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The Steuben Courier Advocate
  • C-PP teacher Bryan Kelley rides to the challenge

  • Bryan Kelley could be mistaken for your average biker, roaring into the American west as so many of us might have been tempted to do at some point in our lives.
    Until you look at his boots.
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    • At a glance

      To donate money to the Boot Campaign for Bryan’s ride:
      donate.bootcampaign.com/bootride2014

      For more information and daily updates about the trip:
      www.facebook.com/boo...

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      At a glance

      To donate money to the Boot Campaign for Bryan’s ride:

      donate.bootcampaign.com/bootride2014

      For more information and daily updates about the trip:

      www.facebook.com/bootride2014

      For more information about the Boot Campaign:

      BootCampaign.com

  • SOMEWHERE IN AMERICA | Bryan Kelley could be mistaken for your average biker, roaring into the American west as so many of us might have been tempted to do at some point in our lives.
    Until you look at his boots.
    They’re unique, the symbol of the Boot Campaign, a non-profit that works to improve the lives of American servicemembers and help combat veterans transition back to civilian life.
    It was founded in 2009.
    Last year, they provided emergency grants to servicemembers and veterans to help them through tough times, sponsored mortgage-free homes for wounded troops, funded renovations to allow disabled veterans to live more comfortably in their homes, and started a program to grant wishes to children of troops killed in action.
    Kelley is riding approximately 7,000 miles across America in 17 days to raise money for the organization. He plans to finish his ride Sept. 1.
    Along the way, he’s posting his observations and photos to a Facebook page, www.facebook.com/bootride2014.
    Kelley, 31, is a social studies teacher in the Corning-Painted Post School District. This year, his eighth in the district, he’ll be teaching at the new combined high school.
    He was born in Elmira and attended Southside High School and SUNY Brockport.
    He bought his first motorcycle in 2005.
    Kelley answered some questions from the road in response to an email from The Leader.
    Q: What made you decide to raise money for the Boot Campaign?
    A: Last summer I came across a blog started by a gentleman in Texas by the name of Steven Foster. At that time Steven was in the middle of a very similar trip (though almost twice as long … he took a month to ride around the perimeter of the country). He was riding for this organization, the Boot Campaign, so in the course of reading his tales from the road I learned about the organization. At that point I was hooked. It really hit home for me. My brother is currently serving in the US Army, and I have had several friends and relatives serve as well. Aside from those connections, I teach about war and sacrifices that many have made in preserving our freedom.
    As Steven finished his ride I noticed he fell about $800 short of his fundraising goal. It occurred to me that his ride was something I always wanted to do, why not take the trip but also try to fundraise for a worthy cause and try to pick up where he left off and continue the mission. I created a fundraising page and began posting on Facebook. After some early donations I contacted the Boot Campaign directly to see what else I could do. Over the course of the last year they’ve helped educate me in spreading the message. I bought my boots and away I’ve gone. The boots are a conversation starter. They’re a symbol of the organization. As I’ve crossed the country people approach me for two reasons. They see my license plate and immediately ask about my trip, and second they see my boots. I’ve lost track of the number of people who approach me to ask about my boots. That’s one of the tag lines for the Boot Campaign …”ask me about my boots.” That’s what this is all about – raising awareness.
    Page 2 of 4 - Over the last six months, mainly through Facebook, people were able to access my donations page to learn more. I am happy to say that I quickly raised enough to get Steven to his goal, and I’m well on my way to achieving my own. At this time through the generosity of so many, I am about halfway to my goal of $3,500. Hopefully by the time I get home I’ve met my goal. Even more important than raising the money, I want to continue to raise awareness and promote this wonderful cause. I hope that someone else becomes inspired like I was and sees it as a call to action.
    Q: For our readers who are fellow motorcyclists, can you give some details on the bike you're using for the trip?
    A: My bike is a 2011 Kawasaki Vulcan Vaquero 1700. It’s a cruiser, on the larger side. It is perfect for this sort of trip. It has some amenities that help me along such as cruise control, and a power adapter to keep my phone/laptop charged.
    Q: What did you bring with you? Are you carrying a lot of supplies or buying things along the way?
    A: I brought a combination of clothes, all-weather gear, and camping supplies. (I’ve camped most nights, or gone to a motel if I pull into town late). I have two hard saddle bags mounted to the bike. I store tools, power supplies (I can charge my phone, laptop, iPad right on the bike) and a bike cover in the side bags. Mounted to my back seat is a pack with all of my clothes, and the rear rack has a tent, sleeping bag, and chair. Atop all of that is an army field pack outfitted with a water delivery system for when I cross the desert. I carry basic camp supplies like a stove and some easy to pack snacks for breakfast. If I need anything, there’s always a Walmart nearby.
