Andrew Hayward Smith is on a mission. To be more precise — and to borrow a memorable phrase from the Blues Brothers movie — he’s “on a mission from God.”
Last Sunday, surrounded by fellow members of his congregation at Miami Shores Presbyterian Church, Smith suited up, climbed onto his 2007 Triumph Bonneville motorcycle and set off on a 15,000-mile, 120-day ride from Miami to the Arctic Circle.
One of his goals with his Arctic Ride for Dreams is to raise money for his church and other charities, including UrbanPromise, an organization that provides mentoring and Christian outreach programs for youths. Donations can be made to any charity in the name of Arctic Ride for Dreams (fill out the form on Smith’s website so he can keep track of the total raised).
Smith said Arctic Ride for Dreams is self-funded and all donations will go to the charities.
Most importantly, he’s hoping to inspire others to live their dreams.
“This is something I plan to do in the future, ride across the U.S.,” said Ralph Fano of North Broward who attended the farewell event. The fellow motorcycle enthusiast followed Smith on his own bike as far as Broward.
In addition to visiting all six UrbanPromise centers, Smith has pledged to do good deeds along the way. On his site, www.arcticridefordreams.com, fans can view his progress and make suggestions for places to visit, volunteer work for him to complete or just to provide some encouragement.
He is also asking people to share a dream in one sentence. Shores Presbyterian’s youth group members will then write the entries on ribbons and string them throughout the church.
“This is 100 percent a spiritual journey,” Smith said. “I feel a calling to do this and I want to do some good with it.”
The dream began about three years ago, when the idea first occurred to him. It finally took off in March, when Smith shared his vision with his pastor, the Rev. Hallie Hottle.
“He said, ‘Pastor, I’ve got this idea, but it’s a little crazy.’ He gave me a proposal to read. At first I thought he wanted me to ride the motorcycle,” she remembers with a laugh. “We’re very excited about him inspiring us and others.”
The route is taking him up the East Coast, across Northern states into Canada and finally to Alaska via a ferry.
It’s no luxury ride. Of the 120 days of travel, he has accommodations planned for only nine days. The rest of the way he plans to camp out. Smith estimates he’ll be riding about six hours per day, putting physical strain on his body. His Triumph’s gas tank capacity is about 100 miles. Once he hits more remote roads, he’ll have to carry extra fuel in a container. Alaska’s Dalton Highway in particular, a stretch of rugged road primarily for truckers, can be extremely difficult, even for cars.
Smith, a marketing and advertising executive originally from England, did not seem daunted by the challenges. He was looking forward to the once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“I’m mostly looking forward to seeing the Northern Lights and making it to the Arctic Circle sign,” he said.
Maybe it’s in his DNA. His brother once canoed down the Amazon River. And Smith’s great-great-uncle on his mother’s side was famed polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton.
Though he only began riding motorcycles about six years ago, this is not Smith’s first adventure. In 2009, he drove 14,000 miles across the U.S. on the heels of what he calls a “midlife crisis.” In 2008, his marriage fell apart, his son moved away to college and he was laid off from work.
Losing that sense of stability broke him down and then built him up again with a new perspective. Last fall, he found a spiritual home at Miami Shores Presbyterian.
“No matter how hard you try, there’s not much you can do to control things. You have successes and sometimes you don’t. The best times are actually when [God] takes you down and you have to surrender,” Smith said.
When the moment came to depart on Sunday, youth group members held out a purple paper banner with the word “Start” written in black letters. When he returns, they will be there waiting.
Smith revved up the engine and drove through the sign amid cheers and clapping, finally embarking on a long-awaited journey.