Read about our experiences and encounters with folks and give us your feedback.

New Chinese Article on us! - Nov 2010 - HOPE PROJECT magazine

December 13th, 2010

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Dear Fueled By Rice Friends,

We have just made the news anew in China’s The Hope Project Magazine, named after the oldest and most well-known NGO/non-profit in China focused on helping poor rural Chinese students pursue their education.  One of my former students at Beijing Language and Culture University was kind enough to author the article, (Thanks Shako!)  keeping our mission of spreading mutual understanding, global friendship, and bicycling instead of driving cars ALIVE for a very pertinent audience:

Beijingers continue buying over 1,000 new cars a day to add to already jam-packed roads while 2nd tier Chinese cities add around 500-600 new cars on the roads a day!!!

The article is in Chinese, with photos.

The link to the online issue, November 2010:

Simply enter the page number (54 for us) in the white box in the middle of the blue arrows and click the Chinese characters immediately to the left, you will find the article. - sign their petition today to support bicycling!

July 2nd, 2010

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Sign the petition at to join a unified voice with all bicyclists to advocate to policy makers and society in general for bicycles as a solution to many problems facing modern society including obesity, environmental destruction, global climate change, social isolation, noise pollution, traffic jams, and depression.

Riding bicycles, especially for commuting and running errands are good for:

1) The Environment

2) One’s Health

3) Our Communities

Start riding today!

Also, check out the upcoming urban bicycle festival in Minneapolis, MN July 2010

Jim Rides Again - Currently heading South in US.

June 9th, 2010

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Hello Fueled By Rice followers!

It’s hard for me to believe that its already been 1.5 years since we ended our trip in November 2008.  But, the Fueled By Rice spirit is living strong in all of us as we continue promoting global friendship and bicycling instead of driving cars in our own ways in our respective locations.  I have been living in Beijing teaching at Beihang University this school year (my 4th year in China now).  I am privileged to be the only Fueled By Ricer to complete the global circle back to our starting place in Beijing.  When I’m in the neighborhood on my current old-man “28″ China bike, I nostalgically ride slowly by our starting place in Dongzhimen nei…and I’m itching for another long ride.

You may have suffered some Fueled By Rice blog withdrawal over this past year.  If so, you’ll probably be excited to learn that Jim is riding again, from Montana heading south…until??  Maybe to Central America.  If he’s still riding at the end of July, I hope to join him for a few weeks before starting graduate school back in the U.S. this coming fall.

**Check out Jim’s current bike trip blog -  

And hey, its summer!  GET OUT THERE AND BIKE! 

How about biking to work at least one day a week (or everyday!)?

Why not plan a day bicycle trip or more exciting: do an overnight bike trip with a tent!

E X P L O R E.  Your bicycle can take you there. 

Nakia’s new blog

June 20th, 2009

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Nakia has a new blog documenting post-trip matters.  Check it out here.

Jim’s Presentation for Mr. Feckanin’s World Cultures Class

January 31st, 2009

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Trying something a bit different, I recorded the audio from a presentation I gave last week.  There’s a bit of background noise, and you can’t see the pictures I’m talking about.  Maybe this is lame, but gosh darn it, I’m putting it up anyway.  It jumps in at the beginning just after I explain that I graduated from Park High in 2000 and went to St. John’s and St. Ben’s for four years.

It’s much shorter than the original presentation we gave as it had to fit in a class period and I had to deal with the attention span of high school students.  It should give those unable to make our presentation some idea of what it was like.  I’m afraid the end gets a little cut off.

Click here to play the presentation.

Jim Durfey’s last article for the Enterprise

January 23rd, 2009

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As they conclude their epic global trip, bicyclists find that kindness accompanies them to the end.

