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A Penny a Mile

Updated: Aug 6, 2020

Riding across America

By Abigail Thorpe

Melvin Dick’s plan is simple: He’ll ride 5,000 miles if you agree to donate a penny a mile—just $50, that will all go toward helping the youth services provided by the Sandpoint Rotary Club.

He plans to leave Sandpoint on August 1, ending in Key West by October 15 at the latest. His ride will take him through Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Western Tennessee along the way, finishing in the Florida Keys where he will stay for several months before returning to Sandpoint by train.

If you live in Sandpoint, chances are you know Dick—or at least know of him. He’s often supporting local initiatives and working with the Rotary Club to raise money for advancing youth services and education in the community, in addition to helping to put on the CHAFE 150 every year and being an active part of the local business community. Giving back to and supporting the youth is a key passion of his.

This isn't the first time Dick has ridden across the country for a penny a mile. Back in 2008 he made the same journey from Sandpoint to Key West—but on a different route that was 10,000 miles. During that trip, he raised around $25,000 to help kick off the Ready for Kindergarten education program.

This year he didn’t expect to do a fundraiser again, but as people inquired about the trip, he decided once again to make it a mission to support local youth. “My main goal is to support the Rotary Club and see if we can’t raise some money. Some of our fundraisers are not going on this year because of COVID-19, so fundraising is going to be more of a challenge I think,” explains Dick.

Originally he planned on riding to San Diego, California, then south to Florida, but he changed his mind in light of the virus and the summer heat. Despite the change in plans, the trip is no small undertaking.

The first three weeks will be the hardest, foresees Dick. “It takes a while to get used to riding eight to 10 hours a day. I’m in decent shape but I’m probably not in shape to ride 75 to 100 miles every day for two- and-a-half months straight. The first two to three weeks I think will be very tough. I think it will be very challenging to ride across Wyoming and Kansas in the hot August, muggy time period. I’ll get to the southern part of the U.S. about time for hurricane season, so that will be a challenge as well.”

This year Dick is 12 years older, but he’s ready to tackle the adventure just like he did in 2008. He plans to camp at least 50 percent of the time, staying in hotels and motels—or with friends—the remainder of the time. The worst-case scenario: If Key West or other places close down and he can’t continue his trip ... he’ll turn back.

Dick will be on many backroads driving through small towns along the way. It’s one of the main attractions for him. “It’s kind of the sights, sounds and smells of America when you’re on a bicycle. You're traveling 12 to 15 miles an hour on average because you’re loaded down with all your equipment and camping gear and stuff like that. You literally hear and see everything, and the world kind of slows down,” he explains.

He plans to bring his phone, a computer, a tent, some clothing, some gear and tools and a spare tire, and that’s it. He’ll be riding by himself totally unsupported, and his wife and family will meet him in the Keys.

A lot of people do this kind of thing, explains Dick. There are about 50,000 routes in the U.S. mapped out by Adventure Cycling out of Missoula, Montana. He plans on riding on parts of the Northern Tier and the TransAmerica Bicycle trail, part of which mirrors the old Lewis and Clark Trail. In Tennessee he will connect with the Underground Railroad route—once used to transport slaves to freedom—then transition onto the Southern Tier and finally the East Coast route.

“I’m fascinated with history, so to me a lot of this is a portion of history you can’t find in a book,” says Dick. In most cases, the people are welcoming and friendly, he adds. He enjoys grabbing a coffee or breakfast at the local spots, learning more about the area from locals.

He will continue a blog along the way, where people can stay updated on his trip and also donate. One hundred percent of donations will go directly to support youth education and services in Sandpoint. The Rotary Club does everything from awarding scholarships to offering workshops for students, providing leadership training, and offering meals and books to those in need.

Dick’s plan is simple, and that’s what makes it beautiful. “I’ll ride 5,000 miles, and people can read the blog, and see some pictures,” he smiles.

Follow Mel on his journey at

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