Adam Chizek of Phoenix, left, and Travis Frey of Medford are training for a 1,400-mile, one-month ride across Thailand to raise money for charity. - Denise Baratta

Cyclists raise funds for Thailand trek

Concerns about the economy, the environment and their own fitness motivated Travis Frey and Adam Chizek to become more serious this year about bicycling.

Looking to reap more benefits from the sport, the two friends are taking their bikes all the way to Thailand.

"We're going to get to see the country like nobody else can," says Chizek, a 22-year-old Phoenix resident.

Adventure awaits, but charity is the primary purpose. Before they leave home on Dec. 2, the duo must raise $2,000 to participate in Tour de Thailand, a 1,400-mile cycling journey that benefits blind Thai citizens and Operation Smile, which works to repair childhood facial deformities. It's the first time either has participated in an organized cycling event.

"It's going to a good cause, so we're really happy about that," Chizek says.

Frey, 26, stumbled upon the tour's Web site while researching cycling trips online and says he "became totally passionate about it." The passion was fueled in no small part by his dad's tales of being stationed with the U.S. Air Force in Thailand during the Vietnam War.

"I'm really curious to see what Travis is going to see," says 62-year-old Ralph Frey, a video production teacher at Phoenix High School.

"He has a journey that he really believes in."

The first step in Travis Frey's journey was selling his 2000 Mercury Sable and pledging the $1,300 profit toward Tour de Thailand. He already had been biking from his Medford residence to work at the south Medford Starbucks for several months.

Chizek also bicycle commutes to his job at the south Ashland Starbucks. Work has provided both an opportunity to spread the word, and Starbucks has made it easy for them to take more than a month off, Frey and Chizek say. The company also offers them the chance to raise more money through its "Make Your Mark" campaign, a program that gives cash donations to organizations where Starbucks employees volunteer.

Frey and Chizek figure "Make Your Mark" will grant them $1,000 apiece toward the tour's chosen charities, but they can't apply for the funds until their trip is over. Both already have spent $800 to register as riders and about $1,000 on airline tickets. A summer yard sale put a little more cash in their coffers, but with a little more than a week to go, they're appealing to Rogue Valley residents' goodwill.

"I think a lot of people are looking to give," Chizek says. "They just don't know where to give to."

Fundraising has taken priority over training for the ride, which Frey and Chizek are approaching with confidence. Event organizers said participating cyclists should be able to ride about 70 miles per day and still be fit for the road the next morning, Chizek says. The tour arranges riders' lodging at hotels and hostels for a reduced rate.

Frey and Chizek say pedaling with about 50 other cyclists should be easy compared with their first challenge of navigating the country's crowded capital city of Bangkok. After a few days in the metropolis, they must make their own travel arrangements by train to the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai, which boasts a Sunday street fair and market. Already fans of Thai food, Frey and Chizek say they're eager to sample the cuisine at its origin.

"If we're open to new experiences in food, it'll be like one of the highlights," Frey says.

Starting on Dec. 9 in Chiang Mai, the tour follows relatively flat roads, about 95 percent of which are paved, Chizek says. The route will take riders to southern beaches where, on Christmas, blind cyclists from Foundation for the Blind and Thai cycling clubs will join them. The tour ends Jan. 4 after its steepest climb through the mountains of Khao Lak, where riders can visit memorials to victims of the 2004 tsunami.

"It'll definitely be pretty impactful," Chizek says.

Hoping their efforts also have an impact, Frey and Chizek plan to share their travel experiences with the Rogue Valley on a blog for the Mail Tribune's Web site.

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