Monday, August 22, 2005

Pedalling for the Planet across the United States

In the summer of 1998 I had the honour of pedalling for the planet with 100 others bikers in a programme called Bike Aid, travelling 3,700 miles by bicycle from San Francisco to Washington DC, raising a dollar a mile to support grassroots development and environmental projects and programs globally. I was at the United Nations HQ in New York attending the Commission on Sustainable Development and got a call from my colleagues in Bike Aid HQ in San Francisco that there was room for an international partner rider from Asia. The Seattle group has an African rider and the Portland group had a South American rider. So I took my trans continental flight to SFO, took off my suit, put on my biking gear and then next morning rode 60 miles starting from the Golden Gate Park to the East Bay area. It was a painful day, as unlike the others, I did not get the chance to warm up my muscles two weeks earlier and prepare for the long ride.

As the team leader it was my responsibility to make sure that my group of 35 bikers get from point A to point B safely every day. My strength increased after riding across the Sierra Nevada Mountains and beautiful Lake Tahoe. By the time I got to the Rockies in Colorado I was ready for the 15,000 feet climb through Rabbit Ears pass. There was a lot of snow on top even in mid July and most riders got hypothermia, but thankfully my mountain blood protected me on the cold descend.

When I got to the Blue Ridge Mountains of West Virginia, I felt like I was home from the similarity of the scenery. I remembered going downhill this 10% grade descend full speed at 35 miles a hour and singing John Denver’s song “Country road take me home” and it was drizzling softly as I lost my concentration. Suddenly I saw a flash on my rear view mirror and then I saw another vehicle coming up from the bottom of the mountain and I was in the middle of the road. My reflex action took over and I pressed my breaks and then in a split second I remembered flying over my handle bars like superboy only to crash land on the road side with deep cuts on my right elbow and left leg. Both the pick-up trucks saw me fall and slowed down thankfully. The drivers stopped and gave be first aid and asked me if I needed a lift. I stood up and found out that no bones were broken and after checking that my bike was still in good shape, I rode again. Oh well at least I have scars to remember to show to my grand kids some day if I last that long.

Well my team met up with the other two groups from Seattle and Portland and in Leesburg, Virginia and then we rode together to Washington DC as one big united group. When I reached the end of my 9-week journey, I parked my bike and addressed the press conference on the steps of the US Capitol before going inside to meet different US Senators and to lobby them for more international aid to support developing countries. It was an amazing grand finale in DC when we actually got to vote which projects and which country the $500,000 that we had collective raised as a group would go to. Long live Bike Aid and our sweat, tears and gears!

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