People we meet along the way


“We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken.”
Fydor Dostoyevsky, Russian novelist (1821-1881)

One of the pleasures of long-distance bicycling is meeting kindred spirits along the road.
Sometimes, especially if the riders are traveling in opposite directions, the encounters will be brief: an exchange of information on terrain and weather and what to expect down the highway.
Other times, the encounters might lead to a period of transitory companionship: traveling the road together for a time, sharing meals and accommodations and farewell talk about perhaps meeting again for a another ride.
Such was the encounter at the end of August with Bill Rouzer, from the Napa Valley in California.

Bill Rouzer at the end of his cross-country journey

Bill was traveling across the United States from Portland, Ore., to Yorktown, Va. He had decided to use the Katy Trail, a 225-mile-long state park that formerly was a railroad right-of-way, to cross Missouri to St. Louis. I and a cycling friend, Dean Wisleder of Springfield, Ill., were traveling the Katy Trail from its western terminus in Clinton, Mo., to St. Charles, a St. Louis suburb that serves as the trail’s eastern end.
During our first day out of Clinton on Aug. 29, Dean and I stopped in Sedalia at a Woods Supermarket for a deli lunch. After lunch, as we were starting to roll out of the supermarket parking lot, along came Bill, a man of our vintage, his Waterford touring bike fully loaded and set up for a long journey. Obviously a kindred spirit.
As Dostoyevsky noted in Crime and Punishment: “We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken.”
Some words of introduction were spoken, and we found that Bill was headed our way. So we decided to travel together.
We finished that day’s riding — about 65 miles — in Pilot Grove, where we all stayed at a bed and breakfast run by a delightful lady, a retired schoolteacher, named Dolores Stegner, who knew we were coming and had baked a peach pie for us.
We rode together the next day to Hartsburg, where again we shared lodging and a meal, at the Big Muddy Tavern. On the third day of our road-bred friendship, we rode to Hermann, where we scrambled to find a place to stay as leaden clouds threatened to dump tons of water at any moment. On the recommendation of a local bike shop, we ended up at the Harbor Haus Inn atop a hill overlooking the Missouri River.

Bill and Dean at Cooper's Landing on the Katy Trail

The next day, after a German meal the previous evening at a hilltop winery and a hearty breakfast at the Sharp Corner Tavern as rain pelted Market Street outside, it was time for farewells. Bill stayed on in Hermann for a day or two to tend to the chores of long-distance bicycle travel: laundry, bike maintenance, e-mail. Dean and I, in a misty drizzle, set out for St. Charles.
I kept up with the progress of Bill’s cross-country trip by reading his blog, Bill’s 2nd Big Adventure, actually written by his daughter, Patti, with notes provided by Bill.
Bill’s second big adventure, so dubbed because this was his second trip by bicycle across the United States, is now finished. He got to Yorktown, Va., on Oct. 7, took a train to Martinez, Calif., and then rode another 20 miles or so on his bike to his home.

Jim and Dean riding the Katy Trail, in a photograph shot by Bill

“When I asked Dad about his most memorable moment, he said there were many,” daughter Patti wrote on his blog. “Memories can be positive or negative. On the negative side, he remembers the dog attacks, the thunderstorms, SUVs driving too close, and strong winds. On the positive side, he remembers the people he met and saw along the way like his brother, Jack, and his sister-in-law, Joy, ice cream on a hot day, and the glorious way of ending the trip by riding into D.C. in the rain.”
I was gratified to ride a part of the way with Bill, share a small piece of his “2nd Big Adventure,” and to be “one of the people he met and saw along the way.”

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5 Comments

Filed under Americana, Cycling across America, Journeys, Travels

5 responses to “People we meet along the way

  1. I love the Dostoevsky references. And I love the theme of this. Really well written, made me smile.

  2. Nice post! Like your bike.
    Love to ride bikes and have some adventure trips and meet different kind of people in the places that you visit.

  3. John Vandevelde

    Great piece. You captured so well the experience that makes these journeys so enjoyable–pleasant surprises and easy bonds among kindred spirits.

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