Bill Huckabee of Sweetwater is a retired executive and a serious bicycle rider. He rode around his neighborhood, covering 100 miles every week. Gradually he increased his mileage until he was biking 50 miles a day, going to nearby towns 25 or so miles away. One day while looking at the map he discovered that Lebanon, Kansas is known as the exact center of the country. Bill, who is 65 years old, made that his destination.
“I bought a touring bike and outfitted it with camping gear, tools, clothing, a pillow and other essentials and took off. Two weeks later I was at the geographic center of the contiguous United States. This was supposed to be my turning around point. I called my wife and told her I was not through with my ride, that I was gonna keep going. She asked me where I was going. I told her she would be the second person to know because I hadn’t made that decision yet.
“One evening I was studying the map and wondering how far am I going to go? There was a town called Fargo. I thought that solves how far I’m going to go. So I pedaled to Fargo, North Dakota. When I got there I knew that I would forever regret not going to the border of Canada. So I went to the Canadian border, almost straight up from Fargo. That was my turn around point but I took the long way home. I came back down to Grand Forks, North Dakota then headed east to Itasca State Park in Minnesota where the headwaters of the Mississippi river are located. Then I just followed the Mississippi down until I got to the northeast corner of Arkansas and than angled down to Dallas and on home to Sweetwater.”
He says anyone who takes a trip like this needs to be a good mechanic.
“I was self-contained. There were a couple of occasions where I didn’t see a town for 2 or 3 days and there was no cell phone service. Once I needed a tire and I called a big bike store and had the tire shipped to the next town on my route.”
Bill had 3 flats but repaired them with patch kits and a pump. Once when it was raining friends he met let him stay in their garage. He camped out more than half the time, sleeping in city, state or national parks, once a week he stayed in a motel.
“My best day of mileage was 90 miles. My longest day of being in the saddle, which means moving time, not break time or stopping to get a drink, was 8 hours and 41 minutes. Most of the ride that day was uphill somewhere in Missouri.”
He was gone 79 days, pedaled 4,000 miles and spent $4,000. His goal was to make 50 miles a day but he averaged 59 miles a day. He kept in touch with his wife by phone most every day. One of the most common questions he got was: are you by yourself?
“The favorite response I got after I said I was by myself was from a gentlemen who said, ‘you’re married, aren’t you?’”