Keep your eyes peeled and you might see a news truck or two in Cranford this Thursday. That’s because my friend Robert Schott will be hosting Brian D’Apice, the founder of BICYCLE AROUND AMERICA, who will have pedaled more than 11,000 MILES (!!!) around the perimeter of the United States before reaching Robert’s home in our little hamlet, his penultimate stop before completing his journey in New York City on Friday.
If you recognize the name Robert Scott, that’s because he’s something of a local celeb himself–he’s the snow sculptor whose incredible sculptures have turned the heads of thousands of passers-by on Springfield Ave in recent winters! Last year, Robert met Brian D’Apice at a company meeting in Texas, where Brian gave a motivational speech during a stop on his bicycle tour that struck a cord with Robert.
According to Robert: “What struck me is that he was a regular guy from a suburban town with good opportunity to follow a ‘regular’ path, but after 9/11 he joined the Army, determined to protect what we have and hold so dearly in this country. He joined the 101st Airborne Division and did two tours in Iraq. He is also a 2011 graduate of York College in Pennsylvania! He’s just a remarkable person.” Right there on the spot, Robert offered Brian a place to stay, should he need it during his cross-country trek.
Brian commenced his journey in Rockefeller Center last May, with the goal riding of around America to raise money for charities near and dear to him. Having lived and worked in Southeast Asia for 2 1/2 years (including as a teacher in Thailand), Brian saw firsthand the need for better schools in the impoverished areas. One of the charities he is fundraising for–Pencils of Promise–builds schools and trains teachers, and according to its website Pencils of Promise has built more than 300 schools so far.
You can see in this map the circuitous path Brian took around the country. Along the way he stayed with friends and with welcoming strangers when he could, and camped out at other times. On Thursday Brian will be riding from Doylestown, Pennsylvania, to Cranford (a 63-mile trek, close to Brian’s average daily mileage on his trusty bike). Robert has planned a barbecue to welcome Brian, along with a cozy guest room that will provide some much-needed comfort and rest! Bright and early on Friday, Brian will head into the city to complete his 12-month journey. He’ll appear on several TV news shows, and hopefully word will spread out about his incredible accomplishment and his mission to help those less fortunate.
I spoke with Brian about how it feels to be this close to the end of such an groundbreaking trip. He said: “Although I’ve enjoyed my time on the road, it feels great to be heading down the home stretch of this epic journey. This has been an extremely special year. I’ve met wonderful new friends and have had experiences that I’ll never forget. What impressed me the most is the heart of the American people. Just about everyone I encountered was eager to help. I have a new and promising faith in the people in this great country!”
It’s so heartwarming to know that Cranford’s own Robert Schott is among those kind people who offered Brian food, companionship, and a place to stay–it’s another reminder that there really are people everywhere looking out for one another.
Brian went on to say: “The days after I arrive in New York City will not be much different than the days on the road. I have a tremendous amount of administrative work to complete before the project can be finalized. I also have plenty of ‘thank you’ letters to write to the hundreds of people who made this project a success. My bicycle may feel neglect in the coming days, but that’s only because she can’t hear all the stories I’m telling about her.”
A hearty congratulations goes out to Brian! I hope he feels the warmth of this town when he visits on Thursday.
For more information about Brian’s project and the charities he is raising money for, visit www.bicyclearoundamerica.com. You can purchase T-shirts featuring the Bicycle Around America logo at https://www.booster.com/bicyclearoundamerica2016?type=2&side=front.