When the open road calls, lots of people jump in the car and head out to explore and relax. Betsy and Kent Hering of Bemidji, Minnesota, are going a little farther than that. The long-married couple, both in their mid-60s, are cycling 5,300 miles cross-country from San Diego, California to Bar Harbor, Maine.
Don’t expect to see Betsy, a retired nurse, or Kent, a retired aviation technical specialist, in trendy skin-tight Lycra with fancy bike gear. They’re riding recumbent tricycles, which spare them a lot of blisters, and they prefer comfy cotton Ts and shorts.
Along the way, they’re raising funds – $10,000 is the goal – for WaterAid, a nonprofit that has supplied fresh water to more than 19 million people globally since its launch in 1981. As of mid-June the Herings, married 42 years with three grown children, have raised nearly $4,100.
There’s more. Once they’re done putting in the day’s miles and have stopped for the night – usually at a motel or campground – they blog about their trip. You can keep up with them without breaking a sweat on their website Betsy and Kent.
Senior Planet caught up with the Herings by phone while they were in Morganza, Louisiana.
Whose idea was this? Who talked the other into it?
Kent: I probably have to take the blame for this. It’s been a dream of mine for many years. Last year, we were trying to do the Underground Railroad Tour (Mobile, Alabama to the Canadian border), which is 2,000 miles. Betsy joined me halfway through and pedaled the last 1,000 miles. We learned a lot of things on that ride. We carried all our own gear. Based on that, we decided we would have to do it differently.
So what’s the plan this time?
Kent: So this time we decided we would bring our pick-up truck as support. Now we each ride solo. She starts out in the morning. I sleep in, then take off in the truck. We meet and have lunch, and then Betsy drives and I ride.
How many miles a day?
Betsy: It depends on where we are, but we have been doing 40 to 60 miles a day.
What’s the best thing about being out on the open road?
Betsy: For me, it’s meeting the kindness of strangers. Total strangers will say, “Be safe, we’re praying for you,” or “God bless you.”
Kent: I really enjoy the physical challenge and the solitude of pedaling, especially when I’m out on a country road and haven’t seen another car for an hour.
Kent: This trip, I have to say it’s the weather.
Betsy: I don’t like the heat and humidity of the South. But as you get healthier, you ‘re able to tolerate those extremes better.
Has anyone called you crazy?
Kent: Yes. I just thank them for the compliment.
How and why did you pick Water Aid?
Kent: The fundraising was Betsy’s idea.
Betsy: On the long bike ride last year, people would give us money. I said, ‘We’re not fund raising.’ I think it represents people’s need to be inspired.
Kent: We started by looking at the goals of the U.N. Safe drinking water was one. Then we investigated some of the organizations, and WaterAid came out on top. We made contact with them, and their response was very enthusiastic and supportive.
Betsy: We carry two five-gallon water jugs in the truck. But in third world countries, people walk six hours a day to get dirty water home. It was an opportunity to use this ride to make people aware.
Have you blogged before?
Kent: Yes, we first started blogging on the Underground Railroad Tour. We used a site called Track My Tour, which marks your location, allows you to add pictures and lets people add comments. The fact that you could do it offline was convenient. So I do the blogging, and Betsy occasionally takes pictures for the blog.
What does aging with attitude mean to you?
Kent: To do everything I possibly can to stay healthy and fit, to continue to do the things I love to do for as long as I can.
Betsy: Not having other people define you. One of the important things about being retired is finding something that pulls you out of bed, and each of us has to figure out what that is. Also key for us is, don’t let people define what a bike ride is!
What’s your next project?
Kent: I haven’t gotten Betsy to say yes to cycling to Alaska. So maybe she’ll say yes to my invitation to take scuba diving lessons.
Follow the Hering’s jounrey – and donate to the their WaterAid fund – by visiting their website.