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Garryck Hampton, Part Time Peace Pedaler and Technical Team Leader

This journey will be for me an accumulation of all the things that bring joy and happiness to my life: cycling, traveling, cycling, meeting people and making them smile, cycling, freedom, cycling, adventure, cycling, and experiencing new places, new cultures, and new food - did I mention cycling?

I received my first bicycle when I was very young and immediately started venturing out into the surrounding neighborhoods. My new wheels enabled me to go beyond the common areas that I was accustomed to playing in.

As my friends and I got older, and grew into BMX bikes we began venturing off the pavement and into the woods - a future mountain biker was born.

Then, when I was a freshman in high school at Sehome High School in Bellingham, Washington my uncle Robert, who was living in Los Angeles, California, saw a mountain bike in a store and had it shipped up to Washington. I had to have my mother drive me an hour away to Everett, Washington to pick it up; it was the closest Schwinn dealer near my house. My first mountain bike was a Schwinn High Sierra. When I started to ride it around Bellingham many people looked at in wonder because they had no idea what a mountain bike was. Actually, neither did I. All I knew was that I was able ride around in the woods a lot easier than I had been able to back in my BMX days. My uncle cringed the next time he came to visit and saw me riding through streams, mud, and down stairs; he was cringing, but I was smiling ear to ear!

During my first two years at the University of Southern California, cycling gave way to all the distractions a university campus has to offer.

The summer after my sophomore year, I got bit once again by the mountain bike bug. My Schwinn had wandered off somewhere, but I had managed to get myself a Cannondale with one of the new Manitou suspension forks. It was about the time that I met my soon to be mentor Andrew "Obi-Wan" Meigs. He was my teaching assistant for one of my geology classes (my major - chosen because of my love of nature and being outdoors). He was a mountain biker and offered to take me out riding. He took me to the Strawberry Loop trail in Angeles Crest National Forrest outside of Los Angeles, which is, even to this day, one of Jamie's and my favorite trails. It starts off with about a two-mile super steep fire road climb. I was completely blown away by his climbing prowess. I had never seen anyone climb so quickly. It was at that point that I vowed to become like him, and to one day beat him. He also later got me hooked on road riding. It took me about four years until I finally beat him on a climb. After that, it got scary out on rides. Every climb became a chance to crush the other into submission. There were a few times, the days that were really hot and where we'd already been riding for a few hours, that we'd look at each other and call a truce; we knew that if we didn't, one of us was going to pass out due to heat exhaustion and extreme physical exertion.

During my senior year I joined the USC cycling team. There were some great riders on the team, and it furthered my love of cycling. After I graduated I read about teaching mountain biking at a summer camp in the back of some mountain bike magazine. I landed the job, and after I graduated, my girlfriend at the time, Amy Kentner, and I jumped in my truck with my bikes on the roof rack and started out from Los Angeles to Casco, Maine. My truck had a camper shell on the back and was carpeted inside, so we spent most nights back there. About every four days she'd want to check into a hotel to freshen-up. Amy was a trooper and would let me take off and ride whenever we came across a killer trail.

As it turned out, I got put in charge of the "Adventure Staff" and spent most of my time teaching the ropes course, and taking the campers out camping and hiking. However, I did get in a lot of mountain biking in my freetime.

After the summer, I drove back to Los Angeles. I didn't know what direction to take with my life at that time so I started to work at Recreational Equipment Incorporated in Northridge, California as a bicycle assembler - the bottom rung in the shop. After a few months the Mater Technician - the top dog in the shop - decided that he was going to be moving on. The managerial staff decided to give me a chance and offered me his position. I was more than elated; I was shocked! The best part about the promotion was the chance to attend Barnett's Bicycle Institute in Colorado Springs, Colorado. There, about 15 other REI Master Tech's and I learned everything you could ever want to know about bicycles - and then some. It was like a dream come true! I came back to REI and honed my skills for the following three years.

Working at REI allowed me to pursue my love of cycling, camping, climbing, hiking, and skiing to higher levels, and also allowed me to develop new interests such as telemark skiing, snow shoeing and mountaineering. By talking to my coworkers and customers, attending clinics offered by the companies to explain how their products worked, being an official product tester, being in charge of the shop and having to deal with all the repairs of the rental equipment and customer's equipment, and by just getting outside and using gear as much as possible, I acquired a vast knowledge about the variety of outdoor products available and how to use them.

While working at REI, in the winter of 1995, I made a successful solo thee-day grueling ascent of Mount Whitney, becoming the first person to reach the summit that year. I was once again one of the first people on the summit in 1998. Jamie Binachini, two other friends and I spent the night on the summit to usher in the New Year. I also participated in, and completed, the 8,000 meter Challenge, a 24-hour endurance race up and down the three highest peaks in Southern California. I completed it once more in 1997 when I was lucky enough to be, by chance, in L.A. at the time of the event and got to join the REI team once again.

After about two and a half years the call of the road began whispering in my ear. About that time, my good buddy from USC, Chris "Cutty" Cutler, and his girlfriend were taking off to S. Korea to teach English for three months and then travel around S.E. Asia. I had dinner with them the night before they left, and told them to drop me a line if they had a good time. Sure enough, a couple of months later I got a postcard in the mail telling me to come on over. I decided to take the plunge, and gave REI about two months notice. During that time, I got my things in order and made one last bike tour in America before I headed off into the unknown. I did a four-day, 562-mile, fully loaded, sprint from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

In January of 1997, Richard Nason, Jamie's and my other best friend, and I took off to Korea. My primary job has been teaching English; I've taught doctors at various hospitals, executives at Samsung Fire and Marine Insurance Co., and officers and petty officers for both the Korean Navy and Korean Army. I've also been the distributor for Seven Cycles since 1997 and Ellsworth Cycles since 2000 - even though I was living in a foreign country I had to do something that related to bicycles!

While living in Korea, I've had the opportunity to tour throughout Korea, and in Thailand, China, Taiwan, Cambodia, and E. Malaysia (Borneo).

Over the years, all of these experiences, and the knowledge gained from them, has enabled me to develop my body into what my friends call "a machine" - I seem to possess the unusual ability to pull of the physically impossible.

My main duties on this tour will be choosing, organizing, and maintaining the gear and the bikes so that we have minimal technical difficulties along the way, route planning (but if you join us, please don't blame me if we make a wrong turn J), nutrition - making sure that our bodies get the proper nourishment for the amount of cycling we'll be doing, and overall heath - making sure we get the proper vaccines and take all the preventative measures along the way to keep us health, happy and smiling.

My hope for this journey will be to introduce people to, and bring attention to the wonderful world of cycling, and more specifically, bicycle touring. The bicycle is by far the best means to travel. It is environmentally friendly; it's quiet so it's non-threatening to animals; it's fast enough so that you can cover ground, but slow enough so that you get to really interact with your surroundings; It keeps you healthy and increases strength; and most of all it's just plain fun!



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