WHO: Jim Spelman, 55, and his daughter Kate, 19, of Scituate
WHERE: Cross country by bicycle
WHEN: Twelve weeks from March to May
WHY: ``People asked us `why' a lot, " said Kate, who last year deferred her acceptance to Wellesley College . She worked as an au pair in France and took a sailing course in Baja, Calif. ``I felt like I knew Paris, but I didn't know my own country. And I wanted to finish off the year with something to push me to the edge."
HER INVITATION: Kate was inspired by a former classmate at Noble and Greenough School in Dedham who had done a similar trip with her father. For Jim, a psychiatric social worker , the invitation was ``the moment when God comes down and kisses you on the cheek. For Kate to come back to me and say, `What would you think about going across the country with me?' -- I had to find a way to make it work."
CAUSE AND EFFECT: ``I was blessed to have this trip of a lifetime, but I knew I had the opportunity to also make a difference with some charitable cause," said Kate, who signed the two of them up to be ``virtual riders`` in the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, which benefits the Jimmy Fund. The Spelmans raised $12,000 for the charity, and hope to keep collecting donations.
STARTING POINT: They shipped their matching touring bikes to relatives in San Diego. Kate and Jim carried camping and cooking gear, and packed as light ly as possible. Kate's job was to carry the food and Jim brought ``about half a bicycle in spare parts," he said.
THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: The pair kept a blog (www.bikexc.blogspot.com) for family and friends, updating it at libraries. They cycled homeward through the Rockies, the desert, and into the Southeast before heading north. All told, they pedaled nearly 4,500 miles. They endured snow and freezing temperatures in the West, and blazing days in Texas. The scenery, though amazing, ``paled in comparison to the moments of contact with total strangers who opened their homes and lives," Jim said, such as an invitation to a church dinner on Mother's Day and several conversations that led to home-cooked meals and a bed for the night. ``We went out to meet America, and we liked what we met," Jim said.
EYES WIDE SHUT: Only once did they get separated, during a downpour in Kentucky. Jim didn't see Kate making a turn and went straight for several miles. Not knowing anything yet was wrong, he didn't turn on his two-way radio. Kate, meanwhile, flagged down some cars, and a caring couple found Jim and told him to turn around. ``I was standing in the rain for an hour waiting for him," Kate said. They both got a laugh out of the mix-up, but not enough of one to tell the folks at home.
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