It was the sixth and final night of sleeping in the tent in the backyard. By now all the adults had had enough and chose indoor accommodations. But for Sophie and I sleeping outside in the tent on a rainy night was far more appealing. We donned our night clothes and jackets, I grabbed my camera, Sophie tucked Purple Bear under her arm and we headed out. We walked carefully down the slick porch steps then across the soggy lawn to the tent.

Sophie slept in this tent six nights during her Christmas Vacation
Sophie and Purple Bear


I was nestled in my sleeping bag listening to the rain on the tent and my niece talking about her plans for 2013 when she surprisingly bounced the question back to me. What are you going to do in 2013? Well? Maybe 2013 should be my year of the “world trip”. Yes, it's time I do what I've been talking about for decades – see a little of the world. I'm certainly not getting younger and on bad days my body's as contrary as congress so what the hell am I waiting for?

A self portrait of Sophie and me
Charging up her glow-in-the-dark finger nail polish

Bicycling around the world appeared on my “to do list” initially in the early seventies. While pedaling my Schwinn Varsity around the corn fields of Indiana I would think about what countries I wanted to see and what gear I would need to carry. The dream was fueled by the writings of Ian Hibell, John Rakowski and by the National Geographic article on “Hemistour”. In 1972 Hemistour was one of the first treks from Alaska to Argentina by bicycle. By my senior year in high school I was serious about a “world trip”. For Christmas 1976 I received a down vest, a SVEA stove and a Teddy Bear from my high school sweetheart to take on my “world trip”. I don't like to collect “things”, in fact most everything I own sits in a 5×10 foot storage shed in Indiana, but after all these years I still have those magazine articles and that SVEA stove. (Just three years ago I donated the Teddy Bear.)

Sadly often dreams are sent to the back of the line when family and economic issues arise. I worked as many hours as I could teaching swimming and life guarding at the Y to finance my trip and my bank account was looking pretty good. As high school graduation approached, I firmed up plans for the journey and even found an older cyclist (20-somthing) from Ohio to join me on the first leg of the trip. But as my departure neared my mother became more upset with the idea of me taking a “world trip”. Safety was not her concern. I had already bicycled across the US twice and the first time she didn't even bother to learn what state I was starting in. Her issue was if I remained a student, i.e. attended college, she would continue to receive a check from the government. If I went on a “world trip” the checks would stop and she and my brother would in her words, “end up on the street”. Of course I didn't want my brother and mother to end up on the street just because of a bike trip. The only acceptable alternative I could offer her was my joining the Navy. When both my Y earnings and the government checks she received in my name were combined, my contribution to our family's meager income was substantial enough to qualify my mother as my dependent. She was delighted with the Navy option and soon began receiving a monthly check in the mail and no one ended up “on the street”. Unfortunately I didn't get to see much of the world, I was stationed in Chicago, San Diego and Portsmouth, Virginia.

1979 Solo Bike Tour from Portsmouth Naval Hospital Virginia to Northern Indiana

By the time I completed my Navy service the “world trip” had taken a back seat to education and career aspirations. I went to college, grad school and ultimately medical school. Then I spent a few more years in the Navy as a physician followed by private practice and before I knew it forty years had gone by. The high school sweetheart married (someone else), the magazine articles yellowed, Hibell was hit and killed while touring in Greece and Rakowski got old and passed on. Yet even after forty years I still have this dream conceived by a teenager in the Hoosier corn fields to take a “world trip” – and the stove is waiting.

(To be continued)


Categories: Biking, Travel

Tags: , , , , ,

16 replies

  1. I like the self portrait of you and Sophie. Being a grandpa is the best thing in the world.

  2. Tom, you might be interested to know that one of the very first persons to ride a bicycle around the world lived right here in my home town of Athens, Georgia. Fred Birchmore recently died at the age of 100 and his bicycle “Beucephalis” hangs in the Smithsonian. Fred wrote “Around the World On A Bicycle”, complete with hundreds of black and white photos, and it is a fascinating read, including his being stalked for days by a tiger as he rode through a jungle all the while fighting sleep depravation and malaria. Fred worked out every day at the Y, could do one armed push-ups and walk flights of stairs on his hands very late in life. A true American Adventurer!

  3. Tom! I like this idea! I was actually just thinking a bit harder about Camino possibilities and I’m not sure just how or if that can happen with graduation around the corner. HOWEVER, one of my growing goals is to spend more time outdoors, hiking, biking and the like, and you’re the King in that department. I’m ready to bring those adventures to an international stage, and if I end up in South America for a few months next year maybe you and Sue could be persuaded to come visit and explore?

    • Sunshine! That sounds like a good idea to me amigo. My trip plans are in the very early stages and therefore very flexible so keep me informed of where and when you are going and I’ll do the same. What months could you do the Camino? Also if you head south would that be before graduation or after? No worries just let us know. Don’t forget to study some this semester too between planning your travel itinerary. 🙂

      • I had a very, very brief thought of taking next fall semester off and graduating in may (otherwise I’m planning on finishing in december), but I’ll keep you posted on that. Otherwise, as of now, I intend to stay in the US until I graduate in dec., then spend spring of 2014 down south. Full plans are tentative and job-dependent for sure. That said, 2014 onward is basically an open door for me provided I manage to find some source of income to stay afloat on. Ah… life…

      • Sounds like a plan. Keep us in the loop, there’s many curves on the road of life.

  4. Great story, but it’s never too late!

  5. It really is never too late to achieve goals, as I just finished writing my first book, called Solitary Desire. Good luck on your life road!

  6. When the time comes, it’ll be the right time 🙂

  7. Good for you! Go. By all means…go…those long time dreams don’t die easy. They don’t come easy, either. Enjoy…

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