LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - With each push of the pedals, their bright yellow bike gains national attention and for good reason. The five-member Harrison family is the first team to travel across the nation on a tandem bike.
Bill, Amarins, 6-year-old Cheyenne, 4-year-old Jasmine and 3-year-old Robin left their home on August 1, 2009 on a 7,000 mile journey to explore, learn and live out their dream. "We're on an epic bicycle trip from the mountains of Eastern Tennessee to Fairbanks, Alaska," Bill said.
Although it might be easy to speculate that Bill was behind the plan , it was actually his wife Amarins who is behind the idea. "I always say my mind is very creative and for us, well for me, I felt like we needed to travel again," she said.
The couple met nearly a decade ago while taking in the sights of the Grand Canyon. Bill was visiting from Tennessee, and Amarins is from the Netherlands. "We'd been talking about going on a vacation to Alaska, because she's never seen it, and I've been a couple of times," Bill said.
But it was no longer just Bill and Amarins. "Once you put a family in the picture it becomes a little different," she said.
But for these gypsies at heart, a plane ticket or even a car was much too conventional "So we decided the bicycle. We ride the bicycle a whole lot. This way we get to show our kids at least 12 states of America," said Amarins.
Bill wouldn't have it any other way. "We've been in Texas for 35 days now, and we've been able to taste and touch and feel and smell the textures of Texas. It's been marvelous."
With pride, the oldest of the bright, blue-eyed girls keeps track of the where they've been, "Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia (through the north), South Carolina, Georgia (through the south), Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and next stop is going to be New Mexico, and then Arizona," Cheyenne smiles.
"That's going to be the toughest part of the journey because we're in to winter now and that's high altitude. And from there when we get out of New Mexico things should get a little easier we head for San Diego where we'll sit out the rest of the winter," Amarins explains.
From there they'll head north to Washington then catch a ferry to Canada and then onward to our nation's largest state. Jasmine says she's excited to get to Alaska, "We're going ice skating!"
The girls' mother says their entire trip is filled with new adventures, "We've been on a sail boat in the Atlantic, rode horses in Mississippi and we've been on a ranch here in Texas."
And for the young girls each new discovery is a learning tool, like the animals Jasmine has spotted, "We've seen armadillos. Real ones! We tried to catch them."
"They're experiencing it hands on and it's all kind of functional learning. Cheyenne, she's our oldest - she's 6, so she has to be in school. So, we are home schooling her. What we tech Cheyenne the little ones pick up as well. At least some of it, but I think they are learning a lot from this journey. But it's not the regular way," said Amarins.
Which for the Harrison family is okay because each mile behind them paves the road for another lesson in life. "The America we're seeing is totally different than the America we're seeing in the media. It's filled with millions marvelous people who have fed us, put us up, given us money, offered hospitality, helped us when we had flat tires or broken down. They do unheralded acts of kindness that people don't know about and it's marvelous," said Bill.
The Harrison family will make their way into Lubbock Saturday before continuing toward Clovis, New Mexico on Sunday. They expect to be in Fairbanks, AL next summer.
And if you're wondering where they sleep, the Harrisons stop at campgrounds or stay at homes of people they meet along the way.
The family has also set up a web site to highlight their stops, pictures and blogs about their incredible journey, (click here).
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