Thankful to be finished biking 50 states
By Steven M. Pappas
Staff Writer | November 24,2012
Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff File Photo
David Miller, of Buffalo, N.Y., pedals out of Barre earlier this fall with his dog Max, who accompanied him on most of his nationwide trek.
This Thanksgiving David J. Miller was surrounded by family and friends in Florida. The Buffalo, N.Y., native spent the year cycling all 50 states — along with his 6-year-old Weimaraner, Max — to mark his 50th birthday.
On Thursday, the bike was neatly packed away, and Max was relaxing nearby.
“I finished, yes,” Miller said in a telephone interview Friday. “It was wonderful.”
In early September, Miller was passing through Vermont (month 10 of riding and state No. 39). In a matter of weeks, Miller, a self-employed consultant for the health and fitness club industry, had headed over to Maine, down the coast to Delaware, then into West Virginia and Virginia (No. 49).
The only catch to the final leg of that trip? Beating Superstorm Sandy before it intersected the Eastern Seaboard and came ashore. He did (barely), in Washington, D.C. His trip was delayed by a few days as the bad weather, including a brutal cold snap, blew off.
Given the weather issues, Miller finished the contiguous United States without Max, who normally rode in a wheeled carrier behind the bike.
Most days, traveling 45 to 75 miles on a mountain bike, depending on terrain and weather, Miller and Max rode together, crossing the nation three times to collect all 50 states.
On Nov. 5, Miller (again without Max) flew to Hawaii and cycled as many of the islands as he could until Nov. 16. Max also didn’t make the trip to Alaska; in all he did 46 states and the District of Columbia.
Armed with fruit, graham crackers, peanut M&Ms, other snacks and fluids, Miller and Max departed each morning on a predetermined route worked out on an electronic tablet with a mapping application. They rode for several hours at a time, Miller always mindful of traffic, potholes and other hazards that might cause delays or damage to his bike or gear. In the 12 months he had very few problems with his bike; a few problems with Max’s carrier; and annoyingly disruptive problems with his small cargo trailer, which had to be welded four times and had the wheels replaced repeatedly.
They traveled slowly, methodically, and stopped regularly for breaks, Miller said.
Originally, Miller considered doing 50 international-length triathlons in a year. Logistically and financially that plan became impractical. But having competed in triathlons previously, Miller thought biking might be a better way to go. He’s not married and has no children, so other than taking a break from working, there were not a lot of commitments holding him back.
While the trip had a handful of sponsors, Miller relied on a network of fellow athletes, friends and supporters to give him places to sleep and rest. He stopped at scores of motels along the route (paid for out of his pocket), occasionally being offered a room for free because he was riding for charity.
Miller was riding on behalf of four charities: the American Heart Association; The Nature Conservancy: Kadima, a Mexican social services organization devoted to children with special needs; and the Cancer Research Institute.
The trip had layers of meaning for Miller. His interest in supporting cancer research, for example, was personal — his mother has successfully battled the disease twice.
Miller did not collect money along the way, but he did build a notable group of followers, friends and acquaintances — all of whom he directs to his website, bike50at50.com, urging everyone to make a donation directly to one of the charities he is supporting.
During his yearlong trip, Miller said, he raised about $4,000. In the coming weeks, he is going to be contacting the vast network of people he met to seek donations for his causes. (Contributions are still being accepted at his website.)
What’s next? Miller said he is going to take the next few months to weigh his options. He is not writing off another adventure.
“We will have to wait and see,” he said. “Nothing is for certain right now, but I’m open to ideas.”