Vermonters are usually a little bit different. Maybe it’s the rural, slower way of living… or even just the scenery. Whatever the case may be, natives of the Green Mountain State just seem to have a different approach to life.
Springfield College graduates of 2014 Dylan Peterson, and Jim Dang are no different—in fact, they may embody this sizably more than their neighbors.
The two have devised an over 12,000 mile route across the country for what they call “Wheels of Change,” and instead of doing the journey on four wheels, they are doing it on two.
The trip will take them in a figure eight across the country on their bikes starting Monday, September 15th and will take them into November of 2015. Along the way, the two will stop nightly at cemeteries, campgrounds, or out of season fairgrounds to sleep whilst taking time to volunteer, give back and get to learn people’s stories.
“Think about it, wouldn’t it be cool if you were just walking down the street and somebody stopped you and wanted to hear your story, and they were truly interested in learning about you,” said Dang. That is what Dang and Peterson are going for, reaching people in any way they can, by volunteering at food banks, charities, the YMCA and essentially any means necessary. “We think we are perfectly able to go out and touch millions.”
Another one of those means is attempting to raise awareness for depression, something that hits a bit closer to Dang, whoknows what it’s like to struggle with the illness. As stated in the bio on the Wheels of Change website, “Jim knows how it feels to wage war with depression. He’s been forced to be independent since age 4 when his mother was murdered. Having never met his father, he grew up living with his aunt, uncle, and four younger, female cousins in a Vietnamese-speaking household in Burlington, VT.”
The ride may help the two from a physical standpoint, but the true value, they both agree, is in the giving back aspect.
“We find that giving back is the most satisfying feeling in the world,” said Peterson, who also has had battles of his own with depression, “You can’t replace that kind of satisfaction.”
The trip was inspired by a similar pilgrimage the two took in 2011 from Vermont to California, a year in which Peterson and Dang took off from school following their sophomore year to live independently and experience life differently than they had been used to.
“We thought time was flying by, so we decided to take time off,” said Peterson. “We learned the beauty of simple living.”
The two did just that as the 75-day trip across the country was just the starting point for what the two would do on their bikes.
For a trip that will take them over a year, both Peterson and Dang are not overly worried about anything from a riding perspective except for the possibility of snow, something Dang emphasized. Though the route is timed to where they can hopefully dodge snow, there is still a high possibility that they could find themselves in severe winter weather—far less than ideal and easily the biggest challenge Mother Nature could throw at them.
Peterson, on the other hand, has his concern about finances, as their crowdfunding page has reached only 20 percent of its 15 thousand dollar goal a week from departure, a tally that will hopefully increase as time goes on and their story becomes more well-known across the country.
Peterson’s mother has a concern of her own. “[She] had us fill out Advanced Directive forms, which basically is a form that you make decisions on what to do in certain situations if something goes horribly wrong,” he said. And though nothing he can really say beforehand will put her mind at ease, he makes sure to reach out nightly to tell her that they have found somewhere to sleep safely, even if it is an out of season fairground.
In Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Matthew Broderick says one of the most memorable and oft-recited quotes, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around for a while, you could miss it.” Dang and Peterson are stopping to look around, to truly enjoy life and experience the true value of it.
“We want to inspire more kids our age to do more than [just] look at your phone or worry about your job, but to just go out and live now,” said Dang.
The two have cited however, that they would not be where they are without the triangle they have looked at for years now, “Spirit, Mind and Body,” as heavily mentioned and practiced at Springfield College.
“Our trip is very much aligned with the college motto with service to others,” said Peterson.
“In our hearts, we are spreading humanics,” added Dang.
The remarkable trip of a lifetime is now less than a week away, and the two pebbles that are Dylan Peterson and Jim Dang are about to be dropped to let their ripple spread throughout the water, as countless lives are unknowingly about to be touched—one pedal of the bike at a time.
For more information on Wheels of Change, visit: http://jdwheelsofchange.com
To donate to the cause, visit: http://www.gofundme.com/dylanandjim
There will also be a Twitter page for the trip: @dylanandjim