From California to Cape Town: How Amazing Folks 10,000 Miles Apart Helped Me Find a Bike

diverge.jpeg

Love this bike.

This pic was taken on a training ride on my Diverge at home in NC, a few days before packing it up for Africa.

What do Specialized Bikes and Senai Global have in common other than that they both start with “S”...? They’ve come together to make "Operation Diverge" (also known as "Help Charlie Find His Bike") a success!

If you read my post earlier this week, you'll remember that shortly after we landed, rather than getting ready to start the trek, we spent the first 36 hours in Djibouti wandering through sports stores, traveling back and forth to the airport, and frantically calling anyone we could think of who might have access to a a decent bike since my stellar Diverge bike from Specialized had disappeared on the flight here. (As a side note, for those of you cyclists out there, you'll understand why finding *my* bike versus any old bike is so important to me. I understand the way it rides, it fits my body, and the new, high-end Diverge model from Specialized is what's called a "gravel bike." It has the speed of a road bike but it's able to handle dirt and rocks without crashing and throwing me over the handle bars. In short, there's almost no other bike that can do what this bike can for where I'm planning on cycling in the next several weeks!).

Time to stop daydreaming about my beloved Diverge. Right? Back to Djibouti and the reality he only bike we managed to find was a low-pro knock off mountain bike from a local store that vibrates when you just touch it. Ouch. But, it was either that or no bike at all, so we bought the bike and headed back to our hotel to try to rest for a few hours before dawn. But what happened next was nothing short of incredible.

The next day…As soon as daybreak hit on the East Coast of the U.S.  where my wife, Astacianna  lives, she was talking about the problem with our PR manager, and they agreed to reach out to Specialized in California to see if they could help. (Specialized is a valued partner and had sponsored the Diverge bike for this trip).

Ben Edwards at Specialized quickly made several phone calls to their team along the globe and told us, "There is no way to predict how long the bike might languish in customs...Optimistically, at least a week but no guarantees." So that wasn't going to work! But then Ben came back with a bit of good news and a creative idea after talking to Kylie Hanekom of Specialized in South Africa — there was one Diverge bike in the Cape Town office of Specialized, and it was 58 cm -- exactly the size I needed. They could also help me with my helmet and bike shoes that had been in my bike box. And then Ben said, “If someone from Charlie’s crew could fly to Cape Town, pick up the bike, and fly the bike to Addis Ababa, then our team in SA would love to loan you a bike. They have same model and size. Diverge 58 cm.”


Crazy, right? Wait, it gets better.

Astacianna and I put our heads together and remembered that we have a friend, Drew, who works with Senai Global, one of our nonprofit partners. He splits his time between the United States and, get this...CAPE TOWN. Fingers crossed, Astacianna sent him a quick message:

"Hi Drew! Are you still in South Africa now?"

"Yes!"

"I know this is a long shot….Any chance you could help Charlie and fly with a bike from Cape Town to Addis Ababa,  Ethiopia?

(Astacianna told me she got butterflies when she read Drew’s answer): "Sure! I can do that for you guys. And I only live a few miles away from the Specialized headquarters here."

— NO WAY — 

So as of now, Astacianna and Drew are working magic on last minute flights from Cape Town to Addis Ababa.  Drew will rent a Land Rover, drive northeast towards the Ethiopia/Djibouti border to hand-deliver the bike to me, and then head back to South Africa on Sunday. What a trip!!  (apply pun, if you’d like) … Look, I know that I don’t have the bike in my possession yet and maybe I shouldn’t get ahead of myself. But I truly feel optimistic that the universe is conspiring in remarkable ways to make this happen!

Can we all just take a minute to SLOW CLAP for Drew and Ben at Specialized and everyone else who has helped us in ways large and small? And we're only a few days into this journey! It's so humbling to me to see how friends - and even strangers - will reach out a helping hand to someone in need. Even without any benefit to them. That's exactly what this trip is all about, and I'm so grateful to be a small part of it.

While all this was happening in the background of yesterday, I did end up freediving at Lake Assal, running over very rugged terrain,  and cycling on the mountain bike for about  70 miles total before we pulled to the side of the road and set up camp for the night. (I lost my crew and thought I’d have to sleep alone in a ditch, more on that later.) Never a dull moment!

I feel like part of the story of my life has been to let others own impossibilities while I take possession of what is possible. That's been true with my addiction and recovery, my time in prison, and no doubt the ultra-endurance events I've completed. With all of these moments, when things in my life seem impossible, I wait to see what's possible, and then pursue that wholeheartedly. Today was no exception!

See you down the trail,

Charlie 

(sent via smoke signals, camels, and carrier pigeon to my wife at home to transcribe)

 
 
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Say hi to Drew.

Founder of Senai Global. Superhero in this blog. Oh, did I mention he has a coffee farm associated with his charity in Yirgcheffe, Ethiopia? Yes. Going there!

It All Starts Today

At RDU airport with all of my bags packed and ready to depart for Africa! I’m sure I forgot something ;-)

At RDU airport with all of my bags packed and ready to depart for Africa! I’m sure I forgot something ;-)

Today is the day! After years of dreaming, months of planning and days of packing, it’s time to begin. By the time you read this, I’ll be 30,000 feet in the air, flying from my hometown of Durham, North Carolina more than 7,300 miles around the world to a small country in eastern Africa called Djibouti where I’ll kick-off the first leg of my latest adventure, the 5.8 Global Adventure Series.

