Two Oak Harbor families pedaled into town Saturday amid cheers and applause, following a three-month, 4,000-mile bicycle trip across America.
Clark and Annemarie Schroeder and their children, Hannah, 17, Emily, 15, Ella, 13 and Noah, 11, along with Dan and Lesli Halvorson and their children, Jon Michael, 14, Sarah, 13, Lydia, 10, and Abraham, 8, left Yorktown, Va. on May 30.
“It’s hard to put into words,” said Clark Schroeder. “It was really hard, really challenging, but such a grand experience.”
“It was beyond my expectations,” Lesli Halvorson said. “I didn’t think I could do it. And then every time we went over a pass, it was such a sense of accomplishment.”
A welcoming party waited at Deception Pass Bridge to cheer them on the last few miles of their journey.
“This is a huge accomplishment, it’s just crazy and really cool,” said Emily Huffer, 15, a longtime friend of the families. “They will always remember this trip.”
“I’m really proud of these folks,” said Richard Haines, who was at Joseph Whidbey State Park for a picnic to celebrate the end of the journey. “The kids have learned principles that will last them the rest of their lives, that no task is too big.”
The trip was not without its difficulties. Searing heat in the Midwest meant traveling several days in temperatures above 105 degrees. On the flip side of that, they didn’t encounter a lot of rain, said Clark. They lost count of the number of flat tires the group had and they were fortunate not to experience too many breakdowns. But those were the times that proved to be the most inspirational.
“We had a breakdown outside of Kettle Falls, Wash., and there were no bike shops within 70 miles,” Clark said. “A man offered us a ride there and back to get the bike fixed. It was so humbling.
“That’s probably my biggest memory,” he continued. “The generosity and hospitality of people.”
“I think for all of us the best part of this was meeting so many neat people,” agreed Lesli. “You stop and talk to them and you learn so much about generosity and kindness.”
As people exchanged hugs and began catching up on three months’ worth of chat, life already seemed to be moving toward normalcy. The kids especially were looking forward to things they hadn’t had in a while.
“I want a good, cooked breakfast,” said Lydia Halvorson.
“I’m kind of sad it’s over, but I’m happy to be done,” said Emily Schroeder. “I’m looking forward to sleeping in.”