by Matthew Liedke staff writer
To most people, 5,300 miles would be a long journey in a motor vehicle, let alone pedaling tricycles.
But that’s just what Kent and Betsy Hering did, though, to raise money for a safe drinking water charity.
As an added bonus, the couple was able to see what is best in America, from the settings, to the food and especially the people.
The Herings’ journey by tricycle took place from April 5-July 31 last year, beginning in San Diego and extending through much of the southern United States and along the East Coast before ending in Bar Harbor, Maine.
The Bemidji couple already had experience with long-distance cycling; they took part in a ride dubbed the Underground Railroad from Mobile, Ala., to Niagra Falls, N.Y. in 2014.
“We learned a lot on that ride. One thing we found with riding with a group is trying to go the pace of the group took a bit of fun out of it for us and increased the chance of injury, so it was important for us to go on a route that allowed us to listen to our bodies,” Kent said. “So, that’s the way we did it, we would stop if we were tired, if we needed to take a day off we would do so.”
Planning for the long trek across the country began in November 2014. As part of their adventure, the Herings decided to raise money for safe drinking water through an organization called WaterAid. By the time spring closed in, the couple had titled their adventure the H2Odyssey and had a goal of raising $10,000 for the charity.
“We are doing this because one child dying of a waterborne disease is too many and one child dying every minute doesn’t have to happen. Together with your help we can change this,” said the Herings’ brochure they created.
WaterAid is an organization that works in 26 of the world’s poorest countries and helps communities set up and manage practical and sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene projects.
With a mission in mind, the Herings also had to develop a method for traveling across the country — and a route.
“We wanted to go on routes that were established by the Adventure Cycling Association. They screen all of the routes and try to find the safest ways where you can cycle,” Kent said. “They keep you out of these situations like where you get to a river crossing and the sign for a bridge might say ‘No cycling allowed.”
“We knew that we didn’t want to take just one of the routes from coast to coast, so we decided to start in San Diego and make it to the other corner of the country in Maine,” Betsy said. “We ended up utilizing five of their established routes. The key was always being able to keep our options open. Our goal was to enjoy ourselves.”
As part of their planning, the Herings also developed a way to allow both of them to keep from getting injured as well as becoming too fatigued. They played “Leapfrog.”
Betsy would ride in the morning until about noon while Kent would get a leisurely start to his morning and meet up with Betsy’s location using a truck. After breaking for lunch, the two would switch, with Betsy going ahead and setting up camp for the night while Kent would pedal.
The couple had prepared spots in advance to stop along the way and had an arrangement that if Kent didn’t get to a certain point by 6 p.m., Betsy would go back on the path and see where he was.
“It was necessary since we knew cell phone coverage wouldn’t always be reliable,” Kent said.
After months of planning, the couple packed up their truck and headed southwest from their home in Bemidji. After days of traveling through the western United States, the couple got to pedaling and eventually made their way through the Lone Star State.
“I got to finally experience a night ride in the desert in western Texas and it was beautiful,” Kent said. “As we kept riding, we liked to be spontaneous. We didn’t have a list of places where we wanted to go.”
“When we did get into town, though, we would always ask people about the best restaurant,” said Betsy. “We listened to people and I think the kindness from the people we met on the road was the best part.”
One woman in particular helped the couple on one of the more exhausting sections of their trip, according to Betsy.
“I was climbing this hill and this car came up behind me and a voice came out saying ‘You’re almost there, keep it up,’” Betsy said. “So at the top of the hill the lady driving the car came back with water, fruit and snacks for us. She said to us, ‘You’re crazy, but it’s a good kind of crazy.’”
“Looking back, we never met any bad people. For nearly four months, that’s pretty impressive,” Kent said. “We really saw a beautiful cross section of America from a people standpoint.”
Another noticeable was the food.
“We saw the cuisine change, like when we were riding by the crawfish farms in Louisiana. When I started seeing grits being served in places, I really knew I was in the South,” Betsy said. “It’s one of the things you take away, you start to see what makes the states. You see what makes Louisiana, Louisiana, you see what makes Maine, Maine.”
As for their favorite foods along the journey, Kent preferred the dishes served in Louisiana while Betsy enjoyed those Maine lobsters. The couple even were able to eat home-cooked meals, too, thanks to an organization called the Warm Showers Community.
“Warm Showers is where you open your home to fellow cyclists and they open their homes to you,” Betsy said. “We got to stay at some of those places and they were great. They also featured some really good cooks.”
As they closed in on Maine, Betsy described how many plants around them on their ride always seemed to be in bloom, “We were chasing spring.”
“As we went across the country, the overall feeling I came away with was just how big America is,” Kent said. “It takes a long time to drive across the United States, but when you’re pedaling it, you get that feeling even more.”
When they finally arrived in Bar Harbor, site of Acadia National Park, the couple decided to spend some time and ride in peace and quiet without having to worry about traffic signals.
“At the end of it all, we were pretty anxious to get back,” Betsy said. “The drive back was pretty peaceful and it just amazed me how many miles you cover in a day. There was certainly a lot to attend to when we got back, too.”
“In the beginning, we had to believe we could do it, and when we finished, we couldn’t believe that we did it,” Kent said.
The duo raised more than $10,000 and the couple plan on doing more rides in the future, albeit a bit shorter.
“We’re looking at the MS ride across Minnesota and are also planning for a week long ride in Colorado to raise money for children in India who were rescued from human trafficking.”
For more on Betsy and Kent’s
ride through the states, visit