Bike to China


"I'm more comfortable on two wheels than on my own two feet."

UAlbany student Dan Patterson is an avid cyclist who's biked across South Africa, England, Scotland, France, Spain and much of the U.S.

His next trip: Central Asia. After graduation, he and another recent UAlbany grad -- Marta Grzegorek will spend six months biking from Istanbul to Shanghi, that's about 5,000 miles.

But this time, cycling just didn't seem to be enough.

So Dan and Marta will be stopping in towns along the way in an attempt to help people solve social and environmental problems.

Why wasn't just taking a vacation enough this time?

There's a lot of time to meditate on a bike. Last year on my bike trip through Spain to France, England and Scotland, I spent day and night by myself and I started thinking. I was inspired by a cyclist I met who, with his brother, raised $30,000 for Indian orphans by creating Orphan ride 2. I just kept thinking about it. Marta and I were living in the same city in Spain and we decided to plan a bike trip to China. I did some research and just let my mind wander, and I just popped out bed at 2 o'clock in the morning and the plan just came together.

Why Central Asia?

Because we think the area is sub-represented and an area in dire need of help. Water is disappearing there and nuclear waste is a big problem and economies are dying. We're hoping to call more attention to social and environmental problems in that area of the world.

In Uzbekistan, the Aral Sea was once one of the largest lakes in the world -- now it's a toxic sea. It's polluted by all sorts of things, including residue from the Russians testing biochemical warfare on it. It's in the south western regain of Kazakhstan and northwestern region of Uzbekistan.

Mailuu-suu is one of the most polluted places in the world . According to a 2006 report by The Blacksmith Institute, it's one of the ten most polluted sites in the world. It's a seismically active, mudslide prone area so mudslides could cover all of these radioactive waste. It needs aid, attention and documentation.

So how will this work?

First we're raising $12,500 for Global Greengrants. We have set a goal to raise 2, 500 before we leave in July, and we plan to raise $10,000 while we're en route by connecting with international organizations. That's not for us -- we're paying for our own trips. Not a single penny of that goes to us -- we don't even see the money. 100% of the proceeds do go to Central Asia.

On our trip, we'll be talking to journalists, activists and local leaders about what the problems are, why they're problems, and what can be done to alleviate those problems. We'll also be sharing information about the Global Greengrants fund -- what they do and how they operate.

So what do you need?

As cyclists, we don't really need anything-- we've got everything set in place. We've already collected about $1,000, but we still need people to make contributions. There's a donation page on our website and we've got some fund raising events coming up -- three bike races and a charity dinner party at The Midtown Tap and Tea Room.

Why bike? What's so great about biking?

It's a form of meditation. I begged my parents for my first bike when I was five years old and today I feel more comfortable on two wheels than I do on my own two feet. It's my passion. It's my hobby. It's my life.

What's different about seeing the world from a bike?

You definitely see it slower -- you see it more clearly you see it from ground view. And people are usually very happy to see cyclists around -- people are quick to open their arms toward you. It kind of has a humble approach to it... people are accepting of cyclists.

You're graduating from UAlbany just before your trip. There's been a lot of publicity lately about UAlbany students...

Yeah... I really hope to definitely overturn that perception. I think the majority of UAlbany students are smart, academic students who like to get things done.

Lots of people talk about doing things like this -- biking through a new part of the world, or raising money to help solve problems, but they don't follow through. What made you take it from an idea to a reality?

You just gotta do it -- just get it done. Whatever the conditions are, just figure it out and
get it done. I've always lived by those rules.


Very cool. Planning to ride in the April Alley Cat.

*eye roll* - more privileged kids disguising their global adventuring as some kind of humanitarian effort. Here's an idea... maybe instead of riding a bicycle, or walking or running or doing any number of other useless things to "help" the world, you could actually develop the skills to solve real problems.

"So Dan and Marta will be stopping in towns along the way in an attempt to help people solve social and environmental problems."

Give.Me.A.Break. These two greenhorns are gonna roll into town on their bike, solve all of po village's problems, then ride off into the sunset. They're delusional.

Maybe instead of spending daddy's, or well intentioned donor's (or sallie mae's?) money financing their 6 month vacation, these two could actually contribute something to society.

Or at least, be honest. Don't call your selfish bicycle adventure a humanitarian effort.

