A Bowling Green State University professor will be pedaling for public education, all the way across the United States.
Chris Willis, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the College of Education and Human Development.
“This cross country trip was on my list long before thinking about raising the money. I was going to do the trip first, then I got challenged by a family member to do something with this opportunity,” Willis said. “I fully recognize my privilege to have this opportunity, and a job that lets me do something crazy like this. It’s a way for me to give back, beyond just checking off a bucket-list item and public schools was an easy grab for me.”
He plans to ride his bike across the Northern Tier Route, as outlined by the Adventure Cycling Association. The trip begins in Anacortes, Washington, on Monday and is set to end in Bar Harbor, Maine, on Aug. 2.
Willis’ goal is to raise $51,000 for public education — $1,000 for each of the 51 school districts he plans to stay in during his journey. He’ll be back in Bowling Green for a stop on July 17 as part of his trek.
“Most rest days will be hotels, with a private shower,” Willis said, but many nights will be spent in campgrounds. His youngest son, George, will be driving a support vehicle, to transport gear from point to point.
“I said ‘You just make sure my sleeping pad is blown up when I roll into the campsite each evening.’ He’s 19. He’s excited and I’m excited,” Willis said.
George just finished his freshman year at the University of Colorado Boulder. A visit to his son was included in the training regimen that Willis created. He wanted to do some training in the mountains, because he doesn’t get to practice on hills and changes in elevation in Wood County.
“It was great. I got to move him out of his dorm and then ride up a mountain, which I don’t get to do a lot of around here,” Willis said, laughing. “It was a nice test, to see if I was in shape.”
He plans on averaging 80 to 90 miles per per day. He doesn’t have a pace planned, just the distance.
“When I’m in the Cascades, when I’m in the Rockies and the Adirondacks, those days will be a little bit shorter. But you hope for wind coming from the west and in North Dakota, where you can get a hundred miles to bring that average back,” Willis said.
He knows that in rural areas there will be some long distances between some towns, so that will also impact where he stops. His four years of planning includes where to stop, figuring out the gear to take, financing and workouts with a cycling trainer.
“No one is riding with me, unless they see my blue dot on my Facebook page and they join me,” Willis said.
He added that the company would be welcome.
Willis lives in Perrysburg and his route will be going through Bowling Green, so donations will also help locally.
“It was important to me to pick the route that I’m doing, because it came right through here,” said Willis, who was talking last week in front of the little red schoolhouse on the BGSU campus.
The school districts will range from big city districts, to super small rural districts, to suburban districts.
In addition to receiving his entire education from public schools, Willis said he comes from a family of educators. He added up all time that family members have dedicated to teaching and it totals more than 300 years.
The journey can be followed on Willis’ Facebook page, Pedal for Public Schools, and donations can be made by visiting his fundraising page on the Fundly.com webpage.
Willis stressed that all the money raised will be going to public schools. He will be paying for all the trip expenses from his own funds.