Lord willing, I will celebrate my 80th birthday in a few days, and on that day I will once again attempt to bike my age.  I began this admittedly trivial pursuit in 2011, the year I turned 70, and have managed to do it successfully for 10 consecutive years. However, the challenge is becoming tougher as my body ages and the distance increases. 

An athletic nephew has suggested that I switch to kilometers, and that day may be fast approaching….but not this year.  

Because 80 seems like an important milestone and in an effort to make this more than just a personal challenge, I am biking for dollars. Let’s call it “My sore butt for your big bucks!”  

Here’s my pitch:  If I do make it to the finish line, I hope that many of you will open your wallets and contribute $80, $800, or some other multiple of 80 to a significant charity.

At a minimum, I’m trying to divert your attention, for a while anyway, away from all the crises and challenges facing our nation. 

As for what organizations you might consider donating to, I have some suggestions: If you believe that quality reporting about education is important, please consider a tax-deductible gift to the Education Writers Association, the Hechinger Report, or Chalkbeat.  

If you value public education, please consider donating to the Network for Public Education.  

Your local food bank would appreciate a donation, but if you want to help the island that Joan and I live on, please donate to the Island Housing Trust, which is building affordable housing for the island’s teachers, firefighters, and others who keep things running.

And if your donation is going to a familiar group, I hope you will bump up your gift by at least $80. 

Some of you may remember that last year I got tricked into thinking that my ride would be televised on ESPN, under the auspices of a Swedish-based sporting group called ABBA.   Eventually I figured out that ABBA is a singing group and there would be no television.   

Then, because of a technological difficulty that called into question whether my original measurement was accurate, I ended up doing the 79-mile ride twice, three days apart.  Unfortunately, the international rules governing these events do not allow stockpiling of miles. If they did, I could and would sleep in on June 14th!

So, what are the odds that I can bike 80 miles on my 80th birthday?  

BAD: My longest training ride this year is only 36 miles.

GOOD: I will be cycling on a mostly flat course.  

BAD: I’m 10 pounds heavier than I had hoped to weigh on the big day. 

GOOD:I will have company for part of the ride.

BAD: This island is windy

GOOD: I’m stubborn…  

In a few days, we’ll find out what that adds up to. 

But as I write this, I’m feeling confident.  So here’s my pitch: If you will post your pledge on the blog for all to see AND if I don’t make it, I will personally make good on your pledge.  


  1. I pledge $100 to the Minnesota Reading & Math Corps. All the excuses you raised in your solicitation John, I thought you were 100! Lol.
    This remarkable organization is improving basic skills at an amazing level. Because of this, 14 other states have contracted with this organization to provide services in their states. They are a subgroup of AmeriCorps. Want to see what quality looks like, Google the University of Chicago’s independent evaluation of the pre-k through grade 3 results.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Happy Birthday, John! and good luck. I will make a donation. A little behind on everything, Just moved – downsized. Love to you and Joan, Elizabeth

    Liked by 1 person

  3. $160 to Planned Parenthood

    Go forth, my friend, and bust your ass on Flag Day and Trump’s birthday


    GUIDO and the little missus CLARKE

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A very happy 80th birthday John. May you complete the 80 miles with ease. The 10 extra pounds should give the extra stamina to complete your goal. Also don’t worry about the wind because it’ll mostly be on your back.
    I’m pledging $160 to the second harvest food bank in honor of your big Birthday.
    Wish a good one and god willing looking forward you your 90th.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. John:

    We’re in too, with another $160 for Planned Parenthood. We’ll be glued to ESPN and listening to ABBA, but also hoping that next year a little sense will prevail and the 81 mi will become 81 km! Happy B-Day from us,

    Patricia and Dick

    Liked by 1 person

  6. David and Pam Young June 11
    My rear end is sore just thinking about your rear end ! I’m envious of your willingness and ability to put yourself in this uncomfortable position for as long as it takes to hit the 80 mile mark ! Pam and I are pleased to have donated $80.80 to the Vineyard Housing Trust in your honor.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Dear Mr. Merrow:
    I donated $100 to Island Housing Trust in response to your letter published in the MV Times. Thank you for your commitment to the Vineyard community, and for your wonderful fundraising effort. I am involved with the Rotary Club of MV, and we would love to have you as a speaker. Wishing you a successful ride!
    Very truly yours,
    Dan Larkosh

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I just made a donation for your birthday to IRC (Int’l Rescue Committee) where I’ve served on their Board of Advisors since 2003. I think they are the premier humanitarian organization because of their wide range of programs (health, education, livelihoods for displaced refugees in the world’s most conflict-affected regions), their focus and measurement of impact, their creative partnerships (including with Sesame Workshop concentrating on young refugee kids), and wide ranging policy work. I am shy about posting the amount of my donation on your public blog, but wanted you to know how your pedaling efforts are being transformed into energy for refugees. At 80, dear pal, you’re leading the way🎂🙏 Karen

    Liked by 1 person

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