    Q: Was your family concerned about your safety on the trip?
    A: Yeah, there was some concern from those close to me. My parents, especially, were concerned. They worried about my goal to log so many miles each day, especially alone. There is always a chance for equipment failure along the way, especially tires. I have the ability to make minor tire repairs along the road if need be. The main concern with any motorcycle riding is other drivers and their lack of awareness for motorcycles on the road. Fortunately for me, as I rode west, especially in South Dakota, they’re used to seeing thousands of bikes come and go from the renowned motorcycle rally in Sturgis (which wrapped up last weekend). Utilizing a GPS tracker through my iPhone has helped people track my whereabouts. It’s fairly dependable unless I’m in the mountains. As long as I post some pictures on Facebook each night, my mom says she’s at ease.
    Page 3 of 4 - Q: Any interesting experiences along the way so far?
    A: My ride through Beartooth Pass near Red Lodge, Montana on the Wyoming border was the most interesting experience thus far. The highway, Route 212 West, leaving Red Lodge took me sixty-eight miles to the Northeast Gate of Yellowstone National Park. It is considered one of the best scenic drives in the United States. A rain storm had settled in over the northern edge of Yellowstone and over the Beartooth Mountains. It was the most challenging road I have ever driven on.  There are 82 curves and 19 switchbacks (hairpin turns) as the highway elevates to its highest point of 10, 947 feet. The most dramatic was the first twelve miles that took me from 5,200 to 8,000 feet. It was about 35 degrees with a steady rain, sleet, snow mixture (depending on the altitude at the time) and dense fog. Seeing snow along the side of the road at various points along the way was interesting. Due to snowfall the road is only accessible from late May to mid-October. At a top speed of about twenty miles an hour it took me about four hours to cross into Yellowstone National Park.
    My second interesting experience came about two hours later when a buffalo started jogging towards my motorcycle as I was parked in traffic in Yellowstone Park. I pushed myself backwards, and he eventually crossed in front of me. I was quick to get a picture after he crossed.
    Q: Is there anything about the trip so far that has been very different from what you expected?
    A: A few things have stood out to me so far. First, I would have to say the vastness of the American West really opened my eyes. You can read about it, or you see it on a map, but until you drive it you can’t really appreciate how big it truly is. Second would be the drastic changes in weather. I will experience all types of climate change. I’ve enjoyed 80- to 90-degree days across South Dakota, but also the sleet and snow of the Beartooth Mountains in Montana. Upon leaving Jackson, Wyoming, I will head towards the deserts of Nevada. The third, most poignant, thing that stood out to me was the state of American Indian Reservations that I drove through in South Dakota and Montana. While talking to a man about my age in the Crow Territory of Montana, I learned of the high unemployment rates and poor quality of life that the American Indian lives with. The poverty is immediately evident as you drive through residential areas.
    Q: As a teacher, are you seeing things or learning things that will affect how you convey the American story to students?
    A: I saw this trip as an opportunity to do two things. First, most importantly, I’m helping the Boot Campaign in their mission to assist active soldiers, veterans, and their families. Second, this endeavor provides me with an opportunity to be an example to others. As a history teacher, my classroom activities focus on studying mankind’s interactions with the world around them. What may get lost in learning about the past is that we’re living in the same world. How do we choose to interact with it? This trip has allowed me to see places that only existed to me in movies and in print. I became passionate about something worthwhile, and with the generous support of so many thus far, I’ve been able to work towards almost half of my fundraising goal. My hope is that any student or any person who hears of this trip and the cause that I’ve promoted will be inspired to go out and discover something new, or go someplace they’ve never been. It’s important for everyone to follow their passion and to think about how they want to interact with the world around them. Why experience life through a smartphone when you can go out and see it for yourself? That lesson, to me, is more important than memorizing dates and historical events.
    Page 4 of 4 - Kelley said, as he took up the challenge from another biker to raise money for the Boot Campaign, he hopes others pick up the baton when his trip is over.
    He’s also hoping to work with area veterans groups to strengthen the association between bikers and veterans.
    Eventually, he’d like to set up a charity ride in the area to raise more money for the Boot Campaign.
    “I don’t want the conversation about the Boot Campaign to end when I get back from this trip,” he said.

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