While many Cornell seniors will be spending their summers in their first full-time jobs or relaxing before graduate school begins, Doug Miller ‘12 has different plans. On June 3rd, Miller disembarks on a zigzag journey across the country powered by his own two feet.
Miller’s bold goal is to ride his bicycle from San Francisco, Calif. to Washington, D.C. with 30 other recent college graduates over a period of nine weeks. He is part of a group of 80 cyclists starting in three different cities participating in Push America’s Journey of Hope. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the annual charity ride.
Miller is a member of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, and continues the tradition of the Cornell chapter which has sent at least one brother on the cross-country trek every year since the fraternity’s reinstatement at Cornell in 2004.
Push America is a charity that financially supports many of the 40 million Americans living with disabilities and is run as a division of the Pi Kappa Phi national organization. While biking directly across the United States takes about 30-35 days, Miller’s group will be taking extra time to stop at many of the community support organizations that the ride benefits.
“We get to talk to the people we are benefiting, and by doing so they help us grow as people, which is really neat.” So far, Miller has raised over $6,000 of his $7,000 goal and has set-up a website about his journey. “Most of my donations have been from family, friends at home, and friends at Cornell.” Companies like Cliff Bar, KRG Capital, and Thule Sweden (which makes roof racks) are chipping in on a larger scale to bring the total charitable contribution currently above the $600,000 mark.
The cyclists’ itinerary calls for biking 80 miles a day on average. Miller will pedal through major cities like Denver, Chicago and Pittsburgh as well as smaller towns like Empire, Colo. and Dubuque, Iowa. They will spend more than one day in each major city to maximize the number of local charity visits over the entire trip. Donated hotel space and high school gym floors will house Miller and his team as they pedal day in and day out.
So far this year, Miller has purchased a new road bike from Glen Swan Cycles on Mt. Pleasant Road in anticipation of the trip and is 250 miles into training for the 4,000 mile ride. “I figured I’d be spending nine weeks of my life on a bike seat, so I should probably get a pretty good bike,” said the senior. His longest ride thus far is 25 miles, but Miller hopes to start extending his training rides as the weather improves.
A senior in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Miller is considering graduate school at Cornell or Carnegie Mellon after the conclusion of his transcontinental bike ride. Before that though, he anticipates a great deal of adversity on his eastward ride. “It’s a trial by fire,” Miller said of climbing the Rocky Mountains, which began only a few hundred miles into the trip. “There is also a stretch where we go through Nevada and Utah, and I’m expecting that to be pretty hard as well because it’s mostly desert and it’s the summer.”
When asked about what he is looking forward to most, the bicycling enthusiast said, “The camaraderie is going to be incredible. You eat, sleep and exercise with these same 30 people all summer. It’s not just about the time spent but also about cause.”
Miller’s route serendipitously passes through his hometown of Brookfield, Wis. so he may be able to spend one night in his own bed this summer. Compare that with 63 days perched between two 26-inch wheels.
This weekend, Miller trains on the Ithaca hills inspired by the recent announcement of his cycling route and group.
“I’m already friends will some of them on Facebook and we only found out what route we were doing on Sunday.” By the end of the semester, Miller plans to work his way to a 100 mile ride around Cayuga Lake to simulate a long day in the saddle.