Friday, April 11, 2014

A Young Hero's Odyssey

The cover of this month's edition of the children's magazine Spider shows a dog on a bicycle carrying a recycling bin while pedaling around the globe.

That's a reference to Earth Day on April 22 and to an article in the magazine entitled, "A Young Hero's Odyssey," written by Susan Patnaik.  The "young hero" is my son, Sho Scott, and the odyssey is our 2,500-mile bicycle trip across Japan when he was eight years old.  Sho is probably the youngest person ever to have cycled from one end of mainland Japan to the other.

The article includes a map of our route...

... and some cool photos:


We raised money for a global tree planting campaign, gave talks about ways to protect the environment, and used press coverage about our trip to encourage action to address climate change.  The United Nations named us "Climate Heroes" for these efforts.  You can find Sho's "Healthy Planet Tips" here.

In the first week of our 67-day ride across Japan, Sho threw several major temper tantrums.  He was having trouble adjusting to the demands of cycling many hours a day.  I felt insecure, worried that my expectations were too high, and considered giving up on the whole trip.  But then we had a conversation in which I encouraged Sho to see himself as a team member.  I explained that I couldn't cycle across Japan without him, and I promised to listen and make adjustments whenever he was having trouble.  

What happened next taught me an important parenting lesson.  Sho rose to the occasion, the temper tantrums disappeared, and for the next 60 days, he persevered though rain storms, cycled over mountain passes, slept in a tent, and pedaled through hot and humid conditions -- all with a remarkably positive attitude.  Many adults we met said that such a trip was too hard for an eight-year-old.  But Sho told them, "A kid can do a whole lot more than most adults think."  He had learned to be resilient.

Sometimes parents give in to their children too quickly, give up too readily and miss out on the chance to teach how to persevere when things get hard.  High expectations combined with love and open communication may be one of the best gifts we can give our kids.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

78-year-old on a Bike

I'm in Nashville, Tennessee, about to cycle for four days on the Natchez Trace Parkway with my wife and kids.  My sister's family will join us for the first two days.  We'll carry all our food, sleep in a tent and enjoy some seriously beautiful night skies devoid of light pollution.  The parkway follows a route that was used by Native Americans (particularly the Choctaw and Chickasaw Tribes) for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years.  The original paths were probably formed by bison and deer foraging through the dense forests.  The parkway stretches 444 miles between Nashville and Natchez, Mississippi, and is an ideal place to ride a bike.  For much of the route, a cyclist will see more wildlife than cars and ride through rolling green countryside that is just coming to life this time of year.

We'll make a point of paying respects at Meriwether Lewis's grave, which lies along our route.  Lewis was traveling on the Natchez Trace when he died in October 1809 near Hohenwald, Tennessee.  After cycling 1700 miles of the Lewis & Clark Trail last summer and reading his journals, my kids and I have a particular interest in and appreciation for Meriwether Lewis, especially the care he took to document the many plants and animals he encountered while traveling to the Pacific Ocean and back in the early 1800's.

My mother, who is 78 years old, wasn't comfortable joining us on this long ride, but she used our trip as an opportunity to re-discover her bicycle.  She hasn't cycled outside in 30 years, but she still has the bike I remember her riding when I was a kid in the 1970's.  A blue, steel frame Peugeot "designed for ladies" with the top tube (the bar that usually connects from the seat to the handlebars) connecting lower down (see photo below).  The idea was to make it easier to ride the bike while wearing a dress.  

One of my mom's concerns was whether she would be able to actually get onto the bike.  Could she lift her leg over the top tube and sit on the saddle without falling over?  We leaned the bike to the side, and thanks to the ladies frame design, she had no problem getting her leg over the top tube.  My mom was nervous.  Was it prudent for a 78-year-old woman to ride a bike?  What if she fell?  What if her arthritic knees buckled when she tried to dismount?  But she had confidence in herself, and before long, my mom and I were pedaling beside one another.  She had a big smile on her face and every so often whooped it up with an enthusiastic cheer.  

A rush of memories came back to me.  When I was little, she used to put me in a basket on that bike and ride me around our neighborhood, pointing out bright red Cardinals, chattering Blue Jays, flowering Dogwood trees and, with her lilting Memphis twang, telling dogs who got too aggressive, "Shoo, go away now!"  I realized that the bicycle adventures I've taken with my kids around the world all started there - in a basket on my mom's bike, laughing together and pointing out all the beautiful things we could find.  

Thanks Mom.  I'm proud of you.

