specialties and passions, from the corn palace to the bologna capital, really charming.  But the political, socio-economic and “mindset” fissures  I observed are really scary.   One motivation for this trip was to reconnect to America, but strangely, in much of the middle of the U.S., I felt more distant than ever to my home country.

Keep pedaling.  The South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s top English newspaper, wrote in June about my ride that I will be a cycling “addict or over it.”   After 3,700 miles I am definitely an addict.  More than ever I love cycling as a sport, as a mode of transport, as a way of seeing a place.  There was never a day on the trip when I woke up and wished that I were not cycling.  I became a better cyclist with hopefully better safety habits.   And after watching 79-year-old Howard spin, I realized that cycling can be a sport for life and I yearn for the next long distance ride.

Boy Scouts have it right.  Like a good boy scout, I was prepared for this ride.  I trained hard for months and this paid off.  On balance, this trip was much easier than I thought.   About the half the time I felt like I could comfortably keep going.  There were only two truly hard days — days where I was tired to the bone — and on one of those days I suffered a migraine. 

60 is the new 40.    The majority of riders on this trip were over 50, with about half over 60.  I was the fifth youngest rider on this trip, and I’m definitely no spring chicken. The seven week time commitment makes it difficult for middle-aged professionals to participate.  I was truly inspired by the older riders, who have amazing stamina and endurance levels, and I now appreciate how cycling can help carry good fitness throughout life.

Junk Foodie.   I am surprised by how quickly I lost control over my good nutrition habits, and by my overindulgence.  I ate alot of junk food because I could afford to eat alot of junk food.  Around the middle of the trip I became obsessed with food — the quantity, definitely not the quality — due to my body’s high metabolic rate.  Some days I just couldn’t eat quickly enough to satiate my appetite; it was very common for me to have two lunches.  On this blog I also exuded this food obsession by writing alot about what I ate, because when you’re surrounded by miles and miles of cornfields, there’s just not much else to write about.   My eating habits definitely fall into the category of’ ‘what happens on the road stays on the road.’

 

Hong Kong:   Several of you have asked how you might donate to A New Day Cambodia (ANDC).   There are two options:

Directly with ANDC via pay pal.  An US tax receipt can be issued:-

http://www.anewdaycambodia.org/

Or via Variety Hong Kong, in which case a HK tax receipt can be issued.  Click through the TransAmerica option:-

http://www.varietyhk.org/HeartFundProjects/Projects/index.php

The 100 kids under ANDC’s care appreciate your support.

Keep Pedaling.

 

Portsmouth, New Hampshire:  The bike ride that began without fanfare or fuss 50 days and 3700 miles ago in Astoria, Oregon, today reached the Atlantic Ocean at high noon.  Escorted by police for the final stretch and fuelled by determination, my quads and plenty of delicious ice cream along the way, I crossed a continent and was greeted on the other side by family, friends and a huge banner that said, “Thank You Todd Miller Love ANDC.”    

Upon reaching the ocean at Wallis Sands beach, I carried “Bubba,” my trusty Cannondale to water’s edge and dipped the front wheel into the cool Atlantic.   I hugged my family and many of my fellow riders, and did what came naturally after crossing some of the continent’s biggest mountain ranges, largest rivers and lakes, and climbing cumulatively more than 100,000 feet:  I got teary-eyed.  

The route across America was straightforward.  Head East from the Pacific.  Bear right in Boise.  Go over Teton Pass in Wyoming.  Cycle pass cornfields for thousands of miles.  Cut through Canada, then climb over Vermont’s Green Mountains.   

When I embarked upon this transcontinental journey I intended to cycle Every Friggin’ Safe Inch of the country.   I did.  I crossed the North American continent without neither incurring a flat tire nor falling.   I set out to enjoy myself, and along the way made some friends and perhaps even some lasting friendships.   I set out to find the tastiest ice cream in America, which I did at Beernsten’s in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.   And I endeavoured to find the prettiest barn in America, which I reckon to be this one outside Dayville, Oregon.   This happened to be the first striking barn of the trip, and it has stuck with me for all these miles.

I also reconnected with America (or at least the concept of America) and went native in the process, from: the Legend of the Rawhide parade in Lusk, Wyoming; to the Corn Palace and stampede rodeo in Mitchell, South Dakota; to chatting up the 1993 Bologna Queen in Yale, Michigan, to enjoying the vibes at Brattstock in Vermont.   I visited Bliss, Idaho.  Hard to top that.  The American flag that has flown on my bike across all kinds of terrain and weather conditions also survived the journey to the Atlantic.   

What I haven’t quite succeeded in doing is raising US$30,000 on behalf of A New Day Cambodia (ANDC), a very deserving children’s charity that provides shelter, nutrition and education — in short, a future — for 100 children who would otherwise have to scavenge the municipal dumps of Phnom Penh.   Including pledges, I am still a few thousand dollars  short, and do need your help to my target.  Any contribution, small or large, will have an impact on these kid’s lives.  If you’ve been thinking about donating, details are on this blog.  You can also help by simply forwarding this fundraising appeal to spread the word about A New Day Cambodia.

My immediate plan is to take a few days off  in Bar Harbour, Maine with my family before flying over the continent I just cycled across.  Next Monday in Hong Kong I resume work and my son enters the big leagues of first grade.  Tonight I will enjoy a celebratory dinner with my family and with Joe and Susan O’Neil, co-founders of A New Day Cambodia, who travelled to Portsmouth for this occasion.  The kids at ANDC made the banner;  it is a treasured gift. 

I think of this moment not as an ending, but as a beginning.  My goal, eventually, is to pedal around-the-world, and there are many more momentous experiences in life I look forward to tackling.   When you spend about 300 hours on a bike you have some time for thinking and planning.     This blog will remain live through the end of the year, as I resume cycling in Hong Kong and continue some activities for A New Day Cambodia in Asia. 

Finally, I am tremendously thankful for my safe passage from sea to shining sea.  I am overwhelmed with a huge sense of gratitude to all the people who have supported, enabled and followed this journey, and for my employer to give me the time and space to chase a dream.   Thank you.  I especially appreciate the understanding and patience of my son, who somehow understands at age six this is an important bike ride for Dada.  

Albert Einstein said life is like riding a bicycle.  To keep your balance you need to keep moving.  

Keep pedalling.

Todd

9 August 2010

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.