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May 12, 2003

A cycle around the world

From: Boston Globe, MA - May 12, 2003

Deaf, mute rider drives for record

By Emma Stickgold, Globe Correspondent, 5/12/2003

As Vladimir Yarets Alexeevich crisscrosses the country on his Jawa 50 motorcycle, Boston may be just another sticker on the front of his bike. But during a break from passing through the city streets yesterday, the Belarus native used nearly everything but words to describe a journey he hopes will put him in the Guinness Book of World Records as the only deaf and mute person to bike around the world.

Whizzing through 230 cities by his own count, Alexeevich, 62, has picked up a slew of supporters from around the country who form a small cadre looking out for him as they follow his adventures.

''He has this amazing ability to build a network of people among strangers,'' said the Rev. Peter Lovett, of Westwood, who met Alexeevich while taking a youth group to see the remains of the World Trade Center in New York City.

From time to time, Alexeevich stays overnight at youth hostels, and Saturday night, he regaled his fellow guests at the Hostelling International in Boston with images of his adventures.

''He's obviously not typical, but we get a pretty fair share of interesting characters here,'' said Josh Frankfurt, a hostel worker. ''It's kind of the nature of what hosteling is.''

At each stop, Alexeevich pulls out a little red book with names and phone numbers, and often asks his hosts to update a core group of friends on his whereabouts.

Alexeevich, who lost his hearing when a bomb blast punctured his eardrums during World War II, primarily uses a universal sign language involving his whole body to convey the words he cannot verbally express. He excitedly points at a map of the world covered with black marker tracing his various routes. He is eager to show pictures, meticulously labeled and dated, chronicling the various cities and towns where he has stayed, and encourages people he meets to share well-wishes in a journal. A scrapbook filled with city seals, decals, and other mementos from the road further illustrates the scope of his travels.

Boston is ''a city of beauty and history,'' he said in his native Russian, in an interview conducted in writing.

Two years and 37 states ago, Alexeevich began his adventure, first hitting the roads of Europe, Morocco, and the Sahara Desert before flying to South America, where he rode through Colombia and then sailed to a number of Caribbean islands. A boat took him to Key West, Fla., where his trek on American soil began in the fall of 2001. He was forced to take a break last July to recover from a serious leg injury after an accident in Columbia, S.C.

His next destination? Alaska, by route of Canada.

This story ran on page B2 of the Boston Globe on 5/12/2003.
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