Here are a few pics:

First time attempting to straddle the bike.  Notice the tube goes down at an angle, instead of straight across to the base of the seat.

You can do it...


After riding around her neighborhood

Mom with her proud son

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Jeff Hodges - Hero for Autism

I love to celebrate people who combine a personal fitness challenge with a charitable cause.  My friend Jeff Hodges did this in stellar fashion, running four 1/2 marathons (13.1 miles) over four consecutive weekends while raising money for the Kelly Autism Program at Western Kentucky University.  He created a campaign called Making a Difference for Kelly Autism Program (MADKAP) in an attempt to raise awareness and funds for students in need of financial aid.  He set a goal of raising $25,000, which the university agreed to match.  The result?  He doubled his goal and, with the university match, raised over $100,000 and established a new scholarship fund.

On his blog, Jeff shared profiles of students in the Kelly Autism Program, starting with his own son, Ryan, who has Asperger Syndrome.  In a Q&A, Ryan said, "This program should be expanded into more schools because of how it helps people like me get our work done...  Graduation rates would increase if this program was in every college in America."

Jeff also recounted his race experiences.  My favorite entry was his final 1/2 marathon on trails in the Raccoon Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Jeff described the race course: "Mud, rocks, puddles, downed trees, stobs (devastating when concealed by leaves), exposed roots, more rocks, moving water, thorny vines and small tree branches growing over the path, race requirement for runners to carry their own sources of hydration, even more rocks, no mile markers or clocks, no bands, no fans, no frills."

Maybe you had no frills, Jeff, but you have a lot of fans.  I'm proud of you.

Jeff Hodges during the rainy 1/2 marathon in Nashville

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

On Roadkill and Lewis & Clark

It's risky to choose a 7-year-old to be your co-presenter.  I knew this going into a recent series of talks with my kids at the Adventure Science Center in Nashville, Tennessee.  My 13-year-old son, Sho, 7-year-old daughter, Saya, and I gave five 1-hour presentations to groups of students and adults.  We described our experience cycling 1700 miles of the Lewis & Clark Trail last summer and tested the audience's knowledge of the famous expedition, including some of the plants and animals documented in Lewis & Clark's famous journals.  We also showed a video about how we collected roadkill data throughout the 2-month journey.  I think Sho and Saya most enjoyed having older kids and adults listen quietly to what they had to say and raise their hands to ask a question.  It's the little stuff...

The Tennessean newspaper published an article about our talks, which includes a short video.  You can check it out here:

In the article, the journalist described Saya as "a girl who fidgets more than talks," no doubt because she refused to sit quietly and answer his questions, preferring to leave the interview shortly after it began and go play.  She also did back bends during our presentations and generally stole the show.  It was risky to include her, but I wouldn't have had it any other way.

Here are some pics:
Tennessean article

Saya goofing around during the presentation

Question: "Can a 12-year-old boy and 6-year-old girl pedal over the Rocky Mountains?"

Answer: "Yes, they can, because they just did!"


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Team Zoey Spin-a-thon Thank You

I'm grateful to everyone who supported the Team Zoey spin-a-thon.  I surpassed my personal $1,500 fund raising target, because of the generosity of many of you.  Thank you thank you!  The event raised nearly $40,000 to fund research to treat and cure the fatal rapid-aging disease Progeria.  

The spin-a-thon took place at the YMCA in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey in a room that held about 40 bikes.  Over a period of 4 hours, a new instructor and group of riders came in every 30 minutes, cranking on the bikes to some seriously rockin' music.  My friends Alison Berna (who wrote a beautiful description of the event here), Karen Carolonza, and I pedaled for the entire 4 hours.  Riding a spin bike for that long is physically challenging, but it wasn't the brutal slog you might imagine.  In fact, the experience felt pretty much like going to a party and getting really sweaty.  Kinda like what I used to do every weekend in college...  

Zoey, the young girl we were all riding for, showed up and cheered us on.  Here are some pics:

Alison Berna, Karen Carolonza and Barbara Batesko (the amazing organizer of the event)

Me, about 2 hours into the ride

Celebrating 4 hours of spinning with Karen and the very flexible Alison

Alison and I with Zoey

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Team Zoey Spin-a-Thon

On Sunday, February 9th, I'll hop on a spin bicycle and pedal for 4 hours straight to support research to find a cure for the rare and fatal "rapid aging" disease Progeria.  Children with Progeria typically die of a heart attack or stroke in their early teens.  I learned about this disease after a friend's niece was diagnosed.  She is 4 years old, and her name is Zoey.  

