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China

Bits and stories about World Bike for Breath. A Bulletin for sponsors. Volume 1, October 2003
November 3, 2003

Dear friends and sponsors:
Hooray!!! We are now in Beijing, China and connected again to the world after a long and challenging stretch through the former Soviet Union and Mongolia. Our family has been on the road six months; cycled over 5000 kilometers; traveled halfway around the world from Greece to England to China; camped over 120 nights (including a ten day stretch of sleeping and cooking in Mongolian gers (felt tents) with Mongolian families); visited 16 countries; and ridden camels, horses, bicycles, canoes, kayaks, and the trans-Siberian railway. Remarkably we are still healthy, happy and excited to finish what we set out to do on International Asthma Day this May: pedal around the world and raise $5,000,000 for asthma.

We are thrilled and proud to have reached our halfway point. In six months we will be back in Seattle, ready for our major fund raising and asthma awareness push across the U.S! It has not been easy: unbearable heat in Western Europe; rain, cold and snow in Eastern Europe and Mongolia; facing the poverty, corruption and lack of basic resources in Russia; and dealing with intense culture shock and new languages as we pedaled through 16 countries in 6 months. But it has also been immensely rewarding: meeting wonderful people, eating different foods, staying in the homes of local families and visiting amazing world heritage sites such as the Parthenon, Stonehenge, the Kremlin and the Forbidden City of Beijing. Throughout it all, Anya and Yvonne have been amazing-- overcoming physical and emotional challenges that would daunt even the most courageous and hardy adults. And our family has become closer, and more tight knit as we face and survive each new adventure together.

Yet perhaps most important to me has been my growing faith in the need for this ride. As we pedaled through Polish towns suffocated with the black smell of burning coal (to heat their homes), as we scrubbed off the soot on our skin spewed from the factories in the German Ruhrgebiet, as we choked from the clouds of exhaust from the Russian buses, and as we met person after person suffering from asthma on this trip, I have been convinced that asthma and air pollution are issues that we must address within our lifetimes. I am proud and thankful that you are each part of this adventure-- helping to make a difference that could change the entire world!

Route update

  • Kilometers for asthma: 5203
  • Miles for asthma: 3134 (this number is somewhat under since Paula's odometer is not working right)
  • New Countries visited: Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia, Mongolia, China
Route:
  • From Fromberg, the home of Copernicus in Poland, we pedaled east through the Masurian Lakes, past the former Nazi World War II headquarters at the Wolfschanze, to the pretty Polish island cloister at Stary Folwerk..
  • Next we headed north to the horse drawn carts and colorful scarfs and long peasant dresses of Lithuania, stopping in to visit the cobblestoned old town of Kaunas.
  • Continuing north we pedaled through the rapidly modernizing little country of Latvia, visiting the Salspils Memorial park in remembrance of the victims in the WWII concentration camp there. We walked around the picturesque old city center of Riga, passing mile upon mile of former Soviet huge housing complexes on the way, and stopped in at the outdoor ethnographic museum¡Xan amazing park displaying hundred year old buildings and the earlier way of life around the country.
  • Then on our home stretch to the trans-Siberian railway, we continued north along the Baltic Sea to Parnu and the pink and blue and green painted houses of Tallin in Estonia.
  • From Tallin we took an overnight train to St. Petersburg, thinking that the border crossing to Russia would be easier this way. Our mistake! After an unpleasant roughing up of all our baggage and the extortion of a 400 ruble bribe in the middle of the night, the corrupt border guards finally let us through.
  • After visiting the magnificent buildings and palaces of the Tsars and Peter the Great in St. Petersburg, we continued on our route across Russia by train.
  • Next we stopped in Moscow and walked around the Red Square surrounded by St. Basil's cathedral and the Kremlin and peeked at the unbelievably preserved body of Lenin
  • Then after three days on the train we stopped in Irkustk and hiked along Lake Baikal, the deepest lake in the world, bordered by snow covered mountains
  • Another two days on the train brought us to Ulan Bator in Mongolia. We headed out to the Gobi Desert, traveling by Russian van, camel and horse to sleep each night with Mongolian families in their felt tents or gers, heated by animal dung. Mongolia is one of the most amazing countries I have ever visited: where the people continue to truly live a nomadic life following their herds of sheep, goats, horses, yaks and camels across the completely empty steppe and desert. At night the stars, unhindered by city lights or mountains, light up the sky, streaked by the cloudy Milky Way. We will be back one day.
  • Finally another two days on the train brought us to Beijing, China where we have visited the Forbidden city of the ancient Ming dynasty, and had a blast joining the tens of thousands of bicycles, rickshaws and pedal powered vendor carts whizzing around the streets of the city. We now head north to the Great Wall of China.
World Bike for Breath
P.O. Box 11581
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
(206) 855-2907
www.bikeforbreath.org
e-mail: bikeforbreath@hotmail.com

Updated: November 3, 2003

Thanks to our sponsors!

Our Mission: World Bike for Breath is a nonprofit corporation raising AWARENESS and MONEY for asthma.

©2004 World Bike for Breath, 12106 Heron St, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110 Tel. 206.842.6706 Email BikeForBreath@hotmail.com