Welcome to Cycling for Leader Dogs.

Cycling for Leader Dogs is a trans-America solo bicycle tour from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. The goal of this effort is to increase awareness and raise money in support of Leader Dogs for the Blind.

Follow us on FACEBOOK. Keep track of Lion Mark's progress through his ONLINE CYCLING JOURNALS.
Curious what his route will be? Take a look at the the TRIP ROUTE MAP. Have questions? Send Lion Mark an EMAIL.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

My Portland to Portland Ride is Complete

I arrived back home in La Center this afternoon after completing nearly 3,350 miles riding from Portland to Portland (Oregon to Maine). This coming weekend I plan on adding to this total mileage by riding from Fort Stevens State Park on the Oregon coast back to Portland, OR. This will complete a coast to coast ride this summer.

As of Friday, August 9th, the Cycling for Leader Dogs project has raised more than $82,000 for Leader Dogs for the Blind. Thank you to everyone who has sponsored this effort and/or worked to make this effort such a huge success. We started out with the goal of raising $35,000 and we blew by that goal shortly after we began the trip on June 16th. Wow! Way to go everyone!

Leader Dogs will need to close out this project at the end of August. It is not too late to join the hundreds and hundreds of sponsors who unselfishly contributed to Leader Dogs through this project. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all those generous sponsorships. If you would like to join them, please click the link on the right side of this page, mail in your donation (see instructions below the link on the right), or go to www.leaderdog.org. All sponsorship donations (100%) go directly to Leader Dogs for the Blind.

Finally, be sure to check out our Facebook Fan Page as well as my cycling journal for the trip to experience the daily efforts made as part of this Lions project.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Let the Journey Begin...

I have begun the journey across America.  My online efforts to communicate will be mainly through our Facebook Fan page, Leader Dogs for the Blind website and my online journal (see links below).  Feel free to communicate with me either through email or through the journal guestbook.

Leader Dogs for the Blind

Cycling For Leader Dogs Trip Journal

Trip Maps by Sections:

Redfield, NY to Portland, ME

Rochester Hills, MI to Redfield, NY

Green Bay, WI to Rochester Hills, MI

Foley, MN to Green Bay, WI

Jamestown, ND to Foley, MN

Forsyth, MT to Jamestown, ND

Missoula, MT to Forsyth, MT

Vancouver, WA to Missoula, MT

Therefore, if you want the most accurate information about the trip, please checkout one of these sites to keep track of where I am at, and what I am doing:

A huge thank you for all the support.  Let's keep this energy going!

Happy Cycling,
Lion Mark

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The three weeks to go report...

Many months ago when the idea of riding across America officially was launched, I thought it would take forever for the actual departure date to arrive.  Well here we are, only three weeks and one day before I will be settling into the routine of "ride, eat, sleep, repeat" for seven straight weeks.  I think mentally and physically I am more than ready for the challenge.

With that said, there is so much left to do before the June 16th deadline, despite all the work that has been done to date.  The following is a brief update on some of the events over the past few weeks since my last blog post.

Visiting Lions Clubs Throughout Our Region
We have had the chance to speak at many Lions clubs and other meetings across multiple district 19-G.  There are so many Lions who have reached out to us and have helped get us on the agendas to talk about Leader Dogs and the Cycling For Leader Dogs project.  The Longview Pioneer Lions, Ridgefield Lions, Salmon Creek Lions, Kalama Lions, Kelso Lions as well as zone leaders for 19-G1 and G2.  We also were very fortunate to have the support of our District Governor Crawford Spence to get us on the agenda at our MD 19-G conference.  Thank you Lions of MD 19G for your tremendous support!  Also, I owe my fellow club members of the La Center Lions a huge thank you for all they have done as part of this project.  Steve Fuller, Ken and Judy Hickman and our club treasurer Dana Hantho.  You guys are superstars in my book!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Sharing About Leader Dogs for the Blind with Students
Thanks to Deb Marinos and her Leader Dog "Kibble" as well as Regional Trainer Stephanie Sherwood, more than 1,000 students at La Center elementary and La Center middle school had the chance to hear about Leader Dogs for the Blind, what it is like to have the freedom to travel through the use of a Leader Dog and what it is like to bring a client and newly trained dog together.  I also shared with my students about Cycling for Leader Dogs.  I am very proud of our students and have heard lots of positives from students and staff about the assemblies that Deb, Kibble and Stephanie provided.  Each student also received a Leader Dog book mark for their summer reading.  Thank you Deb, Kibble and Stephanie for taking time out of your busy day to share your experiences and knowledge with La Center students.

Monday, April 30, 2012

As April comes to a close, the six weeks to go mark nears...

It is hard to believe, but we are closing in on six weeks from our departure date of June 16th.  As we get closer to this important day, the time to prepare obviously becomes shorter, but my enthusiasm for getting underway is becoming harder to keep in check.

The following is an update on various activities that are in process to prepare for Cycling for Leader Dogs ride across America.  Thanks in advance for taking the time to read up on all the exciting news with this project.  Also thank you to so many people who are pouring energy into this project!

The Training and Testing Continues
Even though there are lots of preparations and logistics to accomplish over the next six weeks, my training efforts are taking a huge chunk of my preparation time.  My training buddy and "coach" (my wife Debbie) and I try to ride outside two or three days a week.  We also ride indoors on trainers three mornings a week.  Debbie and I also try to run at least a 5K or more three or four days a week.  The picture to the left is a shot of Debbie and I riding in Portland, Oregon on one of our extended rides. This outside riding is way more fun than being indoors, but more importantly it allows me to practice pulling "Norman" (my trailer) with simulated weight.  I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard... "Hey are you haul'n beer in the trailer?" from passing cyclists.  

Another time commitment is the continued testing of equipment as well as various strategies for being away from home for an extended period of time solo.  One new tool I have been testing is an App for my iPhone called Cyclemeter.  It allows my phone to be used as a GPS tracker, data collection device and map generator.  I plan on using this App as a way to help keep people informed as to my whereabouts and to allow interested followers of Cycling for Leader Dogs to have detailed information regarding the journey.  This information will be updated nightly when I am traveling so everyone is kept in the loop as to my progress.  The picture to the right is a sample map of a recent ride we went on showing mileage in five mile increments.  This information will be shared through our Facebook page each evening while on the trip.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Learning about Leader Dogs for the Blind

It is hard to believe it, but April has arrived. With less than ten weeks until the departure date, it is sometimes hard to imagine how everything is going to get done. All of the preparations have been enjoyable, but one so far has risen above all the rest... Our visit last week to Leader Dog headquarters in Michigan.

In order to be better Ambassadors for LDB, we were asked to fly out to their headquarters in Rochester Hills, Michigan for an up close and personal tour.  Quite simply it was a life changing experience for both Debbie (my wife) and me.  The complexity of the combined effort of all the clients, their families, staff and volunteers to support and train the team (the client and the Leader Dog) is both comprehensive and extensive.  Some people might think that you simply teach a dog some basic habits, give the blind or visually impaired person a few pointers, connect the two with a harness and call it good.  This couldn't be further from the truth.

The effort to breed, whelp, raise and train a healthy and skilled dog is just one half of a complex process, but complicated none-the-less.  Teams of dog breeders work with LDB staff to bring the puppies into the world.  Once born and ready to leave their mother, the puppies get a full wellness check so they can move on to the next phase of their training.  Teams of volunteer puppy raisers spend about a year raising these future Leader Dogs and work tirelessly to prepare them for their formal training back at Leader Dog headquarters.  Twenty percent of all puppies are actually raised by convicts as part of a rehabilitation process.  No convict involved in this program has ever been sent back to prison for committing a crime upon release.  This says a lot to me about the power of this work and the impact it can have on people.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mid-March Update - March 18th, 2012

Eighty-nine days sounds like a long time.  A bit under fourteen weeks sounds a bit shorter.  Less than three months sounds even shorter.  These are all different ways to express the time between now and my departure on the trans-America trip.  It seems like ages ago when I sat my wife Debbie down last November and told her that I wanted to make this trip a reality, but it actually wasn't that long ago.

My point to all this rambling is that June 16th will be here very quickly.  The part of me that loves to just get on my bike and ride is saying, "Bring it on!  I can't wait to get the trip underway."  The other part of me that is highly motivated to accomplish the main focus of the trip to increase awareness and raise funds for Leader Dogs is saying, "There is so much to do in order to do this well and so little time to get everything done."  Hurry up, slow down, hurry up,... and so on it goes.

My fellow Lions Club members have been super supportive with our planning.  In fact, I think many of them are more excited than I am which I really appreciate.  They keep me going and focused.  I know we wouldn't be as far along in our work without their support, advice and encouragement.   The great folks at Leader Dogs for the Blind (LDB) have also been amazing.  Our semi-weekly phone conference calls have been extremely helpful and supportive.  Each and every passing day I am more impressed with the work of this great team at LDB.  Additionally, both Debbie and I will be traveling back to Leader Dog headquarters in a few weeks to visit and see first hand the campus and meet both clients and the LDB team in person.  Getting to make this visit is almost like a dream come true for us.  Both Debbie and I feel as though this experience will help us become more aware of all the services LDB provides and thereby helping us to become better ambassadors.

We have begun to raise funds towards our $35,000 goal.  The first batch of sponsorship pins have arrived and we are beginning to move towards our goal of at least 1,000 sponsors, one sponsor at a time.  To get the ball rolling, LDB has now created a special link (see "DONATE" button at the top right of this site) just for those who want to donate online as part of the Cycling for Leader Dogs project.  This site will accept credit card donations and Leader Dogs will then send out both a sponsorship pin and a thank you letter documenting the tax deductible donation.  All donations will go to LDB for their causes as the costs of the trip itself is being provided in other ways. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Press Release: Cycling for Leader Dogs

Cycling for Leader Dogs

Most of us probably had a “back to school” assignment as children where we were asked to write about, “What I did over my summer vacation?”  This fall, La Center, Washington school superintendent Mark Mansell will have plenty to talk about if he was asked to complete the same assignment. 

He is planning on riding his bicycle from Portland, Oregon across the country all the way to Portland, Maine or approximately 3,500 miles.  “I enjoy challenges and I love to learn”, Mansell said.  “Given the chance to attempt something like this is a very special opportunity that is extremely exciting.” 
Putting in the miles is just part of the challenge Mansell is putting before himself.  He is also a member of the La Center Lions Club and has decided to raise money for Leader Dogs for the Blind.  “Given the time commitments of my job, I have not really been able to participate in many Lion’s functions beyond our local community.  When my school board gave me a two month sabbatical, I jumped at the idea of working to support Leader Dogs”, Mansell said.

The goal is to raise at least $35,000 in order to help someone in need to receive a service dog.  To achieve this goal, Mansell (with the support of his home club and interested clubs along the trip route) will work to secure nearly 1,000 sponsors as part of a “penny per mile” for Leader Dogs effort.   All donations of $35 or more will receive a Cycling for Leader Dogs vest pin commemorating this solo cross-country bicycle trip.