Cyclists Beat Path Across America

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By the time Rene and Jolanda Maasson pedaled into Strawberry, they'd seen 3,000 miles of America from the seats of their bicycles.

The couple rode out of Orlando, Fla. last September and they plan to ride into San Francisco, Calif. by mid-March.

"America offers excellent cycling," said Rene, who has spent much of the past eight years cycling the world with his wife, Jolanda. The couple have ridden from the Netherlands to Nepal, they've cycled throughout Europe and they've traveled across the barren regions of Iceland.

"That was a survival trip," Rene said. This trip, on the other hand, has been a relaxing one, he said, even though they arrived in the Rim country during one of the area's first major snow storms.

After stocking up on supplies in Payson, the Maasson's rode to Strawberry to find a place to camp, but with most of the campgrounds snowed in, they had to make other arrangements.

They spotted Karl Bialik shoveling snow and asked if they could camp in his yard for the night.

"For once I was speechless," Karl said. But he and his wife, Phyllis, said they were happy to let the Maasson's, who hail from the Netherlands, pitch their blizzard-proof tent under a pine tree in their yard.

The Maassons ride an average of 100 miles a day, five days a week.

"Some weeks we don't ride at all," Rene said.

During their four-month trip, the couple have had the opportunity to make a number of observations about rural America.

"People are more paranoid about safety here," Rene said, "but we have felt very safe. People have been wonderful to us."

When they're not cycling, the Maassons work part-time jobs and live "sober" lives while they sock away money for their next trip. They don't have children, cars or a house, so when they have enough money to hit the road, they simply quit their jobs, pack up and leave.

"The things I don't have, I don't worry about," Rene said. And the things they do have, they carry on their bikes. Normally, they carry enough food and water for two days on the road. Their on-the-road diet mainly consists of peanut butter and ramen noodles.

"I don't miss any (of the comforts of home)," Jolanda said.

After spending the night in the Bilak's yard and eating breakfast with their hosts, the Maassons packed up their tent, stocked up on supplies and headed for Flagstaff.

Once they reach San Francisco, the Maassons will fly to Japan and will spend the spring cycling throughout the Orient and into Mongolia. After that, Rene said, they may cycle from the southern tip of South America to Alaska, a trip that might bring them through the Rim country once again.

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