Dan Miller’s ultimate bucket-list item will take him from Washington state to Maine — with many, many points in between.
The Berkeley Lake resident left Seattle, Wash., on Aug. 1 for a 4,000-mile cross-country bicycle journey which will end in Bar Harbor, Maine, in late September.
Miller, 63, has been cycling for the past three decades and decided the time had come to test his pedal mettle. The Virginia Tech graduate spent 28 years in the engineering field and then taught for 12 years at Brookwood High School before retiring at the end of the 2019-20 school year.
“Through all these years of cycling, it’s always been fun to think about that big bucket-list item and I knew I couldn’t do it while I was working,” Miller said a few days before his departure. “Once retirement rolled around, I figured, ‘I’m not getting any younger.’ I am in good health and in good shape. It’s going to be a strenuous venture, so it’s not something you put off for another five to 10 years.”
Miller is also using the long-distance ride to raise funds for Duluth-based Rainbow Village. The original plan was to make the trip last summer, but COVID and his youngest daughter Kendall’s wedding changed the itinerary.
“The reality is COVID put it off,” he said. “I wanted to do it right after I retired, but COVID was in full swing so that wasn’t going to happen.”
Utilizing a tried-and-tested transcontinental route devised by the Montana-based Adventure Cycling Association, Miller will attempt to traverse the 4,000 miles in about two months. Bookended on the front end by the Cascade Range and Rocky Mountains and on the back end by the Adirondack, Green and White mountains, the trip will take Miller through about a dozen states and might even include a foray into Canada.
“Depending on the COVID situation and the Canadian border, I’m going to bounce into Canada on the north side of Lake Erie and come back in at Niagara Falls,” he said. “If the border is more trouble than it’s worth, after I get through Michigan I’ll turn south and go through Ohio and Pennsylvania on the Southern coast of Lake Erie. Then the route goes through New York to the Adirondacks, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.”
And Miller is going it alone on the trip, which he admitted is a concern to his wife Marian and daughters Grace and Kendall.
“I’m going solo, which my wife is not happy about,” he said. “And my kids are marginally tolerant.”
His family will be able to keep up with him via his cell phone (although reception in some of the places he’ll be going is expected to be spotty) and through a satellite tracker.
“I will have my phone and will also have an emergency satellite tracker that works off the Iridium Satellite Network, so it will automatically send a ping every 10 minutes or 30 minutes, depending on how I set it, and it automatically updates a map with my location,” he said. “I’ll link to that map off my blog site. Marian will know where I am at least every 30 minutes.”
Prior to this trip, Miller said he’s had a number of long rides in the past, but nothing of this magnitude.
“My oldest daughter Grace also rides,” he said. “We did Bicycle Ride Across Georgia three times when she was 11, 12 and 13. That’s about 400 miles in a week. She has also done the Six Gap ride with me in North Georgia, which is 105 miles through the mountains from Dahlonega to Helen and back to Dahlonega through all those mountain gaps.”
Last October, Miller — who plans to camp and stay in hotels along the path — tested some of his gear with a 360-mile, four-day ride to Alabama and back.
The ride will also produce benefits for folks back home as Miller is raising money for Rainbow Village, which for three decades has served homeless families in the metro Atlanta area. He said his goal is to raise $30,000 or the organization.
Miller has put together a traditional blog page — www.danmillerrides.com — that includes a donation link to Rainbow Village in addition to keeping people updated on his progress.
“We’ve been involved with Rainbow Village on and off for 25 years,” he said. “This is their 30th anniversary. It started off with the random homes they could get here and there and has grown quite nicely where they have a facility in downtown Duluth with 30 apartments and a community center.
“What we liked is it’s not a band-aid. You need a roof over your head immediately but you need some path back to wholeness, and Rainbow Village is all about that path.”
As the trek moved closer to its beginning, Miller assented he’s feeling a mixture of anticipation and anxiety.
“You’re anxious to go and get started, but you’re also apprehensive in the sense that this is a pretty big undertaking with a lot of unknowns,” he said. “So you can get a little squeamish, if you will. And we’ve spent time talking about the things that make my wife nervous. Her list was quite long — everything from wildfires to wild animals to distracted drivers.
“But for the most part, surprisingly — and it could be just naivety on my part — the riding is what I’m least concerned about. I’ve got a reasonable amount of confidence that I can get in the miles and enjoy the process.”