While West Point grad Pete Phipps was serving in Afghanistan, he mapped an entire U.S. cross country bike route on scraps of paper, marking each right and left turn along the way. Now, he and his friends Dan Marques and Joel Glover -- all West Point grads who completed a total of five tours in Iraq and Afghanistan -- are en route from Portland, Maine to Los Angeles, California. Their motivation? Raising money for wounded solders, seeing the country, and reuniting after five years apart. And, of course, enjoying their reintroducing into civilian life. "After nine years of playing by the rules, we wanted to do something fun," says Phipps. We caught up with Phipps during his last week stationed in Okinawa, Japan, to ask him about cycling, military service, the tour's goals, and their future plans.
-- Jennifer L. Schwartz
OUTSIDE: What is Pedalin' With a Purpose, and where did the idea come from?
PHIPPS: After multiple tours, it's our way to reunite with America and reintroduce ourselves to the country we've been representing for years. We're raising thousands of dollars to give back to the people who gave more than us, and we're partnered with the Wounder Warrior Project. Several of our classmates have been killed or injured. We knew that during summer 2010 our five year military commitment would be up and we'd have the time to do something adventurous and creative, and we wanted to see as much of the States as possible.
O: Why a bike tour?
P: It's 60-plus days of bonding and seeing the country. We built in five rest days.
O: That's not a lot of rest.
P: It's a mindset we've gotten into since being in the military -- doing things harder than is necessary. We'll see how big of meatheads we really are.
O: How else did your military training influence this project?
P: We split up responsibilities and delegated tasks. I was in charge of the route, Joel was in charge of PR and Dan was in charge of gear. We're brainwashed and treating this like a military op. Hopefully our engineering degrees can help us figure out how to fix a tire.
O: How are you training for this?
P: None of us are pro cyclists and the physical challenge is important to us. I was doing a 100-mile ride to the northern tip of Okinawa every week.
O: Were you guys always into sports?
P: We're extremely active people. Joel was captain of the West Point football team and I played on the golf team. I've run 11 marathons since being out in Japan.
O: How did you decide on the route?
P: We want to hit lots of cities along the way, and we're going to where we have friends and family. People have emailed and offered their places for us to stay, even complete strangers. But we have our tents and sleeping bags too.
O: How are you funding the trip?
P: We're going in the hole for this. We saved up money from deployment and this is how we're choosing to spend it. We'll be unemployed cyclists for the summer.
O: Are you looking for additional riding buddies?
P: Absolutely. And all women are invited to come along. My mom is going to ride with us in Ohio.
O: Do you have any plans after the tour is over?
P: Dan is going to Notre Dame for grad school and Joel is going to law school in Texas. I have some job interviews lined up. We might be in desk jobs the rest of our lives and this is our last chance to do something adventurous.
For more on Pedalin' With a Purpose, including updates and information on how to ride with the guys and donate to the Wounder Warrior Project, visit pedalinwithapurpose.com