Ride across Maine helps bicyclist pay it forward
DEXTER — A journey three decades ago brought 9-year-old Truc Huynh and his family from Vietnam to Portland. Now Huynh is repaying all those who helped his family by “Trucking Across Maine” 600 miles via bicycle from Madawaska to Kittery over six days to raise money for five organizations.
During a midday break at Wayside Park on Saturday, Aug. 3, about halfway through his journey, Huynh said last year he biked in the American Lung Association’s Trek Across Maine. “When you’re riding 180 miles you tend to have a lot of alone time to think about things and think about life so I thought I enjoy riding so much and a lot of folks helped my family when I first came to the U.S, including strangers and organizations both public and private,” he said.
“I’ve always worked my entire life to try to pay it forward whether it be volunteering locally at Preble Street Resource Center or doing Habitat for Humanity in college, Big Brother/Big Sister at Portland High School so this is kind of my way of way of saying ‘hey let’s have some fun, let’s explore Maine and let’s also help charitable causes as well to pay it forward’ so that’s where the core of the inspiration came about.”
“I also want to explore Maine through a different lens through my road bike and meeting different people and just hearing their stories of northern Maine,” he said. Huynh said state leaders will often talk about two Maines and he wanted to learn about how residents are different, what they have in common and “what are our core values that we share?”
“The past three days the folks that I’ve met, complete strangers from Madawaska to Fort Kent to Moro Plantation which I never knew existed in Maine, are some of the most generous people,” he said. Huynh said their open hearts “reminded me of the folks in southern Maine that helped my family when we first immigrated to the U.S.”
“I’ve found that we look different, we may talk different, we may eat different food, we may have grown up different but I think the core values of what I heard from those places I’ve visited over the past three days are very similar,” he said.
“It started out as an idea and it gained a lot of momentum and support from the community and the businesses that sponsored me and a lot of individual contributions as well,” Huynh said. “We’re proud to say we raised $16,000 so far and counting.”
Huynh, who is traveling with his friend Nate Cutting in a support vehicle, said funds raised will go to the Susan Curtis Foundation, Jobs for Maine’s Graduates, Mitchell Institute, Immigrant Welcome Center and Community Bicycle Center. He said there is a personal connection to each and four of these organizations have been around for years but the Immigrant Welcome Center was founded more recently.
“Obviously that cause is near and dear to my heart because my family are immigrants,” he said.
The majority of the $16,000 has come from donations made by businesses, friends, family and “complete strangers who read about my story,” Huynh said, through his trek website at https://truckingacrossmaine.org/ and elsewhere.
Trucking Across Maine was scheduled to go to Brownville but the day traveling south to Piscataquis County was cut short after Huynh and Cutting’s truck broke down and was taken to Bangor with the two switching to a U-Haul van.
“One of amazing things on this trip so far so is not only meeting some truly good people but I’m starting to see the cycle of goodness going around because not only are people supporting online, in person, donating $5, $10, $20 to my website, but the gentleman Bob Thornton from (Thornton Brothers) in Lincoln, Maine he read about us and called us up,” Huynh said. He said Thornton told him, ‘“Hey Truc, I read about you and I really appreciate what you’re doing and I really want to make a contribution and the rental is on me.’ That was really cool and kind of him and his business to do that.”
The change in itinerary led to an overnight stay in Dover-Foxcroft, accommodations from Aug. 1-6 have included both lodging and tents, before Huynh biked south to Dexter via Route 7. Huynh said he has been to Piscataquis County before, including fishing the Piscataquis River several times in Guilford.
Despite the unforeseen circumstances Huynh said he hopes to make the ride an annual event. “I really do and I’m just so proud of our state and the city of Portland where there’s a ton of asylum seekers the community has rallied around,” he said. “The state and municipalities have raised I think over $1 million for asylum seekers and new immigrants. It’s certainly refreshing compared to the national negative conversation around this topic.”
Huynh said he does not want to make Trucking Across Maine political “but part of the reason I’m doing this is what a different contrast to highlight our state and what we are doing. You’ve got the negative conversations around asylum seekers and immigrants and you’ve got an immigrant who is paying it forward and giving back and not taking. I truly think that immigrants will save Maine, it always has. It saved America, we are a nation of immigrants.”