In a week, Mike Smith is going to ride his bike — for 37 days, covering 2,028 miles.
On May 11, Smith, a head resident at one of Lipscomb University’s residence halls, will head out from Mobile, Ala., to ride the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route all the way to Owen Sound, Canada.
The avid long-distance cyclist is using his nationwide bicycle trip to raise money for diversity scholarships at Lipscomb University, where he has worked for nine years.
The League of American Bicyclists has declared May National Bike Month, and May 11-15 is Bike to Work Week, making it the perfect month for Smith to head out on his cycling trek. His route will take him through Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and into Canada.
This is Smith’s first nationwide trip, and he will be among the first people to ride the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route solo.
The route was established by the Adventure Cycling Association in 2007 to memorialize the Underground Railroad, a network of clandestine routes by which African slaves attempted to escape for many years before and during the Civil War.
On the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route he plans to ride an average of 62 miles a day and spend many of his nights sleeping under the stars. In Tennessee, his route will take him through Shiloh National Military Park and the Land Between the Lakes. His plans are currently to ride through Tennessee, May 18-May 21, through counties west of Davidson.
Inspired by the bravery of the people who helped escaped slaves to freedom two centuries ago, Smith decided to reach out to his friends, family and co-workers to raise money for students in underrepresented populations to obtain a Christian education at Lipscomb. Through promoting his trip, he has already raised more than $2,000 in donations and pledges to go toward diversity scholarships.
“My desire is to help anybody get an education, and I’m particularly interested in making it possible for them to live in the dorm and experience the campus community,” said Smith, who as head resident in High Rise Residence Hall, sees first-hand the value for students of living on-campus during the college years.
“Lack of funds is one reason many students must live off campus, so I want to make a thriving campus life a little more available to students who may not be able to afford it,” he said.
Anyone interested in making a pledge should do so at Smith’s Web site: biketour.lipscomb.edu and click on ‘Give Online.’
Folks can also send a check to Sonja Hayes at Lipscomb University, One University Park Drive, Nashville, 37204, with “bike tour” in the memo line.
Smith has enhanced campus life at Lipscomb in the past few years by purchasing bicycles for the dorm residents and leading them on day-long trips around Nashville. He estimates around 50 students, many of them international students, have gone out on bicycling trips with him around town.
“I have seen too many students move out of the dorm or quit school for a semester or two for financial reasons. It also troubles me to see students graduate with a massive amount of debt,” Smith said. “While I would love to help all students receive help toward their educational expenses, I am particularly excited about this trip and tying the Underground Railroad toward an opportunity to help provide scholarships for students of different ethnic backgrounds.”