Andrew Hendrickson with Subway employees, from left, Kim Zweibohmer, Gene Geno, Samantha Lester and Destiny Grotegut.
A 20-year-old biking from Pendleton, Ore. to Orlando, Fla. stopped for breakfast in Decorah Tuesday morning to the delight of employees at the College Drive Subway.
Andrew Hendrickson began his 6,000-mile, six-month journey July 4. Not an avid cyclist before he started, he told Decorah Newspapers he simply wanted to travel independently, and doing it by bicycle was cheaper than any other alternative. He's not taking a direct route to the Sunshine state, where he's planning to attend a Christian Youth Conference at the end of the year, but instead will ride to Maine before heading south. On Tuesday he was making his way to Prairie du Chien, Wis.
"I really enjoyed talking to him. He was extremely interesting," Subway employee Destiny Grotegut said.
"It was really nice to see him and wish him luck. I accomplished part of my bucket list -- to meet someone before they became famous. He's going to become famous," employee Samantha Lester said.
Hendrickson said he stopped in Decorah because he was hungry and hadn't made himself breakfast as he normally does. He almost left Subway without anyone knowing what he was doing, but some of the staff started asking questions.
"They got all excited about it," he said.
Manager Kim Zweibohmer contacted Decorah Newspapers.
"People like that don't stop in Decorah every day," Zweibohmer said.
Hendrickson said he was interested to learn about Decorah's Norwegian heritage.
"My dad's family is originally from Minnesota, and my great-, great-, great-grandfather was a Norwegian immigrant," he said.
Hendrickson said he didn't really prepare for his bike trip.
"I'm semi-athletic, but I've never done any sort of training for anything," he said.
He's riding a Montague folding mountain bike with the "most road-style" treadless tires that will fit his rims. Representatives of the bike manufacturer contacted Hendrickson last week and said they'd provide any parts he might need during his cross-country trip and asked him to visit company headquarters in Cambridge, Mass. when he makes his way though that state.
Hendrickson is sticking to a riding regimen and strict budget. He covers 40 to 50 miles on "riding days" and takes the weekends off. He typically carries a week's worth of supplies and spends no more than $50 a week. His travel gear weighs about 80 pounds and includes a tent, camp stove and a camera with three lenses. He also has a smart phone.
When he's done with the day's ride, Hendrickson stays "wherever he finds a place." That's included a cemetery, the side of the road and city parks. Sometimes the people he meets invite him to stay in their homes.
The traveler said his parents have been supportive, although his mother is a "little concerned" about him.
"They know where I am every day," he said.
"Sometimes it's hard to believe how far I've traveled," said Hendrickson, who has logged 1,470 miles and has accepted rides for a total of 475 miles.
He said he's made several friends along the way and hasn't had any problems with people. His only scary moment was reaching a speed of 43 miles per hour on a busy road in Missoula, Mont. when he worried what would happen if he hit a bump.
Biking across the county "feels like the most natural thing in the world to be doing, but it does get lonely sometimes," Hendrickson said.
Hendrickson is posting updates on Facebook and is blogging about his experiences at wayfarerswonderings.com.
While the ride is keeping him in physical shape, Hendrickson began listening to podcasts from National Public Broadcasting because he was worried about getting enough mental stimulation.
"I wanted to keep my mind working as well as my body," he said.
Hendrickson hasn't made plans beyond the conference in Florida.
"I don't know what I'll do after the first of the year ... I don't even know how I'll get back to the Northwest," he said.