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Biking for Art

Oct 15, 2010

Brett DeBoerMost of us travel to the East Coast by plane, a few of us by car. Brett DeBoer rode his bike. Chair of the Visual Arts department, Professor DeBoer took a sabbatical last spring to engage in an adventure that started in Vallejo, California in May and ended in Alexandria, Virginia at the end of July. Seeing the country up close and personal, he came away with a newfound faith in the goodness of humanity.

Professor DeBoer had been on several week-long bike tours through Adventure Cycling, an organization that offers tours, maps and guidance for cross-country bicyclists, but this was his first coast-to-coast trek. He rode over 100 miles some days, lugging a single-wheel trailer filled with camping gear. One of the purposes for his trip was to raise funds for a new scholarship for art students (see side bar).

Kids, Falls of Rough, KYAlthough it was a solo trip, Professor DeBoer often hooked up with other riders along the route; a strong sense of camaraderie exists in the cross-country biking community. "You often run into another rider coming from the other direction and stop and have a conversation in the middle of the highway," said Professor DeBoer.

"Other riders are a great source of information. They'll alert you to things like road closures, weather patterns, or to make sure you stop to see the cookie lady." He tells of a woman in Kentucky who has been giving out cookies to cross-country bike riders since 1976 when the routes were first established.

Close Encounters

Dbl L Cyclist Group Greeting Sign"The trip for me was all about reaffirming the idea that people are basically good," said Professor DeBoer. "I think if more people could experience the trust I encountered, we'd clear up a lot of problems. It's so completely different from the crime and negativity you hear about on the news."

Many anecdotes from the trip proved his point. After a difficult stretch, Professor DeBoer took a day to rest in Blanding, Utah. After discovering the town library was closed so he had no Internet access, he met a man sitting outside the library in a shady spot, working on two laptops. After a brief conversation, the man insisted that Professor DeBoer borrow one of his computers while he went fishing with his kids. He came back two hours later, not in the least concerned that Brett might have skipped town with his laptop.

Bike Trip Supports New Visual Arts Scholarship

One of the purposes of Professor DeBoer's bike trip was to initiate funds for establishing a new Visual Arts Department Endowed Scholarship at the University of the Pacific. The intent is to offer an award annually to a deserving student who has successfully completed the freshman foundation courses and is pursuing a B.F.A. degree in Studio Art or Graphic Design at Pacific.

Donations to the scholarship fund are welcome, and no amount is too small. To participate, please go to this Giving to Pacific web page and follow these steps:  

Scroll down to the "Other" section.

•  From the "Other Gift Designation" drop-down menu, select "Other: Not Listed."

•  In the "Other Not Listed" box type in: Bike For Art

•  Continue down the page to the section prompting you to enter the amount of your gift. (You have the option to designate a recurring gift if you wish.)

•  Enter your contact information in the boxes under the section "University Employees." (You do not need to be a university employee to make a donation.)

Click the "Save and Continue" button to continue processing your donation via credit card.

Another day, after riding in sleet for the past 20 miles in Nevada and facing a storm ahead, Professor DeBoer stopped to take a breather before the final uphill stretch into town.  Just then an RV pulled up beside him. It was a couple he had met earlier in Carson City. The woman came out into the whipping wind, holding out a large Tupperware container full of freshly baked cookies—offering him sustenance for the tough stretch ahead. Are we noticing a cookie theme?

When he arrived in town (Austin, Nevada) and asked the hotel clerk about Internet access, she realized that their system was down due to the storm. No worries:  she called her friend who readily loaned out his iPod. Professor DeBoer was amazed at this trust and generosity, and the way people went out of their way to help him.

"I started wondering how I would respond if roles were reversed—would I loan out my iPod to a complete stranger?" Professor DeBoer admitted that he's "probably not there yet" but he is thinking differently about his fellow human beings.

Giving Back

At the Double L hostel in Kentucky—essentially a gas station and grocery with a place for bike riders to sleep for free—Professor DeBoer wanted to give back. Since the owner wouldn't take money, he offered to assist in some other way. So they crossed the highway to a 150-year-old barn. There amidst the ancient accumulation of dust, oil and grease, with light filtering in through holes in the roof, stood a gleaming new Makita planer. The two of them spent the afternoon planing poplar boards.

"I met so many people who were willing to be generous and helpful," said Professor DeBoer. Partly because of the richness of the experiences he encountered with people along the route, he spent three months on the road rather than the two he had originally planned. What's a few extra days when you're among friends?

Links to Learn More:

Adventure Cycling
Read and see more about Professor DeBoer's bike trek at his blog

Brett DeBoer and Ray LaHood, Secretary of Transportation

Western Kansas Wheatfield

Crossing the Mississippi from Farmington, MO to Chester, IL

Helping Hand Turtle

Stinkin River Overlook Glen Canyon, UT


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