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I was born July 2, 1968, weighing 85 pounds, and
being 48 inches in length. Chronologically speaking, the age given to me
was that of eight years. Before that, I don't remember a thing about my
past, nor that of anyone else connected with my life at the time. Neither
mother nor father; brother or sisters; friends or relatives.
For it was on that summer's night that I climbed a tree, trying in earnest
to beat another boy my age to the top.
I won by grabbing onto the last branch, which turned out to be a live high-tension
wire. The prize was instant electrocution. 65,000 volts and 30 amps melted
the rubber off my sneakers, burned the clothes off my body, and bore holes
through my flesh. I fell 30 feet, crashing to the ground, and died that
night, only to be returned to my body. This night in July became the death
and life of me.
The result of the Accident was also total erasure
of everyone and everything I ever knew or learned. My mind was a complete
blank. The doctors patched me up as best they could, told my parents no
one to their knowledge had ever survived a jolt of that magnitude, and
braced them for the fact that life cover or not,
their son would be a drooling idiot the rest
of his life, never leaving the security of his wheelchair.
In short, it would be better to institutionalize me, as I would never know
My father was for this. My mother was not. My father
reminded my mother that she had just given birth several weeks earlier,
and did she really want to care for two babies. My mother told my father
that was why women's breasts came in pairs and where he could go. Her decision
I was taken home, where the living room was converted
into a care center. I learned to eat with my hands and pee in a coffee
can. For other bodily functions, I was carried into the bathroom. Mother
had twice the number of diapers to change, as I tried to keep pace with
my baby sister, Amy. With time and countless prayers from this woman who
was still a stranger to me, my brain eventually kicked back on to where
I could relearn the first eight years of my life at a rapid pace.
Soon, I was into therapy, falling down a lot and
getting back up. I worked on puzzles and origami for mind stimulation and
coordination. I ate much dirt and garnered many scraps and bruises. I took
my first baby steps along with Amy, and within four years, I divorced myself
from the confines of the wheelchair, going back to school and learning
how to ride a bicycle with training wheels.
The year was 1972. Richard Nixon was president of
the united States who took a trip to a mysterious, far-away land called
China, where the people all looked alike and dressed the same in blue or
gray caps and jackets. And their leader was a man whom they called
Chairman Mao Tse-Tung who took President Nixon on a little walk atop a
structure called The Great Wall that seemed to snake on forever through
It was fascinating to this wide-eyed, adventurous,
New England 12-year-old boy, who had to watch the historic meeting between
two great leaders as part of his homework assignment. The next day in school,
the question was asked by the sixth grade teacher, “What were your impressions,
When my turn came, I proudly stood up in the middle
of the room and beamed, “Someday, I want to ride my bike on top of the
Great Wall from one end to the other.”
My fellow students and teacher exploded into laughter.
I was taunted daily with many fights to come over having a dream that everyone
knew was absolutely impossible to achieve.
I asked my mother, “If I want to do something, then
how would I go about doing it?” She thought a moment, and replied,
“Just go out and ask the right people what you need. All they can do is
All they could do is say no… It would become
my motto for life.
I wrote to President Nixon and asked him if I could
ride my bicycle on top of the Great Wall of China and sleep in the towers
at night like the guards did thousands of years ago. When my father found
out he yelled at my mother for what HER SON had done, and sent me to my
room for embarrassing the family name.
Six months later, I received a package from the White House addressed to
“Master Kevin Foster,” which contained material on “Red China,” a polite
brush-off letter from the president and a photo of him and Mao shaking
hands.18 years later, shortly upon my arrival from China, I returned the
gesture with a photo of me cycling the Great Wall. I heard he got a kick
out of it.
My father took the package to work with him the
next day, beaming with pride at what HIS SON had done. That answer to my
letter became the fuel needed for the burning desire within my soul to
see the dream become a reality someday.
Over the next 15 years, I wandered through various
factory jobs, earning enough money to live on; to pay my bills, and to
feed the dream of one day becoming the first person to cycle the Great
Wall of China. Relationships didn't last long. Women wanted security, not
fantasy. Somehow, they always knew I would never totally settle down and
be content with a day in - day out, 7-3 job, with nights and weekends free
I spent many nights losing myself in a dark movie
theater or a well lit library, pouring over books on China and it's culture.
And then one day, I discovered the Holy Grail of
information that would allow me to cross the threshold from a dull, factory
existence to one filled with blazing, glorious, colorful fantasy. I had
discovered a small, insignificant note in a travel book on China that read,
“Skateboarding is now allowed on the Great Wall.”
I immediately headed for the Chinese Consulate in
New York City with this golden nugget and asked if this were true. The
man in the Cultural Exchange Department who became my closest ally, Li
Hong, answered quite casually, “Yes, as a matter of fact, it is.”
“Then if you allow four wheels on the Great Wall, will you now allow two?”
With introduction letters from Senator Christopher
Dodd, and the National Geographic Society, the Chinese government finally
gave me the long sought after permission I craved. Yes! I could now try
to become the first person to cycle atop the length of the Great Wall of
China. The year was 1986.
A man by the name of Charlie Litsky became my manager.
Sponsors soon joined in the dream. Cannondale bikes were the first to jump
on board, followed by Alpineaire Foods, Bell helmets, Oakley sunglasses,
and Reebok shoes. A total of 18 sponsors were needed to get the tour underway.
I continued to work at the factory cutting material for baseball caps.
When the weather permitted, I would cycle the 20 miles to work on some
new contraption called a mountain bike.
Everything was set for a go during the summer of
1987. I went on a training ride a week before leaving, and ended up with
a concussion and stitches as a result of being cut off by a truck on the
downhill, and slamming my head into it's side. I spent the next six weeks
in a dark room, losing everything I had trained for thus far.
My sponsors believed enough in this tour to stick
with me. I quit my job and moved out to California to train full time.
We would be set to go the following summer.
As I prepared for the Wall,
I needed a diversion, so I decided to enter the Guinness Book of World
Records. Another boyhood dream. But what record could I break? Studying
the book, I noticed that in a few months it would be the 85th anniversary
of the New York subway system, so I decided to head back East and spend
85 continuous hours in recognition of the event. Within a few hours of
my venture, I was nearly shot by a drug crazed New Yorker (as opposed to
a sober one), but I lasted through the ordeal, and while spending all that
time on the subway, actually beat the short time, by traveling the entire
system in 26 hours, 21 minutes, 08 seconds.
That record hadn't been broken in nearly 20 years and created National
attention that eventually propelled me into China and the Great Wall the
following year, thanks in large part to the generosity of a new sponsor, Air
China. Being creative is to bask in the Glory of God. I
am compelled to chase rainbows. I began this life with a shelf full of
dreams and an empty shelf of reality, and before I return Home, I wish
to reverse the situation. I think I've gotten a good start.
You're now about to enter my world. Welcome to it…
Copyright Kevin Foster 2000- 2005