Up for the challenge
Couple sets out to complete bike ride across the US
MARSHALL — In the summer of 1981, a 28-year old Steve Myhrberg of Glens Falls, New York set out on a cross-country bicycle trip with his wife Pat in celebration of their eight-year anniversary. The couple went on to make it through the first leg of the tour, which included a stop in Marshall to visit Steve’s brother Phil, but the pair ended up falling just short of their ultimate goal.
Now, 40 years later, the two are back on the road and eager to finish what they started.
“I wanted to do something that was challenging enough where I gave myself a 50/50 chance to finish,” said Myhrberg, sitting alongside his brother Phil’s family, including his wife Lisa and son Tanner. “I’m not there yet, so anything could happen, but I wanted to challenge myself — physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally. And it’s doing that.”
Myhrberg and his wife Pat began their cross-country trip by flying their bikes from New York to Portland, Oregon where the challenge officially began on July 17. After hopping on their bikes and traveling through Oregon, Wyoming and Montana, the couple made their way back to Marshall for an important stop to visit with Phil’s family. Along the way, Myhrberg had some lingering questions answered by some of the people he met during his travels.
“I wanted to see if that openness and that willingness to help a complete stranger, or extend yourself to a complete stranger was still there after 40 years,” said Myhrberg. “It’s still there. It’s alive, and it’s just as strong as it ever was.”
“My wife and I have some beautiful stories already from the people that we’ve met — complete strangers. One of them was (from) two young boys who kind of restored the faith that the youth is there and it’s vibrant,” said Myhrberg.
On an especially hot day in Wyoming with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees, the Myhrbergs stopped to rest at a park where they met a 10- and 11-year-old boy, who stopped to chat with them. After a brief conversation, the two quickly disappeared without saying goodbye, leaving the Myhrbergs to believe that the two were late for something. A little while later, the two boys returned with surprise for the couple.
“They came back within 15-20 minutes (and) they brought us each a bagged lunch,” Myhrberg said. “I don’t know what 10- or 11-year-old does that to a complete stranger now.”
“It’s those kind of things that really resonate that there’s a lot of good people in the world,” he added.
For Myhrberg, these types of interactions are oftentimes unique for bicyclists.
“We’re all used to riding bicycles, but when someone sees someone riding a bicycle with all of their gear on it they assume, rightfully probably, (that) they’re traveling. And so they open themselves up,” said Myhrberg. “I have a lot of people that just kind of walk up to me and they know I’m on a bicycle, and the first thing they’ll say is where are you coming from? Where are you going?”
One such encounter occurred with another bicyclist, who happened to be on a cross-country adventure of his own.
“I met a gentleman who’s riding his bicycle from Portland, Oregon to Boston as a fundraiser for ALS, which is a very unselfish thing to do,” said Myhrberg. He’s doing it with his spirit, and I mean this guy is just one big smile every time you meet him. You can tell in his heart that this is not a hardship. He’s enjoying every minute of it.”
All of the interactions so far on their journey have been eye-opening and reaffirmed what they’ve believed all along.
“It’s reinforced the fact that there’s so many beautiful people out there,” he said.
With their adventure far from complete, and unfinished business from four decades ago still fresh in their minds, Steve and Pat Myhrberg took off from Marshall earlier this week as they began the second leg of their tour, which will end in their home state of New York. Along the way, the couple is planning to make some additional stops in Michigan and Indiana to visit family.
Don’t expect a definitive end date, however, as the pair plans to take their time and enjoy wherever the trip may take them.
“It’s not like I planned to be home on a certain day, because I think when that happens it kind of pressures you into getting things done quickly. Because of my age, the weather, the road conditions and all of that, it’s so difficult when you’re on a bicycle to really determine how long it’s going to take you to do something,” said Myhrberg.