Vol. 29, No. 65          Saturday, June 18, 1988

Pedaling Across the U. S.
Deaf bikers ride off 'to see the real America'

by Loralee Saxon

Although he's been chased by dogs and "nitwit" drivers, Daniel Brubaker, 23, looked the picture of health this week when he dropped by Olathe to visit his family midway through a coast-to-coast bicycle trip.

Brubaker, son of Richard and Joan Brubaker, is traveling with Daniel Smith, Kansas City, Kansas, a fellow student at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC.

"So far, we love every moment of our trip," Brubaker said Friday. "Never a dull moment! People have been real nice - especially country folks."

Brubaker wrote his comments on a note pad. Because he and Smith are deaf, they have carried note pads throughout their journey for communication. The two men said they ahve had no problems; most people have been friendly and helpful.

"We wanted to see the real America after our friends had done so in the past two years," Brubaker said. "We left Yorktown, VA on May 15. We've logged more than 1,800 miles in 28 days since then."

Brubaker and Smith have taken advantage of their sightseeing opportunities. They've visited Williamsburg, Jamestown, Monticello, the Kentucky School for the Deaf, Abraham Lincoln's birthplace and the Missouri State Capitol.

During the five weeks they plan to visit Royal Gorge in Colorado, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and British Columbia, Canada, en route to Astoria, Oregon, their final destination.

Mostly they've camped out along the way, accepting shelter from friendly strangers in some strange places: in a restaurant, department store, gas station, old white school house, farm machinery sales lot, churches and several houses, a firehouse and in a funeral home next to two hearses.

They earned the money for their trip by working during the school year. They spent $1,600 each for traveling gear and the bikes, royal blue '87 Specialized Rock Hoppers. Expenses were budgeted at $1,500 each, 75 percent food and Gatorade, 20 percent camping and 5 percent souvenirs and postcards.

One of their souvenirs was free - the bicycle-glove pattern suntans on the backs of their hands.

"They (gloves) help reduce the impact of gravel and pavement on the hands," Brubaker explained. "It helps. Often, they get numb. At first, it was difficult to write, brush my teeth or use a nail clipper. I still can't say the letter 'R' with my right hand."

The two cyclists average 60 to 80 miles a day, depending upon the terrain. To get in shape, they practiced pedaling around the track at Gallaudet for a month and took a 44-mile day trip to Mt. Vernon. Their worst day was in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, where they pedaled 3 or 4 mph uphill.

"People ask us where we came from or where we are heading," Smith said. "Their reactions are, 'Oh, my, that's a long way.' Some people feel that they couldn't do the same thing. But once you bike every day, you become used to it."

It hasn't been all roses for Smith, according to Brubaker. He's been chased by a pony and dogs, including a doberman that grabbed the pack strapped to his rear bicycle wheel and wouldn't let go.

Both men were chased by a ferocious chihuahua, and said the coal trucks in Kentucky were the pits, along with the "nitwit drivers" in all states. On the plus side was their experience with the "cookie lady" in Afton, Virginia.

"She's really June Curry," Brubaker said. "She has been a hostess to approximately 4,000 to 5,000 bicyclists since 1976. Her house is filled with postcards, newspaper clippings everywhere on the walls and scrapbooks. Dozens of photo album. There was plenty of food to help ourselves to.

"I asked her why she does it - still didn't get an answer. She's 67 and much like a grandmother. We slept overnight. Next day, she made us make sandwiches and take lots of goodies before leaving."

Monday, Brubaker pedaled into Olathe to see his family and surprised Vera Brubaker, his grandmother, in the middle of a game of solitaire.

"He got here Monday night and we talked and talked till late," she said, signing. "I am proud of him. He is brave to bicycle from Virginia to Olathe."

Friday, after a few days rest and visit, the two cyclists waved goodbye to family and friends and started on the second half of their journey. They expect to reach Astoria in five weeks.

"We are really proud of our son's accomplishment," Richard Brubaker said. "I think it's a great opportunity for them to see our country and meet many friendly people."


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