Brian D’Apice was backpacking half a world away when he dreamed up his next adventure, a 10,000-mile fundraising odyssey he’s calling “Bicycle Around America.”
It’s exactly how it sounds. Brian, 30, of Glen Rock, Pa., will ride solo through every state on the perimeter of the continental United States. He’ll start out in New York City May 4, and make it back about a year from now.
The Army veteran is riding to raise money for two charities, Pencils of Promise and Connecting Families. Pencils of Promise builds schools in Southeast Asia and Africa, and Connecting Families provides health care to the poor in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Brian spent the past two-plus years teaching and working in Southeast Asia, after serving two tours in Iraq with the U.S. Army and earning a degree in marketing from York College in Pennsylvania.
“This whole ride is based on appreciation,” Brian said. “I can’t emphasize it enough. It’s to remind people to appreciate what they have. We get this idea that it’s pretty bad here, but compared to other countries, we have it so good.”
The idea for Bicycle Around America was born two years ago, when Brian was backpacking in Southeast Asia.
“I wish there was some sort of story,” he said by phone from his home in southeastern Pennsylvania last week on the eve of turning 30. “I was in Vietnam, and I just woke up one morning and knew what I was going to do. I contacted a friend I had met there and told him, ‘I just got this crazy idea.’ ”
When his friend expressed skepticism, Brian didn’t budge.
“I knew I wanted to speak about what I saw in Asia,” he said, referring to poverty and gaps in education and health care. “The conditions are so extreme, I want this (ride) to be extreme, to draw attention to it.”
Brian will average 30 miles a day, with some long days and recovery days mixed in. Some nights he’ll camp out, others he’ll stay with friends new and old. He wants to speak to as many individuals, school groups and veterans’ organizations as he can. (Contact him via his website, bicyclearoundamerica.com.)
Brian welcomes other cyclists to accompany him here and there. His route, fundraising updates, video interviews, his blog and other information are on his website. He’ll also use Twitter (@BikeAroundUSA) and other social media to update his followers.
For the launch, he’s going big. On the morning of May 4, Brian will be in Rockefeller Center outside NBC’s TODAY show studios, holding up a sign promoting his trip.
Then he’ll get on his 2015 Jamis Aurora Elite touring bike and ride.
He’ll pedal north toward Boston (where younger brother Brent lives) to speak at a school May 11. The rest of his itinerary is fluid. He plans to reach the Pacific Northwest this summer, ride down the coast in the fall and pedal across the southernmost states during the winter. From Florida, he’ll head north to New York City, where he hopes to arrive close to his 31st birthday next April.
The goal is to raise $100,000 and split it between Pencils of Promise and Connecting Families. Donors also can help pay for the ride; Brian has already spent about $2,000 of his own money on camping and bike equipment. He has sponsors, but will burn a lot of calories and will need to “go grocery shopping just like everyone else,” he said.
Brian suspects the mental challenges of the ride will be tougher than the physical, and he hopes to minimize the dreaded headwinds that take a toll on body and mind. (A windblown 52-mile training ride on Easter Sunday was not fun, he said).
Preparing for the ride has consumed his life in recent weeks — logistics, media interviews, training rides, even a visit to his old elementary school to speak to classes.
“I’ve never worked so hard and not earned any money,” Brian said. “But I couldn’t be more motivated.”
His brother Brent isn’t surprised that Brian is giving up a year of his life to do this, noting his military service and his work with aid organizations in Southeast Asia.
“Even growing up, he always wanted to help others,” said Brent, who’s 25 (another brother, Brandon, turns 32 this month). “Now that he’s back, he exemplifies his giving nature with this bike ride. The one thing I didn’t see when I was young, but clearly see now, is the one resounding trait Brian possesses — selflessness.”
I’ll keep track of Brian’s trip, which will bring him to Syracuse, NY (Irish Investigations headquarters) in late May. Anyone who wants to help Brian — or ride with him — can contact me by commenting below, or reach out to Brian directly via social media.