Friendships forged on the road


“I have found out there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.”
Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer Abroad, 1894

Ain’t that the truth!
A transcontinental journey by bicycle
can reveal a great deal about one’s traveling companions.
More than two months on America’s back roads and byways — experiencing the pains and pleasures of traversing deserts and mountains, forests and swamps; sharing the grocery shopping and cooking; pitching tents in seedy RV parks and rain-sodden campgrounds; riding into the teeth of a tropical storm; and exulting in the accomplishment of piloting fully loaded bicycles from one ocean to another — forges a bond among those who take part in the adventure.
We discover each other’s idiosyncrasies. I, for example, am known as a raucous snorer, so my tent was usually given a wide berth as we erected our temporary homes in nearly four dozen campsites last fall in our eastward progression from San Diego to St. Augustine, Fla.
Another rider became known for his troublesome bike, which twice suffered major breakdowns, and frequently was seen in various bits and pieces strewn on the pavement as its owner disassembled and reassembled it, trying to tweak its performance.
We soon learned that our fellow riders really didn’t care if we looked perpetually disheveled and wore the same set of riding togs and camp clothes day after day. Personal hygiene and variety of wardrobe are difficult to maintain when all your worldly needs for nine weeks are hauled on a bicycle.
And shyness about certain bodily needs is quickly abandoned. As one of our female riders famously remarked: “I’ve learned that on a cross-country bike trip you can apply Chamois Butt’r at a busy intersection, in broad daylight, with absolutely no shame.”
Friendships are formed with a group of special people — some of whom you may never see again, but will long remember.
One such friendship was with a rider from the Netherlands, Gerben Terpstra, who had to endure my snoring on several occasions when we shared a motel room. Gerben — who uses the name “Kevin” in the United States because Americans struggle with the Dutch pronunciation of Gerben — passed through Fort Worth last week with his wife, Hanneke, and we had a chance to renew our friendship.

Gerben and Hanneke Terpstra at Angelo's barbecue joint in Fort Worth. I don't know the guy in the middle

Gerben has a brother who is a physician in Phoenix, so he has been a frequent visitor to America. But on this trip, he wanted to show his wife part of the route we took by bicycle across the United States.
After a delay of three days in leaving Europe because of the cloud of volcanic ash emanating from Iceland, the Terpstras arrived at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport on Wednesday evening and spent Thursday exploring Fort Worth with me as guide.
From here, they drove to St. Francisville, La., on the Mississippi River and then will head west through Louisiana’s Cajun country and East Texas to Austin, one of our favorite rest stops on the bike trip. From Austin, they plan to drive through the Texas Hill Country, West Texas, New Mexico and Arizona on the way to Los Angeles for their return flight to Amsterdam.
The journey by car, I’m sure, will be memorable and enjoyable. But for Gerben it will probably pale in comparison to the crossing by bike.

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4 Comments

Filed under Cycling across America, Journeys, Travels

4 responses to “Friendships forged on the road

  1. Hey! I actually met some cycling Terpstras here in Phoenix…wonder if they’re related…
    Another fun post…thank you!

    • Sheryl,
      Gerben has a brother in Phoenix who’s a gerontologist. I don’t know if he cycles. Gerben and some others in our party stayed at the brother’s house during our two nights in the Phoenix area. The rest of us went on to a motel in Tempe to do laundry and bike maintenance. So I didn’t get to meet the brother.
      Thanks for reading the blog.
      Jim

  2. Todd S.

    Glad to hear you are keeping in touch with your riding partners. That’s the best kind of memory.

  3. Kevin (Gerben)

    Just to inform you that the cycling Terpstra’s were not he ones that Sheryl met, unless a good number of years ago.
    Although this blog is especially for cycling lovers, the trip by car through the US on backroads is wonderful as well. Highlights of the last week or so were Austin with its music and museums, and Silver City that we entered on the last day of its 5-day local cycle race , with 40 F and wet snow! Quite different from how it was at the time of the bike ride.

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