The 5.8 Global Adventure Series is the world’s first trek from the lowest point to the highest summit on every continent. Fewer than 500 people have made it to the top of the seven highest points on each continent. I’ll be the first to attempt going from the lowest to the highest point on all seven continents. To connect these low and high points I will swim, dive, bike, run, hike and climb. . . traversing and scaling some of our planet’s most diverse and dramatic landscapes.

 Over the next two years, the series will take me from Africa to South America, Europe, Australia, North America, Antarctica and Asia. While the trip itself will cover thousands of miles across dozens of countries on every continent, the distance between the lowest point on Earth (the Dead Sea) and the highest point (Mount Everest) is only 5.8 vertical miles. Crazy, huh? Think about that for a minute. Every person on the planet lives within this tiny sliver of space. Because of that, we all have a shared responsibility to take care of this sacred space together. I want to explore and share the beauty of this amazing world we inhabit with everyone who follows me on this journey.

It’s also important to point out that I could never make this trip without the support of my wife, Astacianna Hatcher, and some amazing partners, including: Dick’s Sporting Goods, GoBundance, Gundry MD, PTTOW!, T-Mobile, Spartan, and WORLDZ. I’m also grateful to all of my product sponsors, nonprofit partners and affiliates and logistics and outfitters support. You can find the complete list here.

(And if you’re reading this and you’d like to learn more about sponsoring the 5.8 Global Adventure Series, don’t be shy . . . Contact us here).

 For this first leg of the journey, I’ll start at Lake Assal, the lowest point in Africa, and swim 10 kilometers (approximately 6.2 miles) across one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world. Interestingly, Lake Assal has a higher salinity than the Dead Sea! That salty water will make me extrabuoyant and add a fun challenge to the freedive that I’ll do at the lake’s center. After that, I’ll run and bike past volcanic craters and salt flats in Djibouti into Ethiopia, where I’ll see some of the world’s oldest heritage sites and lush “coffee country.”  From there, I’ll trek dusty trading routes along the shores of Lake Turkana into Kenya, then gain elevation winding through the Cherangany Hills into what is known as “marathoners Mecca,” in Iten, Kenya - the most dominant running town in the world. I’ll be joined by world-class marathoners to run some long miles, bike 800 kilometers (nearly 500 miles) through the Rift Valley, one of the wildest places on the planet, and camp with some of my friends from the famous Maasai tribe on their ancestral lands, towering over the iconic Maasai Mara. I’ll then cross the border into Tanzania. Whew! Tired yet? Tanzania is the final stop of the 4-country 5.8 Africa route, and here, I’ll hike and bike for three days through the incomparable Serengeti National Park and across the Ngorongoro Crater to make my way to basecamp at Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest point on the continent. I’ll be joined by a group of friends and supporters for this final stretch of the journey. Our goal is to start the 7-day summit in mid-to-late September and reach the peak of the mountain on September 25, but we are prepared for surprises along the way and will be ready to adjust our course and refocus our plans to meet our goal on this trip.

Many of you who have followed my journey for some time have probably seen me attempt some pretty crazy things – running across the Sahara, biking through Death Valley, running for 27 continuous hours last month to mark my 27th year of recovery or swimming with crocodiles. For this expedition series, I’ll be harnessing all of forms of human power (my legs, lungs, heart and mind. . .no motors or jetpacks), doing whatever it takes to get from the world’s lowest to highest points.

In Africa, I’ll average about 100 miles a day (running and cycling), and my longest stretch will be about 161 miles, in Ethiopia. Of course, I always know that the unexpected WILL happen. Health, weather and any number of unforeseen events may alter my plans, and that’s when this journey becomes all about adaptation. Just like in real life, when things go awry, it’s always about how I react to the circumstances that will determine the outcome. My distance per day or my expected arrival dates may change, but constant forward motion will remain my motto.

No doubt this will be an epic trip. But I want you to know there’s a bigger reason why I do this, and it’s not just for the adrenaline rush or the glory of a global adventure series. My motivation to tackle extreme, purpose-driven pursuits like this stems from my own personal battle with drugs and alcohol. In fact, I credit a large part of my sobriety to the purposeful devotion and emotional release I experience when I run or face other extreme endurance challenges. Channeling my inner addict toward positive actions makes another opportunity - cultural exploration - possible. What better way to meet the diverse people on this planet than by moving through small villages and urban meccas at a slow pace, instead of zipping by in a car or zooming over in an airplane. And I get to see it all through clean and sober eyes!

While the 5.8 Global Adventure Series is about taking on huge physical challenges, it is also about so much more than that. It’s about going through a journey of self-exploration while inviting you to look into your own heart, recognizing your personal highs and lows and examining your motivations to see the impact each of us can have on the world we inhabit together.  

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Stay up-to-date with Charlie on the 5.8 Global Adventure Series by visiting 5Point8Project.com or following him on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter . You can also check out a video of Charlie describing his personal story and the start of this adventure series on Vimeo here.

My wife, Stacey Astacianna Hatcher in Kenya, with Maasai friends Ole Nagut and Tumpesia Ann

My wife, Stacey Astacianna Hatcher in Kenya, with Maasai friends Ole Nagut and Tumpesia Ann