When my father, Henry Walp, was 22 years of age in the summer of 1939, he traversed the country by bicycle. No stranger to adventure, he had already completed a stint in the Army in Oahu and was itchy to go west once again. Perhaps he missed the Pacific Ocean or perhaps he had a hankering to experience California. Whatever the reason, he found a bicycle he thought ride worthy for the trip – a one speed-pulled together a bed roll and tied it to the rear of the bicycle and headed west from Pittsburgh to San Francisco. He stashed whatever savings he had in his pocket and existed on several cans of beans to keep his energy in check. As night fell, he kept a look out for cemeteries because they usually had water and were safe, inconspicuous places for resting. And although he traveled on plenty of washboarded roads, he never had one flat tire. When he arrived in San Francisco on September 1st, the headlines in the newspaper announced that Germany had invaded Poland.
Because I was captivated by my father’s resilience (he knew if he wanted to get to the gold coast, cycling was his best option) I have always imagined attempting the same journey. And though I am now in my sixties, I am determined to tackle the cross- country trek this summer from the other direction. While I believe our journey will be easier – there are two of us meaning we can carry more, we have many more amenities (hydro flasks, rechargeable front and rear lights, waterproof panniers and a lightweight tent), we will alternate where we sleep (inside and under the stars) and we have lots of detailed maps to guide us, I am sure we will face our share of challenges. While the roads my father cycled had far fewer vehicles than today’s roads, over half of our travel will be on retrofitted railroad beds and the rest will be on the shoulders of two lane roads.
Shevonne and Pat