    The drunk Austrian wobbled unsteadily in front of us, clutching his beer to his chest. “Good, gut!” he yelled as we strummed and sang. Behind him, on a park bench sat a long row of folks who occasionally peered at us as though through a thick haze. As I beat the drum, I watched as one of them fished a hypodermic needle out of his pocket and held the point in the dancing flame of his lighter. A man sitting groggily before me demanded our songbook so he could accompany us. Drew handed him the book and he sang with us, in between nips he took out of a small bottle and hiccups that racked his figure and suggested severe gastrointestinal insecurity.
    Despite the shady nature of our venue, we decided to continue playing.  A police station was nestled on the edge of the park.  In fact, the police had already seen fit to kick us out of the first spot we’d picked.  Almost as soon as we had started playing, a generous Moroccan migrant worker had enthusiastically distributed a beer to each of us.  We left the cans where he had set them, but the cops also requested we not display these beverages so publicly. We complied, though we wondered at the apparent lack of concern the lawmen demonstrated for all the other people drinking and indeed doing things less legal in the park.
    As we biked out of Vienna the next day, we felt relieved to be out of the big city and back into the simple, pastoral pleasantness of the countryside. With only a few hundred miles to go, we anticipated an easy trip to Paris where our journey would end. The weather, however, turned against us. The summer temperatures, of which we had sometimes complained since January, suddenly turned cool. Forty or fifty degrees may not seem too cold, but when we went for days at a time without benefiting from indoor shelter, we felt downright chilled. As we prepared for our two week trek across Germany, we reasoned that at least we weren’t wet.
     In Germany it rained every day. We might have seen the sun once or twice in during two weeks, but I wore my visor all day long to shield my eyes from the constant drops of precipitation. We forced ourselves to drink our frigid water. As we biked we swung our hands madly to encourage circulation. At night we huddled around a large campfire, trying to dry out our clothes in the smoke. Torrential onslaughts often interrupted our dinner and sent us scurrying for the tent. One night, we happily traded hygiene for dryness and camped under a bridge infested with pigeons.
    The weather, much to our chagrin followed us into France. Having studied French in many years ago at Park High, I became a back-up translator for Drew, who spoke fluent French he learned growing up in Africa. Anyone who remembers “Freedom Fries” must admit that relations between the U.S. and France are not untroubled. In fact the French as a people don’t have a stellar reputation for friendliness. I privately dreaded exposing myself to the wrath of a Frenchman sure to be incensed at my butchering his language.
    Necessity, however, sometimes conjures bravery where there is none. I ran out of water and found myself knocking on the door of random house. A man opened it. “Good day, sir,” I began. “I travel by bike. I have no water. Help me you obtain?” I quiveringly queried. The ruddy complexion of the man turned curious. I soon found myself standing by his sink. He grabbed my bottle gave it a hard look. The container had traveled with me since Turkey. The clear plastic had become opaque and greenish algae had taken root in the bottom. He flung my bottle into the trash, muttering something incomprehensible, and ran downstairs. He returned with a brand new unopened bottle. Not knowing how to explain that the old one was fine, I thanked him and tried to make my exit, but he assaulted me with a rash of questions about the bike trip. I immediately failed to understand anything and told him as much, yet he persisted, rephrasing and speaking slowly until he penetrated the thick cloud of my incomprehension. It was not the last time we met with unexpected kindness in France.
    Near dusk one night, just two days outside of Paris, our map failed to reveal a crossroads at which we found ourselves. I approached a well-built man collecting walnuts.  I conversed with him in halting French for five minutes before he asked where I was from. Upon hearing the answer, he responded in English, “So you speak English?” From then on, we communicated much more easily. The man invited us back to his home to examine his map, but before we saw the map, he invited us in for a beer. Halfway through the beer, he offered us the use of his shower, and soon we found ourselves invited to stay the night.
    Laurent Dufour and his wife Christine proved well-equipped hosts.  Laurent, through his work as an accountant for farms and vineyards, had a well-stocked supply of champagne, to  which he generously treated us. The co-inhabitants of his home, twin toddlers, entertained us by, in the words of their mother “doing everything they are forbidden.”  Indeed, on the strength of their performance, I recommend twins only to the most energetic and capable of parents. Amidst the frolicking toddlers, we could hardly believe our luck.  We planned to eat a vegetable soup on the ground huddled around a fire, fighting over utensils.  Instead we found ourselves sipping champagne in a cozily-remodeled farmhouse, eagerly anticipating the cheese course.
    We began this trip knowing we would expose ourselves to uncertainty. But, as only death is certain, surely life is not without its own vicissitudes. By embarking on this trip, we threw out many of the controls of which most people lucky enough to have the option avail themselves: a set place to live, a reliable income, a sedentary life.  Thus, while maintaining responsibility for ourselves, we made ourselves available to the help and hospitality of strangers, but also to a lesser extent, to their whims and malevolence. Among the diversity of cultures, countries, and religions through which we traveled, one characteristic predominated: people’s proclivity towards kindness.
    Darkness, without doubt, exists. I saw it leering out at me through the eyes of the unfortunate addicts who gathered around us in the park in Vienna. They lived, it seemed, on the street, with no home and no one to turn to. Their slow progression towards destruction, self-imposed though it may have been, was a sorry sight.
Before we realized the nature of the place at which we played, we put out the guitar case, hoping to gather a crowd.  Once we realized the nature of the crowd we did gather, we played without hope of earning bread money. Surely, we reasoned, a bunch of homeless junkies would save what little money they had for chemical rather than musical entertainment. While packing up, however, we found to our astonishment that we had earned a few euros. Before we left, a few of the folks shook our hands warmly and smiled through their haze of dependence. Even here, appreciation and kindness to strangers had not died.
    Upon returning to Montana, I am mostly thankful. Thankful for the experiences I have had and the people who opened their homes and lives to me along the way. But I am also hopeful. Hopeful both for the world and myself; hopeful that despite whatever haze through which I may suffer, I too can cling to kindness.