I will ride as part of "Team Zoey" and hope to raise $1,500 for the Progeria Research Foundation, founded by two doctors dedicated to discovering a cure.  They made history last year in the first-ever Progeria clinical drug trial, which identified the first known, effective treatment of symptoms for children with Progeria.  They hope to use knowledge from this trial to push research forward to find a cure.

You can help by making a donation (any amount, no matter how much or little) here: 

Thank you!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Expedition Everest

Some people seem to care only about themselves, seek only to remain comfortable, have no interest in learning about cultures other than their own, and are afraid to try new things.  I had lunch recently with a guy who is precisely the opposite.  

Toby Storie-Pugh has made a documentary about the life of street kids in Delhi, India.  He has taught a range of people, from executives to at-risk youth, about the joy of climbing mountains and exploring nature.  He founded an orphanage in Kenya.  And now he is in the final two months of preparing to help Steve Obbayi become the first Kenyan to climb to the summit of Mt. Everest.  Click on the logo below and check out his website.  I love the website's tagline: Never. Stop. Dreaming.

Toby (right) and I at Path Cafe in NYC

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Dad 2.0 Summit

On January 31, I'll give a talk at the Dad 2.0 Summit in New Orleans, an annual conference that celebrates men who take an active role in parenting.  This is a subject dear to my heart, and I can't wait to go.  

I've completed my presentation, and thought I'd share a few teasers.  Here are six partial lines from the talk.  Can you guess how I finish them?

1. Describing my thoughts just before my first child was born:
  "I genuinely did not know how to be a father and, at moments of weakness, I looked in the mirror and said..."

2. On turning 40:
  "When I turned 40, I decided to make a list of life goals.  I might have written, 'Make VP at Intel' or 'Manage a group with over 1,000 people.'  But instead, at the top of the list I surprised myself by writing..."

3. On trying to convince Intel to let me take off 2 months to cycle the length of Japan with my 8-year-old son:
  "My boss said that taking time off to ride bikes with my kid didn't seem like a good career move.  I said..."

4. "Too many people go through life dissatisfied, knowing that they should make a change, but are afraid to.  If you feel a nudge, it means you need to..."

5. "We all grew up with adults telling us what we cannot do.  Some of that was good advice designed to keep us from getting hurt, but I suspect that a lot of that advice was..."

6. "Our society would be greatly improved if more men..."

Friday, January 17, 2014

Casio Photo Shoot on Bear Mountain

The watchmaker Casio recently selected me to be a Pro Trek Adventurer.  I wore their Pro Trek watch while cycling 1700 miles of the Lewis & Clark Trail with my kids this past summer.  It's a cool watch that displays info on altitude, compass, temperature, sunrise/sunset, barometric pressure, etc.  The barometric pressure reading was particularly useful on our trip, because I could predict when bad weather was coming.  

Casio will make a few videos about me.  Here are pics from a photo shoot we did in Bear Mountain yesterday, about 45 miles up the Hudson River from NYC.  Pretty cold, but Bear Mountain is gorgeous, and I felt privileged to spend all day there.  We saw an eagle circling overhead and beaver swimming in a lake that was partially covered with ice.  Made me cold just to watch them.  

I kept warm by running on trails while the three photographers, Alex, Lauren and Larson, staked out interesting angles for their shots.

Here are some pics:

Cycling while being filmed from the back of a car

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Modern Dads Podcast

Looking for ways to pursue a meaningful career, raise a healthy family, and still make time for your own interests?  Not easy, for sure, but certainly a worthy goal.  

That was the topic of my conversation with The NYC Dads Group on their Modern Dads Podcast, which tells the stories of fathers who are "active and engaged in the decisions, the drudgery, the pain and the joys of parenthood."  

Check out the interview here.  

The NYC Dads Group organizes meet-ups for dads and their kids, offering a variety of cool events, ranging from educational family outings to boot camps for new and expecting fathers.  My wife and I had a great time at their recent couples game night.  We played an electronic version of Pictionary, which reminded me of how much better my wife is at illustrating than I am.  Quote of the night about one of my drawings: "That's supposed to be a horse?  It look like a hunk of meat loaf."

Here's an exciting action shot from our interview:

In the studio with NYC Dads Group co-founders Matt Schneider (left) and Lance Somerfeld (center)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Adventure Cycling Association

There are lots of cool nonprofit organizations out there, but one of my favorites is the Adventure Cycling Association.  Founded in 1973 and based in Missoula, Montana, its mission is to inspire and empower people to travel by bicycle.  They're preaching to the choir whenever I receive their newsletter or fundraising requests.  

