On his round-the-world motorcycle tour, Simon Milward has met the Dalai Lama, survived two civil wars and four accidents, and declined one marriage proposal. Yesterday, he fueled up on local fare, feasting on a Maryland crab cake.
"I think you all are very lucky here," said Milward, who stopped in Annapolis last night as part of his global trip on a handmade motorcycle. "I love this place - all the boats and the water."
Since he began his solo tour in January last year to raise funds for health organizations, the 36-year- old motorcyclist has driven 70,000 miles and visited 29 countries. He plans to return to his home in England in 2003.
Milward says that when he finishes the journey, he'll be the first person to have traveled around the world on a handmade motorcycle.
Today, he's scheduled to head south for Florida before he travels through the western United States and then makes his way south to Mexico and to Central and South America.
He's been to Australia, India, Japan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Russia, Thailand and several other countries. He's sailed, canoed and ferried across bodies of water.
"It's been an amazing adventure," Milward said before speaking in downtown Annapolis to a group of motorcyclists and members of ABATE (A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments) of Maryland.
In addition to sharing his travel stories - from nearly drowning in Russia to reveling with Aborigines - Milward speaks about the charities he's raising money for, among them Riders for Health, a group of motorcyclists who deliver medical supplies in Africa, and a similar pilot project that's scheduled to start in Asia in January.
"It's great that motorcycles are saving lives," said Milward.
He says his mission even was blessed by the Dalai Lama after a ceremony in India. "He put his hand on my shoulder and said, 'Well done. Keep up the good work.' It was wonderful," Milward said.
Milward has raised nearly $50,000 - more than half of it from Americans. "Their generosity has been amazing," said Milward, whose goal is to raise $100,000.
The trip is costing Milward almost his entire life savings. He quit his job with an international motorcycle lobbying group several months ago - after being granted a 21-month sabbatical - when he needed more time to finish his global tour.
He sleeps in a small tent or stays with friends he meets along the way, although he also has stayed in $1- or $2-per-night rooms in some developing countries.
His wardrobe consists of a riding suit, a pair of jeans, some T-shirts and a few pairs of shorts. His kitchen contains two pots, a fork and a cup. He carries a palm-sized computer, a tool kit, a few medical supplies and some spare parts. Everything must fit on his bike.
The motorcycle, including fuel and luggage, weighs 640 pounds. It was built by a friend, 90 percent of it with donated parts. The one-cylinder, air-cooled engine is from Austria, the fuel tank is Italian, the Internet tracking system is French and the wheels are British.
Milward, who has been riding motorcycles since he was 16, says he came up with the idea to travel around the world while lying in a hospital bed in Brussels with a broken shoulder from a bike accident. A round-the-world trip had always been a dream of his. But at that moment, Milward said, "I knew I had to do it now before it's too late."
Eventually, Milward says, he'd like to get married and have children. However, he turned down the chance to marry a woman he met on a day-tour of the Pyramids. "But who knows," he said. "Maybe I'll stop in Cairo on my way back."
On this stop, Milward stayed in Easton with a friend he met in September during a motorcyclist-rights convention in Kansas.
"Almost everyone I've met has been so friendly," said Milward, who might write a book about his journey. "I'm just sort of taking the long way home, really."
Information about Milward's tour and fund-raising effort: www. millennium-ride.com.