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Phil and Cynthia

We're On an Epic Journey Across the U.S. to Raise Money for Clean Water for Kids in Homabay, Kenya

The project will drill borehole wells at Rawinji and St Charles Kauko Primary Schools to serve the students and the surrounding communities and improve sanitation in the two schools by providing new toilets and hand wash areas.


On May 21, 2022, we left our very comfortable home in Alameda CA and set out on what for us would be a multi-month, epic adventure. Our plan was for me, Phil Holt, to pedal my bike more than 4,000 miles from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. My incredibly wonderful wife, Cynthia, would drive a small motor home to support me.

The purpose of this challenging endeavor would be to satisfy our continuing need, which had lay dormant for too long, for an occasional, more than average, adventure.

Another important goal would be to raise money for a nonprofit organization that would help solve a crucial community service need in a region where the resources for dealing with the need were not readily available.

As a former Navy SEAL (BUD/S Training Class 47E: UDT 22), I knew I had the mental fortitude for this ride. But would my 76-year-old body, with its arthritic joints, endure? There was only one way to find out. Cynthia and I decided that if we were going to do this, we needed to do it while we are still young.

And so, the ride began. There have been hellish days, heavenly days and everything in between. But as of this writing (September 28, 2022) we are extremely pleased, actually thrilled, to report that we have reached our final destination for this very long ride: Portland, Maine. During the past 4 months I have pedaled 4,331 miles (standard bike – absolutely no electric assist for this kid!).

However, it’s not yet “mission accomplished”. The most important part of this effort is to generate donations for the Rotary sponsored Homabay, Kenya, clean water project. And so, let the fundraising begin.

All money raised will go toward the Homabay project (and none toward the expenses of our bike journey).

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Leaving Portland
Arriving in Maine
Phil and Bike

The General Problem

“Water is Life”. Obviously, this is not a hyperbolic statement. More and more places in the world are experiencing crisis-level forms of clean water poverty. It is estimated that 1.1 billion people do not have reasonable access to consumable water, free of harmful contaminants. A much more disturbing fact is that more than ten million people die annually from water borne illnesses. Ninety percent of these preventable deaths are children less than 5 years old. In addition to this tragic outcome, another element to this problem is that millions of people miss education and other opportunities because they have to spend so much time each day searching for and hauling water, often from distant sources. And in many places this lost opportunity falls primarily on women and girls because they are often tasked with keeping their families supplied with water.

The Specific Problem

After considerable research Cynthia and I have decided to support a clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) project in Africa. It has all the elements we were looking for: a very experienced, highly credible nonprofit sponsor (Rotary Club); local input, buy-in and ongoing support; a realistic, well-thought-out, cost-effective plan and budget; accountability; transparency; and sustainability.

The project location is at two primary schools with a total student body of about 1,400 boys & girls (about 650 girls & 750 boys) in the village of Homabay, Kenya. The schools have only 4 crude pit toilets and no nearby handwashing facilities. Besides benefitting the schools the project will also make clean water available for the surrounding communities of several thousand residents. See Project Summary (PDF)

General solutions:

There are several viable solutions to water contamination problems, such as: filtration (membrane, ceramic, bio-sand, personal water straws, etc.); chlorination; rain water harvesting; desalination; waste water recycling, well-drilling, etc., depending on the local conditions.

Project specific solution:

After diligent research, including geological testing and local input it has been decided that, for this specific project, borehole drilling and the construction of several improved toilet facilities and hand washing stations would be the optimal solution, plus ongoing training regarding sanitation and hygiene.

Schematic Solar Well

The Ride

Our planned route has taken us zig-zagging across the mostly rural parts of the northern states. The plan included taking about 2 days off per week for us to spend some time together and for me to try to keep up with my business back home (thank you to my team for helping to keep things on an even keel). Upon reaching our final destination of Portland, Maine, in about four months, we will have traveled about 4,200 miles. I’ve had 30 mile days and 100+ days (average 58) depending on many factors.

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Lake and Forest
Fog over lake

About Us

Phil and Cynthia in Hoodies

Cynthia was brought up in an upscale San Francisco Bay Area community and graduated from a notable, all-girls boarding “finishing school”. But she ended up far from finished! She had a thirst for adventure, sometimes extreme, which couldn’t be quenched in her home environs. So she spent 7 years in Hawaii and then 18 years in Alaska.

I was brought up in upstate New York, as far north in the state as you can go. I spent much of my younger years in and on its rivers: the St. Lawrence and its tributaries. I got very comfortable in those waters. I got certified as a scuba diver, eventually joined the Navy and earned my position as a SEAL (BUD/S 47E, UDT 22, Apollo Space Capsule Recovery Unit). After being honorably discharged I decided that an appropriate career for a former Navy “frogman” would be commercial diving — construction, maintenance and repair of underwater infrastructure (petroleum platforms, pipelines, power cables, dams, docks, bridges, ships, etc., etc.), which I did for 18 years.

Early in that career I was doing diving work in Los Angeles Harbor. While there in southern California I was attacked by a mountain lion. It wasn’t a traumatic as you might imagine, but I spent 3.5 hours in the emergency room waiting to be treated, while watching a parade of human tragedy coming and going (stabbings, gunshot wounds, beatings, accidents, etc.). I decided I needed to get out of the big city – the further the better.

Phil by RV

Since I was a kid hearing an aunt share her stories about having been a “bush nurse” in Alaska, I had a fascination for that frontier. And as I heard later in my diving career, if you developed a reputation as an effective diver in Alaska’s notoriously challenging and dangerous Cook Inlet (zero visibility and extreme tidal currents), you would never have to look for work. The word was you would get calls from all over the world (which turned out to be true for me – I worked in many countries).

And so I pursued and landed a contract in Alaska. After about a year I decided to buy an airplane (because of its huge size and lack of roads, Alaska has more private pilots per capita than anywhere else in the world). And then I thought: OK, I own an airplane. I should probably learn how to fly one! And so I wisely decided to go to a flight school. Managing this flight school was this gorgeous woman: a pilot, skydiver, advanced scuba diver, etc. She was fearless. My kind of woman. I was in awe. But she was juggling 5 boyfriends: a commercial pilot, an Olympic skier, a Norwegian petroleum engineer, etc. As much as I wanted to ask her out on a date, I thought there was no chance. It would be a humiliating waste of time. But not long after, to my shock, she asked me out. She had heard that I had been a Navy SEAL and that fascinated her. Our first date was fabulous and we’ve now been together for 39 wonderful, harmonious years and have shared many adventures in several countries.

Although we live modestly by US standards, we know that compared to most people in the world, we are very fortunate. But we have not taken our privileged life for granted. In fact we have always felt the responsibility to give back, and it has been our honor to donate thousands of hours of our time serving several nonprofit community service organizations over the years. The trans-America adventure we are on now will be so much more meaningful if we can raise a significant amount of monetary donations toward the Homabay WASH project (PDF).

We would greatly appreciate your support for that much needed project.

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