But their most recent holiday appeal really hit home.  The letter started, "Bike tour in Iceland. Check."  

I thought, "Hey, I've done that!"  

It then read, "Pedal across Japan. Check."  

I said out loud, "I've done that too!"

It then read, "Ride North America with my kids?  Thank goodness for Adventure Cycling!"

I suddenly realized they were talking about my family!  My kids and I visited Adventure Cycling's headquarters this summer while riding 1,700 miles of the Lewis & Clark Trail.  We stayed in the home of their Tours Director, Arlen Hall (a remarkably kind and generous person), and made a bunch of new friends.  Their Executive Director, Jim Sayer, and his daughter Samantha even pedaled alongside us for a few hours, as we rode out of Missoula.  I gave them a written summary of our adventure, including quotes about how we were using Adventure Cycling's route maps.  You can see those quotes in the letter below along with photos from our visit.  

If you've ever imagined how cool it would be to go on a cycling trip (it's my favorite way to travel), Adventure Cycling has everything you need to take action -- organized tours, maps, expert advice, and an excellent magazine with stories from other cyclists.  Here's a link to become a member for 1/2 price:

Friday, November 22, 2013

Kevin Laue movie and Nat Geo piece on roadkill

I like meeting people who have a good excuse not to try something hard, but then go out and do it anyway.  Last night, a few friends and I watched the movie, “Long Shot: The Kevin Laue Story” at the AMC theater in New York City’s Times Square.  It’s a documentary about the struggles of a teenager who dreams of playing on a Division 1 college basketball team.  That’s an ambitious goal for anyone, but Kevin’s challenge was made all the harder by the fact that he only has one arm.  I won’t give away any more details.  You should do yourself a favor and just see this movie:

I felt lucky to have watched the film, but I felt much luckier when I walked out of the theater and saw, towering over everyone else, Kevin Laue!  Of all things, I was struck most by his smile (see pic below).  He was gracious with his time, chatting with my friends and me for a while and taking photos with us.  Something powerful happens standing next to an inspiring person.  You feel an energizing sense of possibility and hope.  And you look at your own options with a deeper sense of gratitude.  Thanks Kevin.


When my two kids and I cycled 1,700 miles of the Lewis & Clark Trail this summer, we worked with Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC) to document roadkill along our route in the hopes of reducing the impact of roads on wildlife.  ASC is a nonprofit organization that connects outdoor adventurers with scientists in need of data from the field.  How cool is that? 

ASC’s founder Gregg Treinish just published a piece on National Geographic’s  Explorer’s Journal about our work together.  He included a short account I wrote about the trip.  How do you think my 12-year-old son finished his quote, “I learned that so many animals don’t have to die, if…”  You can find the answer here:

Here are some pics:

This is me standing next to Kevin Laue

Kevin with my friends Alison Berna, Lillian Schlein and Rachel Roberge

This time with my friend Alison's patented high kick (who can kick that high even while wearing a boot for a leg injury)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Who's better looking? You decide.

For those of you who speak Dutch and are following the climate change negotiations under way in Poland (how's that for whittling down your audience to a tiny handful :-), the Brussels-based magazine De Morgen just published an interview with me as a United Nations Climate Hero.  More important than the substance of the article is the fact that I'm featured on the same page as international supermodel Gisèle Bündchen watering a plant.  I learned two things after using Google Translate to read the articles:  Gisèle and I share similar views on the importance of protecting the environment, and she's remarkably better looking than I am.

Here's Gisèle:                                                        Here's me:
The article describes me as "an energetic New Yorker" (that pretty much goes for everyone living here...) and describes how my then 8-year-old son and I became UN Climate Heroes in 2009 when we cycled 2,500 miles across Japan, raising money for the Billion Tree Campaign.  Many governments, companies and individuals supported that campaign, which resulted in over 7 billion trees being planted, one for every person on the planet.  

I also described my work at Intel Corporation on clean technology and my opinion that the private sector has a key role to play in addressing climate change.  One of the reasons I take my children on crazy bike trips around the world is to help them develop a sense of connection to nature and a desire to protect the wilderness that remains.  When you love something, you don't procrastinate as it is steadily ruined, like our politicians are doing today.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Mountain Man

I spent last weekend hiking in the mountains of Nevada with Brad Graff, a friend from college.  We call this annual get-together “Mountain Man,” as we attempt to test our fitness with four days in a row of vigorous, all-day hikes.  We usually seek out places with no trails, using cairns and written guides from other hikers.  

