Seeing the country on two wheels

Saturday, August 29, 2009
Wanda Abele relaxes with Paul Supawa-nich, who stopped by during his cross-country bicycle trip. --Rusty Murry/Herald-Tribune

A bicycle journey of more than 2,200 miles that Paul Supawanich began in Berkeley, Calif., on July 25 came to rest, at least for a day, at the north Tucker Street home of Wanda Abele Tuesday afternoon.

Supawanich who just finished his Master's Degree in city planning began his odyssey after his internship with the city of San Francisco. He had five weeks to make the 2,700 miles to his hometown of Gibson City, Ill. before he has to back in San Francisco to begin his career as a transportation planner for the city by the bay.

Supawanich found his way to Abele's house by way of a friend of the Abele family who knew the young man was going to be in this area during his trek eastward. Wanda Abele said she "trusted the man without question" when he asked if she would take in a biker. Abele let the young man shower as she prepared stuffed pork loin, twice baked potatoes, broccoli, carrot salad and a dessert and drink. Supawanich said it would be his first home cooked meal in a long time.

Riding a 20 speed, racing style bike and pulling a third wheel trailer, Supawanich has been able to average almost 100 miles a day and covered 126 miles on his best day. He has climbed nearly 80,000 feet in elevation. "No matter what part of the country you're in there's going to be a unique challenge, he said. In California, it was the heat, in Nevada, the desolation of 100 miles between trees. "There've been no cake days," he said.

Though he has had no health problems besides daily fatigue, his equipment has had some minor problems. All three of his tires have been flat. He rides through the rain, but gets off the road during storms. He camps most nights, getting a meal ready and going through his daily check list in the dark. He has been trying to teach himself how to play the harmonica during some of his down time. "The hardest part has been waking up in the dark each morning and knowing I have to push on, instead of sleeping just a little longer."

Supawanich has enjoyed the scenery and meeting people along the way. His $45 a day budget lets him spend an occasional night in a motel with a soft bed and hot shower, and he spent one night with a friend in Colorado. He also had a truck come close to hitting him in Colorado, but he didn't think it was intentional. Someone threw something at him while he was in Kansas, but it didn't hit him.

From here, Supawanich is headed up to Clinton to ride the Katy Trail as far north and east as it goes. If he has time he's going to finish the ride into his home town, but if not a friend will take him the rest of the way. A brief stay there will see him on a plane and his bike on a train for the trip back to San Francisco and his new career.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: