AUGUSTA — In what could be the slowest cross-country money and awareness-raising trip on wheels, Dan Emery and Myles Chung will set out in the cold and snow of January to explore hunger and how to end it.
They’ll ride five-horsepower motor scooters which, on a good day, unladen with 48-weeks worth of gear, have a top speed around 40 miles per hour.
The two young Augusta men figure the Honda Ruckus scooters will be a good way for them to see the country and the agriculture-based hunger solutions they’re seeking on their 48-state, 48-week trip.
As well as a good way for them to be seen, and thus, they hope, bring attention to their message and mission.
“No one has done it before, so we think it should be just crazy enough to get some attention,” Emery said of the cross-country, and back, moped trip.
They don’t have any illusions their trip itself will end hunger as they travel across the country. Rather, they hope to speak to people both hungry and those working to end hunger as they go, learning things they might be able to implement elsewhere, including Maine.
They’re focusing not on simply giving people food, but on agriculture-based hunger solutions, such as school, urban and community gardens, gardening classes, seed initiatives, gardening kits and edible landscaping.
During the trip they plan to visit farms, schools, food banks, shelters, Rotary Clubs, credit unions and other organizations working to end hunger.
Emery noted addressing hunger is key, because students who are hungry aren’t likely to be able to focus on learning, workers who are hungry won’t be able to focus on their work and people who are hungry won’t be able to focus on improving themselves and their lives.
Emery, 30, whose term on the Augusta City Council ends in January, just before the trip starts, works at Maine State Credit Union and is a member of Augusta Rotary.
He became interested in exploring potential hunger solutions both as a city councilor and through his work with the credit union which, with other Maine credit unions, raises money and awareness about hunger. Since 1990, the Credit Union Campaign for Ending Hunger has raised $4.8 million, according to the Maine Credit Union League.
But despite those efforts, Emery said, hunger has grown over the years.
“It always seems like something is missing, that there’s a piece not being taken care of,” Emery said of efforts to end hunger. “The need continues to grow. It’s more complicated than just giving someone food.”
They hope to learn how to fill in that missing piece on their trip.
And the two unmarried friends are in many ways putting their lives on hold to do so. And leaving their jobs behind, as well.
Chung, 21, works at Sweet Chilli Thai restaurant in Augusta, is taking college courses and aspires to be a writer.
“I’m at the right time and place where I can give away a year of my life for something of this magnitude and importance,” he said.
One reason he’s motivated to go on the trip is to encourage healthy eating habits. About a year and a half ago, he weighed 280 pounds. He started eating healthy and is now down to 192 pounds, he said.
“I want to get my message across that once you can think for yourself and take care of your body, it’s not that hard to do,” Chung said of eating healthy.
Their scooters will only reach speaks of 40 mph, at best, so the two plan to stick to back roads, which they think will also make it easier for them to connect with people in communities along the way.
They’ll blog and post to social media sites throughout the trip.
They plan to avoid hotels and, instead, stay with friends and family, Rotary Club and credit union connections, and with people they correspond with on a couch surfing website that connects travelers with people willing to host them.
The two estimate the trip will cost at least $30,000, which they plan to cover with fundraising efforts. They’ve already raised about $13,000.
One way they’re raising money is by having people and organizations sponsor days of the trip, with the first day of the trip sponsored for $1 — that day is already taken — the 230th day of the trip to be sponsored for $230, and so on. If every day gets sponsored, they’ll raise $56,000.
At the end of the trip, the money raised, beyond the cost of the trip, will be split 48 ways and donated to one nonprofit hunger group in each of the states they visited.
They’ve got two fundraisers coming up. From 5 to 7 p.m. on Oct. 29 at Charlamagne’s Bar and Lounge in downtown Augusta, they will discuss the trip and accept donations, and Nov. 13 at 89 Water St., Hallowell, real estate agent Chris Vallee’s loft, will be the site of a $50 per person fundraiser.
The trip starts Jan. 8 in Boston and ends Dec. 9 in Augusta.
Both riders are aware they’ll face cold, and maybe snow, on both ends of their trip.
But they’re ready. The small trailers they will be towing behind their scooters allow them to bring along at least two sets of tires — one set studded for traction.
Keith Edwards — 621-5647