ME Association-sponsored cyclist Eric Smart will spend the second Christmas of his round-the-world trip in the United States this year. On December 21, he will fly to San Francisco from New Zealand via Fiji and Los Angeles before pedalling across yet another continent on his way to Ireland and then home to Aberdeen.
The 44-year-old ex postman surprised us all in October when, after biking almost 15,000 miles to his planned destination of Adelaide in South Australia, he decided he was enjoying himself so much that he would pedal on all the way round the globe.
“I was in Adelaide 20 years ago while I was hitchkiking and walking round Australia”, he said at the time. “I've worked in Adelaide and it was the furthest place away I could think of with the alliteration on the A – plus I've always wanted to come back to Australia.”
Eric says he's always enjoyed riding a bike but had never been “super keen” – like you'd imagine one would have to be to go on such a long journey.
“Prior to leaving, I went out and cycled for 80km to see how I'd get on and I was fine. That was the furthest I'd ever cycled before leaving”.
His no-frills approach has worked well. There have been no flashy gadgets, dossing at the roadside where there have been no backpacker hostels or friends to call on and just good old-fashioned bike riding.
“The trip's been very basic. I don't have a GPS or a mobile phone or laptop and I've only used two maps the whole trip. The people I meet direct and shape the experience and these are the things I wanted to try. I just wanted the trip to be about using my intuition and doing the thinGs I believe in, instead of having a structured plan.
“I'm very fortunate to be doing this… I don't mean to be flippant but I'm just a tourist on a bike and I'm blown away by the amount of interest that's been shown.”
Among recent expressions of support have been sizeable cheques made out to The ME Association from two companies heavily involved in oil-drilling operations in the North Sea – drilling company KCA Deutag and transport firm Bristow Helicopters.
“The cheques came out of the blue after we approached the companies for support for a fundraising disco”, said Eric's mum Audrey. “They were lovely surprises”.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO MAKE A SECURE ONLINE DONATION TO ERIC'S CYCLE RIDE IN AID OF THE ME ASSOCIATION, PLEASE CLICK ON THE BOX BELOW.