British biker tours world on custom motorcycle

Easy rider with a cause

Posted: Wednesday, July 25, 2001

Many dream of seeing the vast reaches of the world within their lifetime. Simon Milward is not only living the dream, but he also aims to raise $100,000 for two medical charities while seeing the world on a motorcycle, and a Kenai man has pitched in to help.

Milward, a 36-year-old Briton, arrived in Anchorage Sunday from Magadan in northeastern Russia. Milward has traveled to the North American continent to raise money for two charities. One is Doctors Without Borders, which recently won the Nobel Peace Prize, the other is Riders for Health, which specializes in health care delivery to out of reach regions by motorcycle.

Even before Milward set foot on American soil, Kenai resident Scott Hamann had raised $2,000 from Alaska sponsors.

"I am hoping to double that before he leaves," Hamann said Sunday, after picking Milward up from the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport and driving Milward and his motorcycle to Kenai.

Hamann and Milward met at a conference in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1994 and have kept in contact since. When Hamann learned of Milward's trip to the United States, he asked Milward if a trip through Alaska would be possible.

Milward took the thought into consideration. His trip had originally been planned for 18 months, but when he reached India after only six months, he decided to extend his travels by a year. After making the trip longer, Milward said, Alaska became a reality.

"How could I go around the world and not go to Alaska," he said with a smile.

The idea of the trip occurred to Milward when he was in the hospital in Belgium in 1998 with a broken collar bone. He said he thought to himself, "what are you going to do with your life?" That's when he started making plans.

His plans include riding around the world on a motorcycle, getting married and raising a family, earning some money and doing something politically and globally for people.

"In doing my first aim, I thought I would try number four, too," he said with a tired but enthusiastic smile.

"But I wanted to make sure my money would be spent the right way," he said.

"It seemed to me that health care was an extremely important thing," he added, referring to the two charities all the money he raises will go toward.

So he left his job as the general secretary of the Federation of European Motorcyclists Associa-tion and began his trip Jan. 1.

The vehicle he has chosen to tour the world on is the John T. Overlander, handmade in the United Kingdom in 1999 from 90 percent donated parts and equipment. It uses a 600-cc single-cylinder engine from Austria, a 45-liter Italian fuel tank and a French Internet tracking system.

So far, he and his motorcycle have traveled more than 116,000 miles throughout Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Australia, Southeast Asia, Japan and, most recently, Russia.

Before starting his trip, Milward said, he had been in Europe and the United States, but all the other places have been a new experience.

"It has made me worry less about situations. To every problem, there is a solution," he said.

His primary goal while in North America is to find 12 sponsors for 12 bikes for the Riders for Health in Indonesia. Yamaha has offered Milward a 30 percent discount at $1,000 per motorcycle for the Riders for Health program.

"There is a big need in Asia for it," he said.

So far, the journey to 28 countries has racked up nearly $25,000 in medical aid sponsorship.

"All of the money goes to charity, none goes to me," he said, adding that he is traveling on his life savings.

But he still has awhile to go. He will spend more than three months in the United States finding sponsorships and addressing several conferences on the subject of global motorcyclists' rights.

He will enter Mexico sometime before the end of the year and plans to be home in England by July 2002.

But Milward is not looking that far into the future. He is living for today and enjoying the many adventures along the way. So far he has met the Dalai Lama in India, received a marriage proposal in Cairo, escaped marauding militants in Timor, rode through the front lines of a civil war in Laos and nearly drowned in Russia.

He also has had his share of accidents. He fell off his motorcycle going about 85 mph in Saudi Arabia.

"It took a few days to get the bike straightened out," he said with a chuckle.

He also had a mishap in Nepal and bruised a few ribs and flipped over his handle bars twice in the Australian Outback.

Milward's bike also serves as his home on his long journey. Metal boxes on each side carry necessary items for his trip.

One box carries his tools, while the other carries his kitchen and office. He also carries a red duffel bag that is filled with his bedroom and wardrobe items.

One metal box has a hand-painted map of the world on it with white lines connecting the places Milward has been.

Milward, tired from the flight from Russia, drew a line from Russia to Alaska to commemorate his arrival.

Despite the trials he has faced along the way, Milward said his trip has been a dream come true.

"It's the best thing I have ever done in my life," he said.

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