Bikers on a mission

M.J. O’Neal and Kory Piorkowski pose with their bikes in the South Hill Community Garden on Wednesday afternoon. The duo is riding across the country to raise awareness about sustainability and healthy lifestyles through the non-profit agency Spokes of Green. They will also be creating a documentary about their trip after their journey is complete. (Gazette staff photo by Avery Cropp)

M.J. O’Neal and Kory Piorkowski pose with their bikes in the South Hill Community Garden on Wednesday afternoon. The duo is riding across the country to raise awareness about sustainability and healthy lifestyles through the non-profit agency Spokes of Green. They will also be creating a documentary about their trip after their journey is complete. (Gazette staff photo by Avery Cropp)

‘Spokes of Green’ cross-country trip stops in Stillwater

Kory Piorkowski and M.J. O’Neal are two bicyclists on a mission.

The two men, 25 and 23 respectively, have been bicycling across the country from Bar Harbor, Maine, since June 14 to raise awareness about sustainability. The pair stopped in Stillwater Wednesday afternoon to rest at the halfway point of their trip that ends in August in Seattle.

For the last month they have been biking about 70 miles per day for six to nine hours. Throughout their travels, the guys have talked with people along the way who are passionate about sustainability and also helping on some projects. They spoke with Ann DeLaVergne of Our Community Food Projects on Wednesday. The recent college graduates are also shooting a documentary of the trip they hope to show at bike festivals after their journey is done.

The bike trip was Piorkowski’s brainchild. His non-profit agency, Spokes of Green, is committed to teaching people about sustainability and living a healthy lifestyle. Piorkowski started Spokes of Green last June.

“It (the non-profit) really grew out of my passion to help people out and ride my bike. I thought I’d just put the two together and spread it across the country to learn what other people are doing in their community. I’m really excited and I’ve always been an outdoor adventure junkie so this idea to travel across the country just fit,” Piorkowski said.

The duo spent some time at the North and South Hill community gardens and gave their bikes a tune-up at the Bikery Wednesday. The pair travel without a support vehicle and obstacles that lay ahead are the long distances between North Dakota cities and cycling through the Rockies in Montana.

“We had originally planned to go around the country and teach people what we knew, but what’s happened is that everyone we meet is teaching us more about sustainability than we would’ve ever known before,” O’Neal said.

They said the people they’ve met along the way have been very helpful, and taught them more about sustainability and the goodness of people than they ever knew before.
O’Neal cited a conversation with a group of farmers that made an impact on him.

“We were talking about pesticides and the effect of those and also how farming is now sort of being run by large companies that don’t really care about the little guy anymore,” O’Neal said. “It was interesting and I learned a lot from that conversation.”

“Talking with Ann today was great as well. She was telling me about all the projects she’s done and it was amazing to me how just one person can make such an impact on the world,” Piorkowski said.

Various people along the trip have offered to help when they heard what the guys were doing by buying dinners, waters and just listening to them talk about what they were doing and why they were doing it. The guys have done a lot of camping and used an online website called warmshowers.com which is designed for bikers and provides them places to stay.

“Everyone’s told us that they think it’s really cool what we’re doing and that they respect and appreciate the effort that we’ve put into the trip,” Piorkowski said.
They’re also serving as an inspiration for friends and family back home.

“My mom texted me the other night and told me that she was going to start riding two miles a day with a friend back home. That was kind of a big deal for me to hear because my mom hasn’t been on a bike in at least 10 years I think, so it’s nice to know that I’m inspiring people that way,” O’Neal said.

The duo has been keeping their sponsors, people back home, and those they meet along the way informed about the progress of their trip on their website (www.spokesofgreen.com) and Facebook page.

Piorkowski said that despite being halfway done he knows that the rest of the journey is only going to get better. Going forward after the cross-country trip he hopes that Spokes of Green can be made into a national non-profit organization with locations across the country.

Contact Avery Cropp at avery.cropp@ecm-inc.com

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