From The Republican Journal, Belfast, Maine, October 1, 1998. Text reprinted with their permission.
Overseas biker returns
Gelber presents 'BikeAbout' at Unity College Friday
by Murray Carpenter
For nine months, Blanche and Samuel Gelber checked the Internet every morning to monitor their son Ethan's progress in a bicycling journey that took him to 23 countries in a 6,000-mile, nine-month circumnavigation of the Mediterranean Sea.
The Gelbers did not lack information. Ethan and his four BikeAbout partners carried laptop computers and digital cameras and filed 150 dispatches, and 2,200 photos to their web site during the trip.
Gelber, the executive director of BikeAbout, had an ambitious mission for the trip: "To increase awareness and access to world regions and their people by traveling by bicycle, meeting the people, and using the unique capabilities of the Internet to share information with students, teachers and other onlookers around the world."
The mission befits a biker who graduated from Yale and earned a master's degree in international affairs from Columbia University. Ethan arrived safely back in the United States Tuesday, but will not have much time to rest. He is taking on an ambitious series of speaking engagements throughout Maine.
Gelber, who lives in New York when not pedaling, said he chose to make Maine the site of his first talks in the country because of his longtime family affiliation with the area (he spent his summers in Morrill where his parents now live eight months of the year), and his friend Elizabeth Guffey of Yarmouth. Guffey is a Yale classmate of Gelber's who now runs Daedalus Design Group. She designed BikeAbout's web site (http://www.bikeabout.org), which has logged thousands of hits and won a Surfer's Choice "Best of the Web" award.
Now that the trip is over, BikeAbout's work continues. Gelber feels the bicycle can open doors for communication between many groups of people, and the Internet can keep the doors open. He hopes to get teachers and students in Maine, and elsewhere in the country, to use the web site as an educational resource and a way of contacting the many people from many cultures that the BikeAbout team met in its journeys. Gelber hopes American students will become "international key pals," the computer-age equivalent of pen pals, by communicating with the people he met during his travels.
"BikeAbout's goals were an exchange of information," Gelber said, "an exchange of cultural information."
Gelber said the BikeAbout web site does more than just note, "the food is great" in any given locale; it even lists recipes. For example, he said you can use the site to find out all about a Moroccan egg and sauce dish called "ojja."
The Bicycle Coalition of Maine sponsored Gelber's talk in Augusta last week, and the coalition's Jeff Miller said many of the lessons from Gelber's trip apply to Maine. Here, as elsewhere, Miller said, the bike serves a role as a passport into communities and a connector between communities.
While the bicycles opened many doors for Gelber and his partners, some remained closed. The BikeAbout team chose, for safety reasons, not to go through Algeria and Libya and were not allowed into Yugoslavia.
Gelber will give a presentation on "Cycling for Peace in the Mediterranean," at noon on Oct. 2  at the Unity College Student Center. The talk is part of Unity's Flying Fish lecture series. Lunch will be available for a nominal price.