I love the feeling of struggling up a steep mountain, then being rewarded at the top with a view that makes me feel so small.  The ego and drive that got me to the top drift away with the wind, and I sit quietly for a while, appreciating what a beautiful world we live in. 

We do get lost on these hikes from time to time.  We’ve always found our way back, although sometimes after the sun has gone down.  The trick is to be prepared with extra layers, rain gear, a compass, lights, etc.  

When climbing back down from Hayford Peak, we spent the final hour hiking in the dark.  At first we used our lights to find our way down the rocky wash.  Then we turned them off and looked up.  The Milky Way was painted overhead, and there were so many stars visible that they made it harder to make out the major constellations.  We found the Big Dipper, Cassiopeia, and Orion's Belt.  But most remarkable of all was a bright light shining just over the canyon wall to our left.  At first we thought it was a plane.  When it didn't move, we speculated that it must be a lighted tower.  But it was actually Venus, brighter than I've ever seen.  When we left the summit that afternoon, I had worried about getting "stuck" out in the dark.  But this experience turned out to be one of the most memorable moments of the weekend.  Sometimes the greatest joy can come simply from looking up.
Here are some pics:
Hiking up Hamblin Mountain

Brad Graff hiking on Hamblin Mountain

View from top of Hamblin Mountain

Hiking up Mt. Charleston

Hiking up Mt. Charleston

Hiking up Mt. Charleston.  Near the top, there was about 8 inches of snow

This bristlecone pine tree on Mt. Charleston may be over 5,000 years old

From the top of Hayford Peak

Red Rock Canyon from the top of Turtlehead Peak

The top of Turtlehead Peak

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Overcoming Obstacles: Talk at Casio G-Shock Store

I had a great time last night at the Casio G-Shock Store in NYC!  Thanks to the many friends and strangers who came out to hear me talk and to Casio for hosting the event.  

My talk was about being adventurous and overcoming obstacles.  I shared lessons learned from the family adventures I’ve taken with my kids in Japan, Iceland and the U.S., like:

-       A kid can do a whole lot more than most adults think.
-       The more time children spend in nature, the more connected they feel to the world around them.
-       The more time children spend in nature, the more they want to protect the wilderness that remains.

I also shared stories about several people who inspire me:
-       Theresa Khayyam, who went blind two years ago at age 45 from a viral infection.  What did she do after going blind?  She decided to become a runner!  She trains with the Achilles International chapter in Nashville, TN.  My sister Becky will guide her in this weekend’s NYC Marathon, Theresa’s first.

-       Charlie Plaskon.  Blind since childhood, he became a marathoner and Ironman triathlete in his 60’s.  I guided him in the NYC Ironman last year when he was 69 years old and have given presentations at schools with him.  My favorite quote of Charlie’s: “No one is interested in your best excuse.  Just find a way.”

-       Evan Ruggiero, who started dancing at age 5.  At age 19, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (bone cancer).  After a series of chemo treatments, his right leg was amputated.  His dancing career was over, right?  Nope.  Two days after receiving a peg leg, he was turning it into a creative part of his tap dance repertoire.  My 12-year-old son Sho took a tap class with Evan and talked last night about how inspiring it was to learn from him.

-       Dan Berlin, who went blind with macular degeneration in his 30’s.  Did he sit around feeling sorry for himself?  Nope.  He decided to become an endurance athlete.  I guided Dan in the 2011 NYC Marathon, 2012 Colorado Marathon and, last month, the Toughman Half Ironman (swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles, run 13.1 miles).  Next year, we plan to run “rim to rim to rim” across the Grand Canyon and back in one day.  That’s around 46 miles and about 23,000 feet of elevation change.  Can a blind guy really do that?  All the naysayers will tell you we’re nuts for trying.  But naysayers told me that an 8-year-old couldn’t cycle the length of Japan (they were wrong), a 6-year-old was too young to pedal over the Rockies (they were wrong), and that a 69-year-old blind man shouldn’t try to do an Ironman (they were wrong).

It turns out that a horrible experience like going blind or losing a leg can also be the catalyst for new areas of growth. 

So, be adventurous.  Take a hard look at the limits you put on yourself and your children.  I suspect that most of those limits are just in your head.

Outside the Casio G-Shock store before the talk (notice the poster)

With Sho and Saya

Casio's Mike Princiotto introducing me

Sho (age 12) talking about running a 1/2 marathon

Saya added her energy to the talk!

The naysayers may so no, but I think he can