03/11/09

Getting on the Bus with George Makrinos

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For Deadhead George Makrinos (and for the Rex Foundation), the journey is the reward.

By Mary Eisenhart

<p>George Makrinos - Bicycling Across America</p>

George Makrinos - Bicycling Across America

Ask George Makrinos about his trip last summer and his reply will take you on a 3,480 mile adventure by bicycle across America. On May 3 of last year, this DC-area architect, professor and avid cyclist left San Francisco and embarked on a grand adventure–a cross-country bike journey that would take most of the next two months. As he recounts in the blog he kept along the way, he acquired a lifetime’s worth of memories, many tales and lots of new friends.

While the trip was lots of fun, it was also a journey of discovery, a bit of leading by example, and a chance to help out some causes dear to his heart. As he explains, “At 28 years of age my understanding of the U.S. seemed inadequate. I felt a restlessness to get out and paint a picture of America, for myself and those who followed the blog. The cross-country adventure across 14 states and 3,500 miles was not only intended as a personal journey, but as an example of environmentally responsible travel and as a way to provide service to the community by raising $1 per mile to support the ride and four causes.”

Of each dollar contributed to support the ride, 50 cents was divided among four groups: Friends of Dyke Marsh (on the Potomac River), local NPR station WAMU, Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Danbury, Connecticut, and the Rex Foundation. George explains, “The four beneficiaries I chose to support are representative of four corners of my life that are most important to me: music, nature, media and culture. For each, I chose one organization that showed most promise to impart on others the gifts that have helped shape the values I most believe in.”

After George had completed his journey, he talked with us about the experience.

Rex Foundation: How do you know about Rex, and why do you want to support its work?

George Makrinos: My life would not be the same without Grateful Dead music, which offers higher metaphors for ways of living that suggest a playful and responsible existence. This imagination bore an idea of doing my part to celebrate your 25th birthday by bringing you along for the ride.

I believe in the Rex Foundation’s grassroots programs, which help to secure a healthy environment, promote the arts, and provide social and economic justice, preserve indigenous cultures, build strong communities and educate children and adults everywhere. I am thankful for these efforts and felt indebted to support and share their story over the course of my ride.

<p>George Makrinos - At Journey's End</p>

George Makrinos - At Journey's End

Rex: Your blog reveals an interesting contrast between the isolation of biking across the middle of nowhere and the instant connection, mostly via the Internet, with a troop of supporters you may or may not have met in real life. What was that whole experience like?

Makrinos: I wrote the blog in order to bridge between two worlds: the people I met along the way, and friends and family following the blog vicariously along for the adventure. Neither would have a chance to meet one another, or the America unfolding before me.

“Middle of nowhere” and “instant connection” were often days and miles apart. I recall isolated regions such as Nevada’s deserts gave me time to look within, to dream about where I was, and what I was doing. Once back on Main Street, the instant connection allowed me to upload my findings in the form of YouTube videos and blog entries to paint a picture of the adventure.

Rex: What’s become of the community, virtual and otherwise, you gathered for this trip?

Makrinos: The ride could not have been accomplished alone. I remain in contact and am indebted to the kind gestures of those who helped me pedal through the wildfires in California, snow in the Rockies, tornadoes in Nebraska and floods in Iowa in order to get home.

The community helped achieve my goal to raise our awareness and understanding of what it means to be American. This knowledge now comes with the responsibility to reach out through presentations, lectures and interviews to share the two-month, 3,500-mile findings with fellow friends who thirst to see their dreams through.