Bicyclists begin round-the-world trek

"On New Year’s Day, Len Beil and Donna Mass of Bainbridge Island will join about 260 other bicyclists at the head of Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses Parade.When they reach the end of the parade route, however, they’ll keep going – all the way around the world."

  • Sunday, December 26, 1999 5:00pm
  • Sports

“On New Year’s Day, Len Beil and Donna Mass of Bainbridge Island will join about 260 other bicyclists at the head of Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses Parade.When they reach the end of the parade route, however, they’ll keep going – all the way around the world.They’re taking part in Odyssey 2000, a globe-girdling bicycle adventure encompassing 45 countries and more than 20,000 miles of actualy riding before they return to head up the 2001 version of the parade.It’s being billed by its Seattle-based sponsor as the largest, longest bicycle trip in history. It’s also the fulfillment of long-held dreams for its two Bainbridge participants.“For a long time, I’d wanted to ride around the world,” Beil, 54, said. “But I knew I could never do it self-contained, so I always thought I’d have to do it in stages.”Said Mass, a 46-year-old mother of four: “I had always wanted to experience the world on a different level than what a two-week vacation here and there could offer, and I had always loved the idea of challenging my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual self to new and extreme measures, and the trip certainly promises to do that.”The two are paying $36,000 apiece for the experience. That covers 18 plane flights, 11 boat passages and one train ride, as well as meals, overnight accomodations, personal gear transport and all other manner of phsyical and personal support. Packing and planning their gear for a year on the road is an equally daunting challenge. Beil, for instance, will be taking three sets of riding togs, a three-man Moss tent for his 6-5 frame, a sleeping bag and mattress and a digital camera.Both will carry Iridium phones with worldwide range to stay in constant touch with their families from the farthest reaches of the earth.Most of the logistics, however, are being handled by others, as the cost of the trip, more than anything else, goes into ensuring each rider’s peace of mind.“All we have to do is get up and ride 80 miles (a day),” Beil said. “That’s not really very heavy on responsibilities.”Part of the simplifying process includes providing each cyclists with the same rig, a high-end, 27-speed Raleigh touring bike with a suspension seat post to ease the strain of a 400-mile-a-week riding average.From Pasaden, the Odyssey group will head down Baja California to La Paz, Mexico. A plane will take them to Costa Rica, and they’ll ride to the Panama Canal.After another flight, the group will resume riding in Santiago, Chile, for a trek into Argentina. From there, they’ll spend a month in Africa, head to Athens, Greece, and progress by hop-skip-jump method to Italy, Spain and Portugal.They’ll then fly to Washington, D.C., for a ride up the Eastern Seaboard into Canada before returning across the Atlantic for a summerlong swing through northern Europe – England, Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, the Czech Republic and Germany.Next is three weeks in Australia, followed by a month in the Asian countries of Japan, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. the trip wraps up with three weeks in New Zealand and two in Hawaii before the group returns to end its sojourn in Southern California.Beil, a veteran of several tours with the trek’s sponsor, has been gearing up for the event of six years. Because of his early entry, he served as a catalyst for others he knew who were a trifle more reluctant.“A lot of people were interested, but hesitant,” he said. “They’d ask me, ‘This is four or five years away, and it’s a lot of money. is it really going to happen?’”“I’d tell them, ‘Nothing is certain.’”Beil is a latecomer to cycling, having started at the age of 40 as therapy in the aftermath of a divorce by joining his sister on a three-day Tri-Island Trek through the San Juans and Vancouver Island.The adventure clearly struck a chord with Beil – within three years, he’d bicycled cross-country, done numerous Seattle-to-Portland and Seattle-to-Vancouver treks, Ramrods (circling Mount Rainier in a single day), pedaled up and down the West and across the Rocky Mountains.Beil estimated he’s bicycled about 5,000 miles this year, though he’s been slowed of late by knee injuries – culminating in arthroscopic surgery in October.“I’ll be riding myself back into shape the first couple of weeks,” he said matter-of-factly.Beil’s other goal in joining the Odyssey is to raise money for his alma mater, Seattle University, where he worked as an executive assistant to the president.“I’ve already raised $131,000 in donations and pledges to endow a fund to help out minorities and single parents,” he said. “That should increase by the time I get back, and my goal is to eventually have the endowment reach a million dollars.”Mass has a somewhat different bicycling background.After her fourth child was born 17 years before, she began a regimen of exercise that largely consisted of running and swimming. She added bicycling to her repertoire when she and husband Dan bought bicycles at a yard sale about five years before.They went on what she calls “random rides,” culminating in a week-long excursion across the state. On one such trip a few years before, they met friends who handed them the Odyssey 2000 brochure.They were interested, but at the time the trip’s roster was full. They kept checking back, however, and found an opening for Donna in August of 1998.Since then, she’s stepped up her riding regimen on her $25 garage-sale Peugeot – during the summer, she commuted almost daily between her home on Bainbridge and her job in Silverdale. She also spends several hours each week on a stationary bike.“I have so much learning to do,” Mass confessed. “I’ve hardly ever ridden with anyone besides my husband. There’s a lot of bike terminology I don’t even know. Until last month I’d never used clip-on pedals. And I’m still trying to figure out my new cyclometer.”None of that should be interpreted as self-doubt, however.“I have a lot of courage and a real thing for adventure,” she said. “I live a very active life and I’m strong enough to do it.””

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