Don't be a hater.

Don't be a hater indeed. It's obvious from the first paragraph that the kid loves biking, and has already had many "adventures". I commend him for finding a way to take his passion for one thing, and think about a way to make a positive difference in the world. If he had just decided to bike across Asia and NOT try to do something good, would that be more acceptable to you?

Good luck Dan! I hope you have a safe and fulfilling journey.

Dove, your comment is disheartening; I must attempt to warm you. Yes we are young, yes we may be greenhorns, and yes we will cycle across Asia departing this July – making a difference takes much more than two person’s efforts. A war has never been won by one man. We offer an outlet for the people of Central Asia to show others what kinds of horrors exist in this world. We raise charity money that will be granted to real people, real leaders who fight for their environment and for their people – they are the real ones who move others to make a difference. We stand by them.

If we wanted a vacation we could walk the Appalachian Trail, or cycle the Camino de Santiago. We chose Central Asia for our efforts very carefully. Central Asia is a region on the peripheral of war. Afghanistan stands to the south and torturous regimes lie within. This is not a vacation. It is a dangerous effort to forward humanitarian work. Humanitarian workers are struggling to exist and we are simply lending our honest effort. Please take some time and read about Central Asia and you will hopefully understand that we, as citizens of the world, cannot ignore some of our injustices. Imagine if you lived in a place where water is a scarce resource, what would you think? How would you act? Ignorance is not an option; we cannot and will not bike through this area without offering what we can. So please, don’t roll your eyes at an effort that is designed to stand by those who need people like us for sustainability and justice.

Dear Dove,

it is quite interesting how you are making assumptions about us, first and foremost we are both financing the trip by working 50 plus hours a week, it makes me angry to come home after a 12 hour shift and read your comment .

Mommy and Daddy are not going to help us. Where does this ´rich kid´ assumption come from?

Secondly the way Global Greengrants functions is that we call attention to a problem and if you donate 100% of the funds go to a project within Central Asia, that means that we NEVER see the money. It goes directly to Global Greengrants.

Thirdly we don´t plan on solving any problems ourselves. We aren´t that naive that we think we can fix a place by just being two smiling Americans riding into town.

We are just raising 12,500 dollars towards an environmental organization, and raising awareness about serious environmental issues that the ´west´doesn´t generally know about.

And why attack a charity dude? Of all the things you could denounce in this world, why make a comment against this?

How is what we are doing selfish? We are raising awareness for a good cause. If we were ass holes we would just go and never make any effort to raise money. It would be 100% less work and just a fun bike ride to China. Regardless we are financing the biking component for the trip ourselves anyways, that means food water equipment everything. I would probably sleep better at night without this INSANE stress I´m going through.

We don´t you research something before you make a comment against it?


Hi, Marta and Dan,

If you haven't already, you should try connecting with Peace Corps volunteers in Kazakhstan. I lived there more than a decade ago, and a third of the volunteers were working on environmental education and securing grants to fund projects (the Aral Sea was the biggest environmental catastrophe there at the time, too). The Kazakhs I met there were also very aware of the many problems their country faces, so I would also keep that in mind.

Central Asia is a beautiful place, and I'll never forget the time I spent there. Good luck and safe travels.

I'm lucky enough to be able to call Dan Patterson one of my good friends. His self-motivation is off of the charts, and his dedication to his main mission has been true. His boundless energy will serve him well in his noble efforts, and I find this cause incredibly worthwhile.

anyone who would talk down on these two are immature and jealous. They are raising money for a great charity. If they can accomplish that while simultaneously living their dream and doing something they love, more power to them. It's hard work orchestrating something like this, let alone working to save the money. In the end, their hard work will inevitably pay off and it will all be worth it to them. When was the last time you truly worked hard for something you love?

Good luck you two! support all around!!!

Thank everyone for the support!! We have a bunch of events coming up including an albany alley cat next on April 9th. Check it out on our website. Ethan - it's going to be a great event, looking forward to meeting you!!

hola marta and dan!

its stephan and peter from austria. we met you on the black sea and cyclet same kilometer up and down and up and down.

our tour was great and we finsihed our tripsamsun. so in the meanwhile i am back to my job and thinking back....

how and where are you.... looking forward to hear good stories from.

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