Feature - Peddling for peace 

A short journey on a long road

My first ten-speed bike was a forest green BRC, a British Road Cycle. When I was about 10 years old my older brother Ross and I spent that summer cutting lawns and washing cars to save money to buy bicycles. Thankfully that following winter there was plenty of snow in the Lower Mainland and we also made a few dollars shovelling driveways.

I’ll never forget the day our dad drove us to the bike shop in our family’s big, blue, 1967 Galaxy 500. Ross and I clutched onto our four jars of money and struggled to lift them up to the counter beside the cash register. When we arrived home, my dad taught me how to ride my new shiny bike.

Today I live in India and cycling here is tough. My first lesson was to stay on the left side of the road.

When I arrived in Kodai I met Roland Schmidt-Bellach a teacher from Vulcan, Alberta, Steve Thicke our school doctor from Tofino, B.C., and Ron Acker from Pennsylvania. For the past two years the three of them had been exploring, and getting lost, in the Palani Hills. They all had an intimate knowledge of the area and were familiar with the local dangers: monkeys and bison. Sadly for me, all three of them left this past May, so my cycling buddies were absent when I returned in July.

Then, this past August, a 27-year-old alumnus showed up in town on a bike. Tad Beckweth, an Oregonian, is spending four years cycling around the world for peace. He founded "Peacebike" in 2000, and in September of the same year he left his parents’ home in Dayton, Oregon. Since then he has cycled through 20 countries in Central and South America, the South Pacific and Asia.

"Peacebike is a non-profit organization co-ordinating the first online, 100 per cent educational odyssey around the world by bike," Beckweth said. "I’m attempting to connect students around the world and promote cultural understanding."

Beckwith has spoken to more than 8,000 children in 20 countries. He was inspired by the travels of his eighth grade social studies teacher, Mr. Pleasance. In the early 1980s Pleasance took his family on a bike trip around the world. Through Pleasance’s vivid accounts of their three and half year bike trip he compelled Beckweth to someday do the same.

I took Tad on a couple of local rides and when he was making his plans to leave, I suggested that I join him for a short part of his journey. Our school was having a long weekend so the timing was perfect.

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