Juneauites attending the Fourth of July parade this Sunday will have an opportunity to see something unique: a five-person, or "quint" bicycle, pedaled by the Pedouins, a family of five from Kentucky. Bill, his wife Amarins and their three daughters, Cheyenne, Jasmine and Robin (ages 7, 5 and 3 respectively), have been on a journey across the United States since leaving their home on August 1, 2009, with $300, a dream and the "yellow albatross," as Bill Pedouin refers to the bike.
"We're just blue collar rednecks that wanted to go see the continent and wanted to demonstrate living your dreams to our kids," Pedouin said. "We're not rich people; we could've saved a lifetime and probably never had enough to do the trip. We just decided that there were probably enough good folks in this country that would help us. We took a huge gamble and chance and it's just been a fabulous story unfolding as we've come across the country."
People have been helping them along the way, donating food, clothing, water bottles, places to pitch their tent and, sometimes, even hotel rooms. Pedouin said that it's rare that they have to ask for help.
"People just come up and say 'What are you doing?'" he said. "Because the bike is so huge, they just go bananas when they see it; they start asking questions, we start telling our story and they'll hand us a five or a ten or a twenty."
Pedouin said that the generosity of people has been overwhelming, and it hasn't ceased since they've come to Juneau. Tired and hungry after their first, long wet night at the Auke Rec campground (after which they relocated to Spruce Meadows RV Park) the family biked until they came to Donna's.
"We went in with very little money, but when we went to pay, someone had already paid for our meal. And then someone else gave us $40. And then Donna's owner gave us a $100 gift certificate to eat at the restaurant while we're here. Lemme tell ya, that's America."
The Pedouins have been enjoying Juneau and its hospitality very much; it's not often that they get layovers that are as long as this, but they're waiting for the ferry to Whittier. So far, other than exploring on the "quint," they've hiked West Glacier trail to the lookout and made some new friends - some who have invited them to participate in the parade, and others who have offered them a home to stay in for a few days. Pedouin said that experiencing nature and meeting new people have been the two highlights of their journey.
"To be meandering at 5-10 mph on the bike and seeing the foliage, the topography and the weather change - it's incredible," he said. "(The bike) is a classroom for the kids; the amazing value of nature as we've been traveling across the country has been mind-boggling. A very close second, and maybe a tie, has been the people. America really is an incredible melting pot of marvelous people. As we've traveled, we've met a lot of people from all walks of life, educational backgrounds and economic standards and they're all just good, giving people."
The plan for the Pedouins is to winter in Fairbanks, where they hope to find a house site or small hunting cabin and write a book about the first year of the journey. They plan to arrive in Fairbanks the second or third week of August, nearly a year to the date since the beginning of their life on the road.
And after that?
Pedouin said that any profits they make on their book beyond what they need for the family will go to paying off the mortgage of their friend Hal Stewart of Greenville, S.C. He is an AIDS counselor, and the family hopes that by helping him, they can affect a chain reaction of goodwill and generosity.
How do they plan on marketing the book?
"We've decided to buy an old school bus and fix it up, and we'll ride out and sell our books in the spring. Got to do the American dream, that entrepreneurial thing that makes America what it is, you know? You have hopes and dreams of making enough money to feed your kids, and hopefully to do more than that, so that's what we're hoping for."
For more information on the Pedouins, to leave them a message or to help them along on their journey, log on www.pedouin.org.
Tyler Preston can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.