Jim Durfey’s article on Hungary for the Enterprise

January 23rd, 2009

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In Eastern Europe, bikers sacrifice social status but gain historical inspiration

The two Slovakian policemen stamped through our crowd and confronted us in angry words we didn’t understand.  Once they established our native language, they adeptly switched to English.  ”Do you have a permit for this spectacle?” the larger of the officers spat down at us.  Despite the tension of the situation, I couldn’t help being impressed with his vocabulary.We were, in fact, playing music on the streets without a permit.  Ever since Istanbul, we had been playing on the streets for money.  At the beginning of the trip, we never anticipated living off our music.  However, even small European towns have old pedestrian zones.  These gentrified, tourist-filled areas prove lucrative as music venues.  From Turkey onward, we bought food using only money garnered from street performances.

Aside from breathing life into our ever-dwindling savings accounts, street performing provided a way to meet people in Europe, where strangers don’t often interact with each other.  As we play, some passersby linger for a bit, but others sit down on the sidewalk next to us and remain for our entire performance.  In this way, we met many people and even had an accidental home stay in Serbia.

Unfortunately, while street performing we sometimes found ourselves at odds not only with police, but with apartment dwellers, shopkeepers, and other street musicians.  In uber-regulated Western Europe, we found ourselves pandering to paperwork.  I once spent an entire afternoon in the ultra-organized city of Vienna, running from bureaucrat to bureaucrat, trying to determine where we could purchase a permit to play on the street.

Though we ate well with our earnings, we strictly budgeted our purchases and eschewed luxuries.  As we slid across Hungary, we ate veggies and enjoyed the sunshine.  The vast plains raced horizon-ward with wheat and corn.   We often glimpsed pheasants running through the fields.  As the evenings came sooner and sooner, I slowly realized I wouldn’t be able to make it back to Montana for the hunting season.  Drew and I ground our teeth as bouquets of plump pheasant exploded from the roadside.  Though the birds stayed out of range for rocks, we stumbled upon an excellent if somewhat unorthodox way of adding fowl to our diet.

One day, we found a completely intact hen in the road.  Drew and I stopped.  It looked perfectly fine.  A quick prod beneath its feathers revealed it was still warm.  It had been freshly hit!

