by April Scheinoha
Bill Pierce decided it was now or never. It was time to cross the 2,300-mile bicycle trip off of his bucket list.
After retiring in September from his latest job as an instructor of English as a Second Language, Pierce began planning the trip. “Your age is not a factor in this,” said Pierce. “The world is out there, and there’s a lot to learn about it.”
Pierce, 69, began his trip Feb. 6 in Matamoros, Mexico, and expects to finish the trip Sunday, May 7 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He noted he is part of a small group of bicyclists who have crossed the United States through its middle.
Pierce wanted to follow spring north. “It doesn’t mean I’ve always had spring,” he said. Pierce found himself bicycling two days in 93-degree heat in Texas. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it was spitting ice pellets and snow in Fergus Falls.
Earlier this week, Pierce spent two nights in Thief River Falls. While here, he tried the pizza at the Thief River Falls Eagles Club. The pizza was as delicious as advertised by the person who recommended it to him.
He also visited Digi-Key and Ralph Engelstad Arena. “I’ve never been to Thief River Falls before,” said Pierce, who had heard of the city in the past. He was one of the first customers of Digi-Key in the early 1970s. Pierce noted that any Canadian community would be happy to have REA there.
Pierce, a resident of Burlington, Ontario, Canada, felt at home in Thief River Falls. “It’s almost Canadian,” said Pierce, who noted hockey and baseball games were on TV at the Eagles Club. He added that he could walk to a bar half-a-mile from his home and encounter the same thing.
A trip of this magnitude may be daunting to some. However, Pierce has been down this road in the past – albeit on a different continent. In 1985 and 1986, he bicycled almost 15,000 miles in Europe. The avid bicyclist has also participated in The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa for 38 years.
As part of this trip, Pierce ideally travels about 19 miles per day and then stays two nights at a particular location before beginning the next leg of the journey. While here, he stayed at Quality Inn since Warm Showers hosts Glen and Darby Kajewski were out of town. Ironically, he encountered them north of Detroit Lakes as they were traveling south and he was on his way to Thief River Falls. After staying here, Pierce planned to stop in Karlstad.
“I’m following Highway 59,” said Pierce. “That was intentional. I’ve been kind of just getting the feel of small towns.”
Along the way, the former newspaper writer and freelance editor has been researching his book, “Riding into Springtime.” He’s asking people the question “What does springtime mean to you?”
Unexpectedly, Pierce is also devoting a portion of his book to differences between prosperous and dwindling towns. “The big question is, ‘What’s the difference?’” he said.
Pierce has already lined up an agent for his book, but there are no promises. He hopes to finish the book by Thanksgiving and have it available to readers in fall 2018. If it’s not published by a mainstream publisher, he will publish it online.
Pierce’s trip has garnered attention. He has been interviewed by newspapers and radio stations, including Pioneer 90.1, along the way. “I didn’t intend to be a minor celebrity, but it kind of turned out that way,” he said.
Pierce hopes his trip inspires other bicyclists. He said driving to and stopping in a city aren’t the same as seeing the country at 10 mph.
Pierce’s blog is available at www.ridingintospringtime.com.