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Shoppman disagrees. He says that when his predecessors encountered danger -- like stumbling into a war in East Pakistan -- it was because they didn't know what they were getting themselves into. "When we started, there were certain countries we thought were too dangerous," he says. "But with more research, people have been to Afghanistan and Iran and Pakistan and the Sudan, and it's not as bad as it's made out to be in our media. Certainly, there are bad parts."
As the trip's route evolved, the Steves made plans to climb the Himalayas, visit a Vietnamese orphanage for children disfigured from Agent Orange, trek through rainforests and spotlight the work of aid organizations. They had always wanted their trip to have an educational component that would promote travel for young people. Aside from satisfying their own curiosity, that was really what the expedition was all about. Shoppman spouts statistics about the low percentage of Americans with passports, the even lower percentage who actually use them, and the minuscule numbers of people who venture outside tourist destinations. At the very least, he thought, The World by Road could visit schools to talk about their experience when they got back. But -- as has been the case with much of this project -- something better emerged.
Instead of just talking about the trip after the fact, The World by Road will bring its adventures directly into the classrooms of the Denver Center for International Studies, a magnet program of the Denver Public Schools.
At a recent DCIS assembly, the school's community-relations director, Kate Farmer, introduced the adventurers to the school's students. In her brilliant British accent, she told the kids they were about to meet three people who have turned what sounds impossible into reality.
"And they've chosen DCIS as the first school in the world to collaborate with," she said as the auditorium erupted with applause and whoop whoops.
"First school in the world!" one student exclaimed. "Go, DCIS!"
A video began to play over a large projection screen, white letters against a black backdrop: "We are driving around the worldand we are inviting DCIS to join the adventure." Clips of bungee jumping, mountain climbing and exotic backdrops yielded "oohs" and "aahs" from the audience. As soon as the movie stopped, a figure ran across the stage and jumped into a clumsy but successful roundoff. Shoppman introduced himself along with Bouey and Batcheler.
"I was more nervous about this assembly than how three Americans named Steve, Steve and Duane are going to cross the Sudan border in a Toyota," Bouey joked shyly.
The team explained that they are going to film a day in the life of one DCIS student, then do the same with children around the world. They're going to set up a forum for DCIS students to ask them questions live via the Internet. Over the summer, they'll provide raw video for a media-studies extracurricular program that DCIS is starting with public television's Deproduction group. Eventually, the goal is to provide resources to students and educators around the country.
Since that assembly, the team has been back to the school to meet with students and teachers. On their last visit, Bouey and Shoppman noticed a copy of Who Needs a Road? sitting on a student's desk. A teacher explained that the kids are taking turns reading the book aloud for one half hour every day in class. "Now we've inspired these kids to become more interested in traveling," Bouey says. "Harold would really probably get a kick out of this."
The Steves have been waiting for the right time to contact Stephens and let him in on their plans. Maybe one intrepid dreamer will have room for two more under his wing. These adventure hounds are gearing up for the quest of their lives: driving across six continents and 100 countries in two years.