Motivated by her strong charitable drive and her inner athlete, Dorothy Lewis participated in Odyssey 2000 World Cycling Tour, a year-long, fund-raising bicycle trek that covered 44 countries and 20,000 miles.
Lewis, who runs Financial Insights, a Raymond James Financial Services firm in Tacoma, Wash., raised more than $41,000 for her favorite charity, the Emergency Food Network, a distributor to food banks and hot meal programs in Pierce County, Wash.
In addition to helping needy folk, the ride provided a needed break. Lewis says she had been focused exclusively on her business since 1981, so Odyssey 2000 gave her “an opportunity to explore the other side of my personality.”
With a little convincing, Lewis, 54, got her friend, Judy Montague, to join her in the event, which kicked off at the January 2000 Rose Bowl parade in Pasadena, Calif. The women commissioned a logo for the trip: “Where in the World Are Dorothy and Judy?” And they created a Web site to track their progress.
“Clients were very, very supportive,” Lewis says. “They had known about the trip since 1995 or 1996.” A team of seven staff members ran the business while she was gone. Lewis checked e-mail on her wallet-sized computer and overnighted photos for the Web site. Thanks to her staff, things went smoothly, she says. “They were up 18% in revenues last year in a difficult market. Everyone had their own domain, and the bonus system helped.”
To prepare for the trip, Lewis biked, ran and did weight training. However, “nothing prepares you for riding 80 miles a day,” she says. The real training was “Baja Boot Camp.” Shortly after the kickoff, the group traveled through the Baja Peninsula. “It was extremely mountainous,” Lewis says. “The first two months we were thinking, ‘Why are we doing this?’”
But soon thereafter, Lewis started enjoying the ride. “You get tougher,” she says. “Bonds of friendship form. You start riding in groups, and you pull each other along.”
Intense riding requires a lot of fuel: 6,000 to 8,000 calories a day, mostly carbs.
The toughest challenge was Cerro de la Muerte, the Mountain of Death, in Costa Rica, Lewis says. It involved a 10,000-foot climb in a sleet and rainstorm with temperatures in the 30s.
One of the highlights for Lewis was seeing the terra-cotta warriors in Xi'an, part of the Shaanxi Province in Central China. The 2,200-year-old life-size statues were constructed to glorify the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang.
In China and many other countries, Lewis observed extreme poverty. The place that touched her the most was a small African country, Lesotho. “It's the highest point in Africa, 10,000 feet,” she says. “It's cold, marshy land. People walk around in boots. They wear a blanket with a safety pin as clothing, and it's 20 to 30 degrees. Homes are rounded huts made with cow dung. There's no sanitation, no electricity. They have nothing.”
Lewis' accommodations during the trip were modest. She camped out or stayed in low budget hotels and hostels. The trip provided a lot of time for introspection. “Most of the things we get upset about don't matter,” she says. “Seventy percent of the world we saw is consumed with food and shelter issues.”