Flat tires, headwinds, heat, and hills couldn’t keep Lori and Kelsie Willert from accomplishing their goal of bicycling Route 66.
Bicycling is a mode of transportation in which you carry yourself. No one can do it for you. You have to overcome your own challenges with the weather, road conditions, physical fitness of your body and mind.Lori Willert
For Lori’s twenty-one-year-old daughter Kelsie, these bicycle tours have been a significant part of her life, and she looks forward to every ride.
Growing up doing the Mississippi River, Lewis and Clark, and IA to DC hasn’t just been about the bicycling. It was the planning, the anticipation, and the research/history of each route/place.Kelsie Willert
On June 13th, this mother-daughter duo left the tiny town of Bolan Iowa, population 18 (yes a double-digit population) for their latest grand adventure, with Lori’s mother Linda Nydegger driving the support RV–three generations exploring American history one pedal push at a time.
Lori and Kelsie didn’t bicycle alone, though. They joined sixteen others for a reunion tour of an epic 1995 bicycle ride.
The Iowa 150
Twenty-four years ago, more than 300 bicycle riders got together for a three-month, 5,048-mile journey across the country in celebration of Iowa’s Sesquicentennial.
They left Long Beach California on Memorial Day and pedaled toward Washington D.C. with a goal of arriving on Labor Day–all to promote the planned celebration of Iowa’s 150 Years of Statehood.
We didn’t realize we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun.Vern Terlouw, Iowa 150 Alumni
The ride was a life-changing experience for all involved.
I think for me, and for others too, we learned to SLOW DOWN. We could “get by with a little help from our friends.” RELATIONSHIPS became important.Lori Willert
During the 100-day fourteen-state adventure relationships truly cemented, part of why Lori continues to organize reunion rides, like the 2005 Mississippi River Tour, the 2009/10 Lewis and Clark ride, 2015’s 20-year-reunion ride from Iowa City to Washington DC, and now this two-part Route 66 tour.
The Iowa Route 66 Bicycle Tour
In 2018, the group reunited for part one of their Route 66 ride, starting in Chicago Illinois and pedaling to Adrian Texas. This year they picked up where they left off, bicycling Route 66 from Adrian Texas to Santa Monica California, making stops along the way like…
After a thirty-mile ride from Holbrook, the group settled in Winslow for the day.
While some did laundry and others slept in, Lori and Kelsie came to check out the famous corner, sporting their Route 66 jerseys.
Later that afternoon, the group reconvened at the La Posada for a tour and lecture from Winslow Harvey Girl, Peggy Nelson.
After dinner at the Turquoise Room, they gathered on the patio for a special performance from two members of the Bakken/Clemens family.
The Bakken family
The Willerts aren’t the only three-generation family on the trip. Two of the original Iowa 150 riders, Dr. David Bakken and wife Kathy (the instigator behind their involvement), were joined by their family from Alaska, daughter Kara Bakken Clemens and husband David Clemens, along with grandkids Sylvia and Clyde.
For Dr. Bakken, seeing Route 66 from the seat of a bicycle is special for many reasons, not only because of the unique experience but because the adventure is shared with special friends.
The challenges of heat, headwinds, and difficult terrain makes it a raw adventure that requires us to dig deep into our personal reserve strength. In a sense, it is for each, our heroic epic. That makes it special.Dr. David Bakken
Also making it special, having their grandkids along, Syliva (13) and Clyde (10) Clemens, both talented musicians who entertained the group on the La Posada patio, Sylvia on violin and Clyde on cello.
It was a special performance to celebrate the love of two people also sharing this journey:
Tim and Colleen
Tim and Colleen have been married thirty-eight years. This isn’t the first time they’ve spent their special day with the Iowa 150.
In 1995, the two put together a documentary on the group and have maintained their friendships ever since.
That group still blows me away to this day. We would stay connected through reunions and newsletters. So I lived vicariously through them, until….. Colleen and I both received the email from Lori and Sue in early 2018 about the Route 66 bicycling adventure.Tim Crescenti
Tim decided it was time to hop on a bicycle and ride along, not only to see his friends but to further explore Route 66 and gather ideas for a Route 66 reality format he and Colleen are developing. It was his first time doing a long bicycle ride, and he had to keep up with…
The Youngest and The Oldest
Contrary to what you might think, the group wasn’t comprised of thirty-something-super-athletes. The age range spanned from ten to eighty-seven–both of whom handled the sometimes seventy-mile days in the seat of a bicycle like the champs that they are.
You’ve met the youngest on the ride, ten-year-old cellist Clyde Clemens, now meet the oldest.
Eighty-Seven-Year-Old Vern Terlouw
Iowa farmer Vern Terlouw is not one to let age keep him from doing something he wants to do. At seventy-three, he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. He has also ridden on several of the reunion rides. While he says age sometimes tries to keep him down, he refuses to allow it.
Contrary to Little Orphan Annie, living on Easy Street is not the answer to a long and happy life. Every day use the body to its limit. Expose yourself to some hardship and risk.Vern Terlouw
Sunday morning at six a.m. on the dot, the group left the Winslow Inn with a destination of Twin Arrows—all but Vern, who of course left first, getting a head start on everyone, ready to explore the next destination along the road.
On these tours your job is to get from point A to point B, seeing and doing things as they come along… living in the moment, making it an adventure, experiencing the present, like who you meet on the corner in Winslow, AZ.Lori Willert
The End: Santa Monica
On Sunday, July 14th the Iowa 150 alumni achieved their goal, riding the full length of Route 66.
For sixty-year-old Sue Green, a retired high-school math teacher and one of the original Iowa150, she felt an overwhelming mix of positive emotions both for being physically capable of biking long distances and for being financially able to take this five-week grand adventure.
The ride reminds me that 99.9% of the people in the U.S. are “good.” People have been SO KIND to us – giving us big smiles, answering our questions, wishing us well and saying a prayer for our safety.Sue Green
For twenty-one-year-old Kelsie, these are memories that defy description, although she does so quite poetically.
After I get back home from a ride all I want to do is show my friends and family all the cool stuff we saw and experienced along the way but when I see the videos and photographs I realize that it doesn’t do it justice. I could never capture the image or feeling of the horizon at the top of a long hill we just climbed or the sunrise behind a mountain at the start of our day. It’s those kinds of experiences that are priceless to me.Kelsie Willert
Just as visitors like the Iowa 150 are priceless to Winslow.
Until next time…
Take it Easy
If you don’t think America is a big country, try to ride a bicycle across it.Vern Terlouw