They meander through our backyard, making friends along the way.
Six years ago, Ron Dakotah brought his horse-drawn wagon from his home in Idaho to a horse auction in Turlock and spent a couple of weeks in the country east of Modesto before heading home.
Three years ago, a group of 20-somethings from an organization called Pick Up America grabbed the litter left along the roads by locals and tourists alike.
And this week, Kevin Holzmacher of Long Island, N.Y., rolled through on his bicycle with trailer in tow and dog Daisy at times out in front, helping him take the hills.
I came upon him on Highway 120-108 east of Knights Ferry on Tuesday. The 28-year-old told me he hit the road last summer and is loving every minute of it.
“It’s just lots of fun meeting some really good people,” Holzmacher said.
His dream began in 2012. After four years in the Navy and then working civilian jobs, he traveled to Florida with some friends. When the friends decided to head home, Holzmacher opted to stay a bit longer. And when it came time for him to return to New York as well, he decided to make the trip by bicycle.
“When I got to Virginia, it just hit me how far I’d gone and what I’d done,” he said.
He realized he was hooked on two-wheeled travel and the freedom it brings, deciding his next trip would take him coast to coast. He saved for two years and, last summer, sold his Jeep to finance his time on the open road and under the stars. But he also felt his trip should stand for something, so he created AdventureAthletes.org, a website encouraging people to donate to the Wounded Warrior Project and TeamFox, actor Michael J. Fox’s foundation for Parkinson’s disease research. He’s raised about $4,000 to date.
“I don’t see any of the money,” he said. “When you go to my web page, you click on one or the other, and it takes you directly to their websites. For me, it’s about awareness.”
Holzmacher has no itinerary. He’s in no hurry, satisfied if he covers 30 miles a day, or none. Home is wherever.
“I have a no-plan plan,” he said. His only expenses are food, campground fees and occasional bike repairs. Most nights, he sleeps in his tent, and Daisy in the trailer.
He left his home in New York on Sept. 1, beginning a route that took him south to Washington, D.C., through Virginia and Tennessee, then Arkansas and into Texas.
While in Texas, part of his trailer’s frame broke as he came into Pecan Gap, near Dallas. As he waited alongside the road, someone told him about the big fish fry in town that night. Moments later, a local police officer came along to see if he needed help. They chatted, and the officer loaded the bike, trailer and Daisy into his vehicle and drove them into town.
“He found me a place to stay, and found an aluminum welder, and I got to the fish fry that night,” Holzmacher said.
His trailer repaired, he rode on through New Mexico and Arizona into California, arriving Jan. 20 in San Diego for a monthlong visit with his naval officer brother and family. Then he began working his way north, through the Angeles National Forest and Sequoia National Park. He was camped near Yosemite when last week’s big storms hit.
“Yosemite is gorgeous,” Holzmacher said. “We built a 7-foot snowman.”
Along the way, he met others who were touring on bikes, and they’d ride together for a spell. He’d join other campers in the campgrounds – when he can find one that allows pets. Many folks offer a place to stay overnight, a hot meal or food for the road. He also met a man who gave him a CIA pin for his hat.
Other times, he’s alone, with his harmonica to break the silence and Daisy for company.
“She’s the star of the show,” Holzmacher said. Once in a while, she’ll ride, but mostly she prefers to be out front or jogging alongside his bike. “She has run roughly 3,000 miles, and at the end of the day, she has more energy left then I do.”
He spent Monday night near Lake Don Pedro and Tuesday night in Oakdale, visiting the library to catch up on email before camping out east of town.
His goal? To reach San Francisco by Saturday or Sunday, then head north to Oregon and the Pacific Northwest before starting east toward home. Whenever.
“I’m not on any kind of schedule,” he said.
None whatsoever. There’s still too much of America to see, too many more people to meet, and to remind people that wounded warriors and Parkinson’s sufferers can use some help.