Drew and I exchanged glances, and a certain song by the Ringling 5 started resounding in my head.  If it’s good enough for Shields Valley ranchers, it’s good enough for me, I reasoned.  Drew and I cleaned the pheasant in the bushes and stored it for dinner.

Our bike mates looked skeptical as we chopped the bird into our communal pot.  However, as the savory aroma of roasting pheasant engulfed our campsite, their taste buds brought them back to sensibility.

Eating roadkill wasn’t the only sign that our social status had declined.  My beard-faithful crumb-catcher and bug filter that it is-no longer associated me with piousness, as it did in India, but with disregard for hygiene and fashion.  Bathing in rivers and eating in parks didn’t win us any status points, either.

However, we still found ourselves at the receiving end of much kindness.  An Austrian woman let us camp on her farm.  A portrait painter in Bratislava insisted on drawing us for free.
An ancient little man flagged me down in Hungary.  He grilled Peter and I about our trip outside his yard.  His lawn, across which artillery pieces lay strewn, resembled a museum.  He ordered us to wait five minutes and retreated into his house.  The inquisitive stranger soon emerged.  He stumbled back to us and passed me a bag of sweets.  Though we were in a bit of a hurry, I was overcome with curiosity and posed my own question to the man: “Were you part of the revolution here?” I asked.  ”Wait ten minutes,” replied the man, his clear blue eyes flashing, and he led us into his home.  We realized the structure did indeed double as a museum.

Edmund Pongratz was not only part of the revolution-he helped lead it.  In 1956, Hungarians started a rebellion that expelled Soviet forces from Hungary in a matter of days.  “They wanted to make us Russian,” Edmund told me when I asked why he had fought the Soviets and their supporters.  “We wanted to be free,” he said, before demonstrating how he threw Molatav cocktails at Soviet tanks.

In the end, the Hungarian revolution was not successful.  The Russians had reinforcements.  They returned in force days after they had been expelled and subjected Hungary to an even harsher form of dictatorial governance.  Edmund’s museum didn’t focus on the aftermath of the revolution, however.  Instead, it focuses on the spirit of independence and heroism demonstrated by the rebels.  That is undoubtedly the most important part of their story.

Edmund proved that he can focus on the most important things in other areas, too.  “Some people might look at you and say ‘Who are those monks with big beards?’  But I look at you and know you’re good guys.”  We left with a bag full of sweets and confidence that not everyone will judge us based on our beards.

Later, as the Slovakian policemen chased us out of our venue, we felt unsettled.  The distaste of clashing with authority figures disinclined us from further playing.  However, I thought of the Hungarian revolutionaries.  They stood up to things much worse than harsh language.  Not playing meant a lower food budget and less opportunity to meet people.  We obtained the permit we didn’t know we had to have and played again on the streets of Bratislava.  The policemen returned, but this time we responded to their gruff language with the permit.  I hope I never have to face down a hostile tank.  In the meantime, however, there are many small ways in which we all can immolate the valor of the Hungarian revolutionaries like Edmund.

Tues Nov 18, 8pm @ St. Johns; OR Weds Nov 19, 8pm @ Holy Name Church: Bike Tour presentation

November 14th, 2008

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It was SO GREAT to see so many of you at our arrival Chili Feed.  Thanks so much for coming out!  An Amazing turn out.  If you’re interested in hearing more about our trip…

Our main Fueled By Rice journey presentation will be:

TUESDAY Nov 18, 2008

St. John’s University, Collegeville, MN 56321

Quad building, (The biggest and main brick building housing the “Great Hall” and the Refrectory - main dining hall - to the right of the new Abbey Chruch with Bell Tower)

Quad 264 (two floors above the main dining hall: The Refrectory),

8:00-8:15pm start time


If you’re interested in attending our Holy Name Church presentation instead of going up to St. Johns, the 

WEDS Nov 19, 2008 Holy Name presenation also starts around 8:00pm, and you are welcome to attend.  It is in connection to the youth group and is following a praise and worship gathering.  

