7/9/2012 - 2,000-mile bike ride will benefit city schools
by Julie Ball - Asheville Citizen Times
ASHEVILLE -- On Sept. 28, Marshall Siler hopes to be celebrating more than just his 50th birthday.
The Asheville man plans to be wrapping up a 2,000-mile bike ride that will take him from Pierre, S.D., to Portland, Ore., along the same route taken by explorers Lewis and Clark.
"Ideally, if all goes well, I'll culminate the ride in, on or around that day," he said.
Siler is using the ride to raise money for the Asheville City Schools Foundation. He hopes to help raise $20,000.
"I just wanted to give back, to find a way to raise funds for Asheville City Schools to say thank you for all you gave my daughters, but also in recognition of this being a time when public education is really being challenged with funding," Siler said.
Siler's younger daughter, Hannah, recently graduated from Asheville High and is headed to UNC Chapel Hill this fall. His older daughter, Jessica, is a rising senior at UNC.
"We're excited about it. We also love the connection between the Lewis and Clark trail and his ride," said Leah Ferguson, with the foundation.
The money raised by the foundation goes "back into the classroom" for programs ranging from professional development opportunities for teachers to the after-school programming, she said.
Siler will begin the ride Aug. 30, and it will take roughly a month.
His father, Mahan, will provide support for part of the way, driving a car equipped with supplies.
"He likes to cycle. He likes a challenge, and he is very grateful for what the Asheville school system has given his two children," Mahan Siler said. "It seemed like a Marshall thing to do."
Siler moved the Asheville from Atlanta about 12 years ago. He has been a consultant with schools and mental health facilities and markets a training curriculum for professionals working with children and adolescents with behavior disorders.
He began road biking about 10 years ago.
The idea for the ride really began with a friend, Warren Bruno, who got Siler involved in cycling for a cause. Bruno recently died of cancer.
"Warren started to become really involved in cycling as a form of raising funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, so that's really where the idea came from," Siler said.
Siler said he's taken part in other big events, including the Pan-Mass Challenge, a bike ride across Massachusetts.
For his 50th birthday, Siler said he wanted to do another big ride "but I want it to have purpose."
To train for this ride, he's cycling about 150 miles a week. He's doing a lot of his training along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Inspired by the book "Undaunted Courage," Siler decided to travel a portion of the Lewis and Clark Bicycle Trail. The book is based in part on the journals of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.
"We're really going to try to stay true to what they experienced and what they wrote about in their journal," Siler said.
The Adventure Cycling Association mapped out the route.
The most challenging portion is likely to be the section through the Rocky Mountains, and Siler said a friend from Canada will join him for that part of the ride.
He expects to travel about 75 miles a day. Siler also hopes to update a Facebook page dubbed "Pedal with a Purpose" dedicated to the ride.
Right now, Siler is updating the page with photos from his ongoing training. The Asheville City Schools Foundation is also featuring the ride on its website.
"I hope people will get to know the Asheville City Schools Foundation like I did. I knew of them, but I did not know all that they do," Siler said.