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"I'm doing everything I can to make this happen for you. I've even found a way you can pay for it. Here's how it works."


You weren't put on this earth to be a worker bee.

To be human is to continuously learn and grow, face new challenges, seek out new experiences and help other people. If you're not getting a taste of this true life every once in a while then you're doing yourself a disservice. You can't spend your entire life sitting behind a desk.Italy bike tour Appia Cicero tomb

When I wrote my first draft of this post I spend an hour deleting entire paragraphs because I was trying to find the one single event that would capture the essence of my trip. But the truth is, there isn't a single time or place that can cover it. If there was, you could just take a bus to that particular spot and be a tourist. You'd have no need to bike the entire via Appia.

It's not about huffing up to the Piazza dei Paladini at the Temple of Jove Anxur, sitting among the wildflowers while the waves of the Mediterranean sea crash among the rocks a thousand feet below you. It's not about crossing an old bridge guarded by stone lions made of lava that erupted from Mount Vesuvius.

This isn't just something you do for the random friends you meet in a tavern in the middle of the Apennines, drinking local wine while an old soldier tells you stories of parachuting into Montecasino at the end of the Second World War.

When you've found the nearly invisible "Strada Vecchia" though sheer persistence and hints from the locals, and you cross a dark swamp to come upon a legendary ancient bridge, you still haven't completed your quest.

And if you arrive intact at the port of Brindisi, where one of the ancient marble columns still stands in defiance of graffiti and the elements, looking east towards Greece and Turkey, you celebrate at bar where the locals mysteriously warn you that "even the walls have ears" and enjoy a lively dinner at a hostel with fellow travelers speaking Italian, French, Spanish and Greek-that's still not the end.

If you've really lived this journey as you were meant to, then you'll be at a total loss for words whenever somebody asks you, "How was it?"

There's no quick fix here, no shortcut. You have to ride the whole thing, from Rome to Brindisi, to get the real experience. We can't do this halfway.

That's why I'm doing everything I can to make this happen for you. I've even found a way you can pay for it. Here's how it works.

This ride is going to be an informal fundraiser for the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA). I'm asking that everyone on this trip make a contribution to ACA, but there's no fixed amount.

This trip is going to cost roughly $1400, depending on the exchange rates next year, so I recommend a goal of raising $2000 in donations and giving the extra $600 to Adventure Cycling.

This means you can solicit sponsors and tell your donors that 30% of their donation will support the Adventure Cycling Association while the rest will go to cover the costs of your trip. I'm putting together a fund raising packet with tips and ideas for raising money, letter templates you can send to local businesses to ask for funding, and other resources to help you out.

One thing to keep in mind: Your enthusiasm can be contagious. When I told the lead architect at the Via Appia Regional Park about my plans, he shook his head and declared, it was impossibile.  He asked me why I would ever want to do such a thing. My answer won him over, and I even surprised myself a little bit.

If you're determined to make this journey, your excitement and passion will open doors which didn't even seem to exist before. If you can cross a famous subcontinent on your own physical power, what else might you be able to do?

Be careful what you ask for. The first time I tried to tour Italy by bicycle, I needed to buy a pump.

I was just starting to become fluent in Italian, and I was a little bit overconfident. I knew that pompa means a large pump, such as a water pump or a gas pump. Since I wanted a small, portable bicycle pump I added the Italian suffix, ino, which means little.

I got some strange stares when I walked into a bike shop and asked for a pompino. Nobody would answer my questions or help me. At the second place I went to, the owner told me I was disgusting and threw me out.

Finally, someone explained to me that pompino is a vulgar slang word for a specific sexual act. As I said, be careful what you ask for.

This happened almost ten years ago, but I thought about it today because of a Monty Python video where a Hungarian tourist finds himself in a similar situation. This has nothing at all to do with biking across Italy, but check it out:

Today is the exact midpoint of 2009. It's also Hermann Hesse's birthday, and he's got a connection to bike travel. Or any travel, actually.

I was really influenced by two of his books, Siddhartha and Goldmund and Narcissus. They were both about wandering vagabond-type characters whose travel became a big part of their destiny--and that of all humanity.

I think his books taught me the difference between being a tourist and being a traveler. It seems that the term "bike touring" is more dominant, but really when you tour the world by bicycle--or even just your home town--you're embodying the spirit of a traveler.

A tourist goes site-seeing, but a bike traveler has a spontaneous conversation with the places you visit. You may have  a schedule, but it's a loose one by necessity. Your plans are tempered by the weather, the terrain, and even by what you ate for dinner.

Bike touring engages you. Wherever you stop for food, drink, or rest you're going to get the attention of the locals simply because you're traveling in a way that's still unusual. People who wouldn't talk to you if you were driving will invite you in for coffee drinks because you're on a bike. You get to know the adventures that go along with heat and cold, hunger and fatigue, being lost and finally arriving at your destination.

Your adventures may not be as long or intense as the ones that Siddhartha and Goldmund experienced, but when you travel by bike you're living in the real world, not just being passively entertained.

It's the middle of the year, the beginning of summer, and a few days from our celebration of independence. Celebrate your own independence, while the sun shines and the open road rolls out before you. Ride on, and enjoy the adventures that await you.