Photo and story by Luke Furman for The Beaver County Times
BRIGHTON TWP. — Dutch Ridge Road hardly feels like a terminus to anything except maybe for a drive home.
But for two cross-country tandem bicyclists who covered 4,300 miles and 10 states over two months, a house near the three-way intersection before Bradys Run Park marked a destination.
Bob, 57, and Brenda Fletcher, 56, a husband and wife duo, pulled their red tandem bike and equipment trailer into the driveway of Bob’s parents’ home around 10:30 a.m. Friday.
The celebratory reunion with Bob’s parents, Patricia and Robert, completed the couple’s goal of tandem biking across the United States, which has taken them two years and two attempts to accomplish.
Prior to this summer’s trip, the couple had made an attempt to cross the country on a tandem bicycle the day after Bob retired from the Air Force last June. Brenda had already retired from her job as a math teacher in Fairfield, Calif.
Not long into the trip, however, they were forced to call it off in Sandpoint, Idaho, after a hernia hospitalized Bob for two weeks.
The couple owns seven tandem bicycles, with four built for mountainous terrain. Robert Fletcher was quick to say that Bob had custom-ordered the bike for the couple’s first attempt in 2016. The striking, red tandem finally fulfilled its purpose Friday after more than two months of pedaling.
Bob and Brenda started the redemption of their American odyssey June 1 from their home in Vacaville, Calif., and headed directly west to the Pacific Ocean. At the water, they took a northern route to continue their trip across the United States. They biked through Oregon and Idaho and spent two weeks crossing Montana.
The couple had been camping overnight through the western part of their journey, but after reaching Glacier National Park and its Going-to-the-Sun Road, they elected to switch to lodging.
“We stopped camping in Glacier,” Bob said. “It was 45 degrees one night, and the next day it was 105 degrees when we crossed into the desert part of Montana.”
The inspiration behind their attempt stemmed from seeing other people and couples biking cross-country, Brenda said.
“We just wanted to do it to do it,” Bob said.
The two have been biking since the 1980s and met in a California biking club. Brenda grew up in northern California while Bob graduated locally from Beaver High School in 1978 and moved to the Golden State, where he worked at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield as the chief engineer for Lockheed C-5’s for 38 years.
After leaving Big Sky Country, the couple wound through North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin before taking a ferry into Michigan. Bob said the couple averaged around 80 miles per day but had several days when they surpassed 100 miles.
Brenda joked that the biggest obstacle of the trip was “being nice to each other,” with two months and 4,300 miles creating a long period of togetherness.
“You just bike, eat and sleep,” Brenda said.
During the journey, the couple experienced problems with the back tire, Patricia Fletcher said. They reached a point where they bought a new, heavier back wheel and overnight shipped it from their hometown bike store.
Bob steered the way as the “captain” of the tandem while Brenda powered from the back as the “stoker.”
“When we got together, we had to get one,” Bob said about their tandem bikes. “We haven’t ridden a single bike since we’ve been married, so about 10 or 12 years.”
Bob said that climbing hills presented the most difficulty during the trip, to which any other biker could attest.
“The tandem doesn’t climb hills well, especially with a 130-pound trailer behind it,” Bob said.
After a brief period in Canada, the couple descended into New York and finally Pennsylvania in early August.
“We figured they would arrive more toward the end of the month,” Robert Fletcher said. “I didn’t see how they could make it before September.”
The pace of the couple also surprised Patricia, who said she started believing the couple would make the journey after the sixth week.
“We got a call from them, and they said they were only 15 miles from Pennsylvania in New York and I was like, ‘Oh no! We have to get ready,’” she said.
Bob’s parents had doubts about the couple’s trip, expressing worry about road rage and robbery, since the couple carried no weapons.
Despite creating a welcome-home banner and waiting for the couple’s arrival Friday, Robert still maintained a parental hesitance toward their trip.
“To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled about them taking this trip,” he said, to which Bob swiftly quipped, “Nothing to it.”
Brenda said the people they met along the way were “really nice,” and some of them shared their ambitions to bike across the U.S.
“We met a single guy who was carrying more stuff than we were,” Bob said. “We also met a couple in Oregon who were 72 and 70 and also biking cross-country.”
Now that the trip has ended, Bob and Brenda will fly back to California, where they plan to embark on another bike trip in 2019 possibly covering every state in the lower 48.
“It’s bittersweet (it’s over),” Bob said. “We enjoyed every day of it.”