Holy Name of Jesus (Medina, MN)
155 County Rd. 24

Wayzata, MN 55391

Hope to see you there!


November 11th, 2008

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I once again find myself this night, like so many nights over the past year, not far away from a dying fire.  But this night is different.  We’re not out in the woods somewhere; we won’t be sleeping in a tent tonight; we won’t be biking long distances tomorrow morning; the fire is burning in a wood stove fireplace.  We find ourselves this night in the warmth and comfort of a place I call home–Fergus Falls, Minnesota.

The past few days have seemed like a blur to me.  In fact, ever since we arrived in the US things have started to blur.  We have been blessed to see so many friends and share in so much generous hospitality as we moved closer and closer to arriving in Minneapolis Sunday afternoon that my memories are getting fuzzy edges, bleeding like watercolors into the promises and possibilities of the future.  (”Did I see them or did I make plans to see them?”).  And all of this kindness and attention culminated at an Edina church yesterday where parents, family, and friends gathered and spilled into the road with their encouraging applause, happiness, and relief as we rolled to what would be our official stop after 10,500 miles.  It seemed everyone was talking at once, and there was chili, and lots of sweet crumbly and chewey baked items, and we talked to as many people as we could and felt a little dazed and played some songs, talked…

It’s quiet here now in Fergus Falls.  I can hear the embers expanding their last heat with small cracking noises, and Nakia breathes easily in warm sleep on the couch.  Did we really…?  Did we really bike into the cold wind that turned to night and insistently pushed against us as we struggled up what we desperately hoped was the last hill on Saturday two hours after dark?  Did we really bike into the streets of Paris, past the Notre Dame cathedral, under the Eiffel Tower less than a month ago?  The same bike that now leans against the garage wall at 1010 Meadow Hill Lane, did it really climb mountains in Serbia?  Of course yes, but the answer is not as simple as “yes we did.”  The questions are a search for meaning in the jumble of hopes and realizations that make up the past year and a half, mixed with what came before– a tentative effort at coming to terms with time, and foreign experiences meeting familiar places — will they get along?

I’ve expected to have some culture shock; how will it come?  We shall see.  For now we shall push on with our plans to record music and prepare for some presentations.  We have stopped our biking, but things have continued to pick up speed.  Let the days come.  It is necessary to be here, now.

Welcome Home

November 7th, 2008

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It’s funny how quickly you become disconnected from an experience that has the ability to shape your life. It seems like a long time ago I was part of this crew, and in some respects it was. These 4 individuals have bicycled much further than I, and experienced much more. I want to thank them for taking the time to keep us updated through blogs, photos, and personal stories that so many people were unable to experience themselves. It may be difficult for them to realize since these four are so humble in their endeavors, but a trip of this length is truly unique.

To stick it out for this long, in such close contact to one other, missing friends and family, along with the disconnectedness that goes with living on the road, this journey was I’m sure at times testing. This is what will ultimately bring the greatest reward of all though, the realization that they stuck it out to the end and finished the goal they set out to do. Beyond that I know it was of priority for them to keep us (the ones living vicariously through them) up-to date and informed of their experiences, feelings, and observations.

I know when I was part of the trip if someone said they were going to the net bar to write a blog, or upload photos that often meant three or four hours of sifting through slow internet connections, 15 people looking over your shoulder, and sometimes police officers trying to take you back to your hotel. The blood-shot eyes from both sleep deprivation and second hand smoke the morning after a blogging session reminded all of us of the sacrifice that was made the night before by that individual.

I think the realization of the accomplishment will come in time, but not perhaps right away. I imagine they feel overwhelmed with their homecoming and perhaps not quite sure how to react to the many inquiries and congratulations that await them on Sunday. I look forward to sharing stories, learning more details about their travel, and seeing where they go from here.

If anyone else would like to show their support of their efforts of keeping us up-to-date please do so in the comments of this entry.