Industry veteran’s round-the-world bike ride ends
Edition: November 2012 - Vol 20 Number 11
As one would expect on a 49-day, 25,000-mile journey around the world (15,000 of them on a Suzuki V-Strom DL650), there were high points and low points for Brad Thompson, director of vendor relations, National Distribution & Contracting Inc.
Thompson traversed the world by motorcycle, air and ferry, to raise money for childhood cancer research. It was his way of celebrating 20 cancer-free years, as well as helping out kids with cancer, the No. 1 disease killer of children ages zero to 15 in the United States. He called it “Rally Around the World,” and he recorded his day-by-day progress on a blog, www.rallyaroundtheworld.com.
For example, on Sunday, Aug. 27, somewhere between Irkutsk, Russia, and Krasnoyrask, Russia, Thompson came to the conclusion that “there is no such thing as weather-proof gear,” as “slowly, rain began to creep into every corner of my gear – first my sleeves, riding boots and eventually a bit of dampness in just about every spot.” In fact, the Russian portion of his trip – about 7,000 miles – was full of long, grueling days, “with 4-5 hours sleep, arriving in each city late in the evening and up early to do it all over again in a city near you.”
But the high points were really high. Some were afforded by the natural beauty of his surroundings. But many more were provided by the people – mostly strangers – he met along the way.
For example, on Day 29, near Chita, Russia, Thompson describes what he encountered: “Terrain went from mountainous to huge open plains with cattle and farms ... many small towns could be seen in the distance with most very simple of wood and metal roofs. It is obvious they were poor; however they were some of the nicest folks – I felt very comfortable in this rural region which seemed much like mid-America.”
Then there were the bikers in Irkutsk, on Day 30, who led him to a place to stay late at night, even though they were just coming off a 7-to-10-day road trip themselves. “We exchanged no names, although we did pose for a picture together. These are the moments that make this trip so very special to me,” Thompson writes in his blog.
Especially noteworthy was the help he got from Russian bikers from a club called the Siberian Bears, following a serious accident Thompson had on Aug. 29, just outside Novosibirsk, in Siberia. “Over the last couple of days I must also recognize the overwhelming acts of selflessness of the Russian biker community that was extended to me,” he writes. “Without them, my situation would have been dismal at best. There is such a huge comfort knowing that in a spot far, far from home there are folks like these you can count on!”
And there was the customs inspector in Calais, France, as Thompson was preparing to board the chunnel train to England on Day 42: “[He] asked about what I was doing, and he was genuinely interested in my trip and many of the details. He even wrote down for me all the highways I needed to get to Gatwick Airport. At that moment I realized that every person I have come in contact during these last several weeks has been very pleasant and helpful. I have not had one bad experience, which I find utterly amazing.”
One of the most emotional moments, however, was provided much closer to home, on Day 48 of the journey – in Cleveland County, N.C., at Springmore Elementary School, where Thompson’s sister, Portland, manages custodial services. He describes it in his blog: “As I approached the school’s gym filled with 700 screaming elementary kids and the Crest High School Marching Band playing their fight song…what a truly unbelievable sight! I parked the bike in front of all the kids and watched as a PowerPoint presentation of my journey was played for everyone.
“The school had a change drive over the last couple of weeks and I was presented with a check as their contribution to Rally Foundation. To me, this is Rally at its best – a grassroots organization empowering everyone to join in their mission to help in the fight against childhood cancer.
“The entire event was in honor of Rally Kid Seth, who was unable to attend since he had just finished up his last round of chemotherapy and wasn’t quite feeling up to attending. However, Seth’s mom, Sharon, who teaches second grade at the school, and sister, Gracie, did come out to greet me.
“I gave Seth’s mom a refrigerator magnet of Moscow I’d been carrying in my pocket since Siberia. It was a gift given to me by a Russian who had assisted me after my crash. [I] couldn’t think of any better time to share that gift than at this moment with Seth.
“Hang in there young man!”
Thompson ended up contributing $100,000 to Rally Foundation. His blog may be found at www.rallyaroundtheworld.com. Readers can learn more about Rally Foundation at www.rallyfoundation.org.