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Bicycle Ambassador Program

Tandem Team Encourages Biking

Nothing should stop a person from commuting to work, or across a state, at any time of year, agree Robin and Ed Hildenbrand of Loveland. (Robin is a Bicycle Ambassador.)

The two cycled on a tandem bike almost 3,000 miles from March 2 to May 9.

They call their tandem a marriage counselor, and it gave them wheels from Los Angeles to Florida through a total of about 60 towns.

The two advocate for making exercise part of a commute to work, or to the grocery store, or to visit friends.

Robin and Ed Hildenbrand started their journey in California and biked through towns with fewer than 500 people. The couple used maps by Adventure Cycling, which give routes and information about particular cities to bicyclists.

They traveled with a kangaroo bag in front, pannier bags on the sides and a trailer behind. They even had a cooler to bring along sandwiches and cold drinks.

“You think, ‘wow it’s a long way,’ but really if you can ride a bicycle you can do this,” Ed Hildenbrand said.

The pair discovered a view of the world, and of hospitable people, that they wouldn’t have had if they were commuting by car and staying in hotels.

When they went through a narrow tunnel without a shoulder, some guys in Pinzgauer all-terrain vehicles stopped to help and blocked both sides of the tunnel while the couple powered through.

At a Wal-Mart once, a woman came up who said she has a tandem and wanted to know more about them. They ended up cutting their ride short, having dinner with her and spending the night at her house.

“The ride is important, but the most important aspect is the people you meet,” Ed said.

“That’s what we found,” Robin added. “We talked to people at the convenience stores and this

20-year-old, who had just hiked the Appalachian mountains, said, ‘Oh my gosh, what you’re doing is a lot harder.”

The pair camped in tents and slept in hotels when they could find a cheap one. They learned that many campgrounds don’t have tent camping anymore, or it’s almost as expensive as RV camping and about the same price sometimes as staying in a hotel.

They couple also partook of warmshowers.org, a website for cyclists like “Couch Surfing,” where hosts register their homes as available for overnight stays to commuting bicyclists.

In Apache Junction, Ariz., they were having trouble with their bike so their host picked them up, brought them to a bike shop, and then took them to dinner.

The invaluable tips they learned along the way included to bring dehydrated food instead of canned (lighter) and Clorox wipes to wash up. They started understanding that if they saw a water tower, a town couldn’t be far off.

In Yucca Valley, Calif., they saw a home with a whole backyard made into an old Western scene. The owner spotted them and invited them to take a tour of the miniature horses, horse-drawn carriages, and saloon and shop facades.

“Another thing you can do on a bicycle that you can’t do in the car is enjoy the scenery more,” Robin said.

“Texas is known for bluebonnets; the Texas state flower. Everyone knows of them.” But what most people don’t realize since they only see the flowers from the car, is that the bluebonnets have a wonderful fragrance.

Robin and Ed got stuck in the Pensacola, Fla., storm for three days. A portion of the Scenic Highway collapsed in the flooding so they rerouted.

“We had just gone through the Loveland flood in September so we were sad witnessing it again,” Robin said. But they noticed a drastic difference in how the cities reacted to the flood. While Loveland had a recovery center running within hours of the flood, Pensacola appeared to drag its feet.

“Northern Colorado is second to none as far as cycling goes,” they said. The quality of roads, roads with a shoulder, bike lanes and trails beat a lot of the countryside that the couple traversed.

“We’ve got the bike lanes, the trail system, a number where cyclists can report debris on the road and our city is wonderful about following up the next day. And we have a lot of cycling events to promote cycling,” Robin said.

This post is an excerpt from a story that ran in the June 19, 2014, Loveland Reporter-Herald. Contact Reporter-Herald Staff Writer Jessica Benes at 970-669-5050 ext. 530 or jbenes@reporter-herald.com.

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