One nation down, dozens to go for Spokane’s round-the-world cyclist, John Verd.
After pedaling out of town on June 3, Verd rode his mountain bike 3,635 miles, arriving in Washington, D.C., in mid-August.
“I’d have been in D.C. sooner, but I took a week off to party with some friends in Wisconsin,” he said in a telephone interview. He also parked the bike for two weeks in Chicago while working on a friend’s construction crew to bank some cash.
Last Sunday, he began the foreign leg of his tour with a flight to Lisbon, Portugal. The itinerary to date has him destined for France, Italy, Austria, Hungary and then into the Ukraine, Russia, Mongolia and China before flying to Japan.
The road has been kind to Verd.
“If there’s no campground where ever I am at the end of a day, people have been kind in providing a place, even if it’s in their yard,” he said.
“I stopped for directions to a campground off Highway 50 in West Virginia and a guy who looked like a hillbilly offered to buy me a beer,” Verd said. “He gave me directions to his friend’s house, so I rode three miles into the backwoods. I knocked on the door and they invite me in for dinner. Turns out he’s the state attorney general.”
Although the people in the Midwest get Verd’s highest marks for friendliness, North Dakota earned honors for friendly roads.
Traffic was so light on some stretches that crop dusters were landing their planes on the highway.
And the tailwinds were in his favor.
“One day, loaded with 100 pounds, I was hitting 32 mph for 5-mile stretches,” he said. “I’d sit up straight and gain another mile per hour.
“I went 140 miles one day, averaging 19.4 mph. That’s not bad on a fully loaded mountain bike. But later there were days with headwinds when I averaged only 8 mph.”
Verd planned to pare down his load for the rest of the trip, although he’s looking into buying a Global Positioning Unit for navigating through poorly mapped regions.
While riding through the United States, his “Pedal for Peace” mission found its way into several newspapers, six TV broadcasts and four radio programs, he said.
“After one interview, a long-haired guy stopped his pickup and asked if I was the guy he’d heard on the radio. Then he handed me $5. He said, ‘I think world peace is a great idea.”’
Verd survived unscathed from his journey’s most serious mishap - riding through detour signs on a highway construction project.
“I was cruising along when all of a sudden I was bogged down in a foot of freshly poured cement,” he said.
The crew that had just finished smoothing the concrete graciously hosed off the gunk before it could set up on Verd and his bike.
“I guess it goes without saying that I felt pretty stupid,” Verd said.
Jeremy Duke, 15, of St. Maries has won $250 for entering the biggest Idaho-caught largemouth bass in the Plano Big Bass Junior Championships. The bass, a 7.19-pounder, was caught off the Benewah bridge on May 13.
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