Of the scores of tourists and commuters leaving the ferry terminal on the Seattle waterfront after crossing the Puget Sound, it was the couple with loaded bicycles who caught my attention.
I was riding my bike along bustling Alaskan Way to buy tickets at Safeco Field for an upcoming Mariners baseball game when I spotted them. They were waiting to cross the street when I pulled up and could tell they've been on the road for awhile — deeply tanned, slightly disheveled and very fit. I issued my standard greeting when I see bicycle travelers:
“Hi! Howya doin'? Need some help?”
They did. They had just crossed over from Bremerton and were looking for a bike shop. They had an address but no name.
We figured out their destination with the help of my Seattle Bicycle Map, which I gave them, and we got to talking. I couldn't wait to hear their story.
Gos and Lea were a couple of retirees from Belgium who had just completed a bicycle tour across the United States. He rode a Granville (Belgian) and she rode a Snel (Dutch). I was anxious to hear what they liked and didn't like.
Best and worst
Their favorite part? Colorado. They loved bicycling in the Rockies and seeing the snow-capped peaks. They also enjoyed bicycling through the Lolo Pass area of Idaho and Montana.
Their worst part? The Great Plains. Headwinds everyday. But they found the people of the Great Plains to be very friendly, and they appreciated the free camping in the city parks all along the way.
They met the Cookie Lady, June Curry of Afton, Virginia, and remembered her fondly. They visited her in early April and said they were the first ones to visit the Bike House this spring.
We rode toward their destination and then went our separate ways (a parting photograph taken in Pioneer Square turned out horribly out of focus). Later, I thought about how fulfilling it is to help bicycle travelers who need a little help and remembered all the people — not always bicyclists — who have lent a hand to me on my bicycle travels.
It's something I don't often get to do, but some people help bicyclists all the time. They're called Trail Angels by the Adventure Cycling Association, which is seeking nominations for this year's Bicycle Travel Awards.
So far, the association has received nominations for 6 Trail Angels, 10 Pacesetters and 2 bicycle shops. The deadline for nominations in Sept. 30.
Actually, there are four awards given out every year. Here's the rundown from the Adventure Cycling Association website:
The Pacesetter Bicycle Travel Award applauds the efforts of those who have contributed to the success of bicycle travel across the U.S. through extraordinary efforts. This could be creating an interconnected set of bicycle routes in a state, designing a touring-length rails-to-trails route, leading physically challenged youth on multi-day bike adventures, providing a national bicycle travel resource directory, and much more.
The June Curry Trail Angel Award acknowledges individuals or groups encountered during a bicycle tour who have time and again made cycling journeys easier.
The Sam Braxton Bicycle Shop Award honors bicycle shops that provide exemplary services to bicycle tourists.
The Adventure Cycling Volunteer of the Year Award is our way to say 'Thank you' to Adventure Cycling volunteers who are helping us inspire others to travel by bike.
If there's anyone who you've met in your bicycle travels that meet the qualifications above, just go to that link and nominate them for an award.