BY MELANIE BUCK –
A 69-year old cyclist stopped in Mena overnight to take a short break from his border-to-border trip that began in Matamoros, Mexico on March 6th and will end in Burlington, Ontario, Canada. Bill Pierce is a resident of Burlington and had his brother, Martin, drive him, his recumbent bike (with the pedals out front), and his 70 pounds of baggage to South Texas where he would cross the border into Mexico to begin the 2,200 mile journey.
The purpose of his trip is to follow Spring north. Pierce said as the season begins to move northward, it moves at a rate of 19 miles per day, which is how far he tries to travel each day. By his configuration, he should be home around the middle of May. However, that accounts for the weather cooperating, which it doesn’t always do. While in Mena on March 11, the area suffered a rather cold, balmy, and wet day, meaning he didn’t get to explore like he wanted, but he was rather curious about the history behind the town. “Small town folks are small town folks everywhere,” said Pierce, noting that Mena’s small town folks are just as friendly as others along the way. That is part of the point of his trip – meeting new people and listening to their stories, their history, their pride. “I like people, places, maps. It’s all a big adrenaline rush for me,” Pierce said.
He said he could drive from Brownsville to Winnepeg in three long days in a car, “but what would the point of that be,” he asked. “When you’re passing through, what’s the point of being totally anonymous and not talking to anybody? It’s stopping and poking around and talking to people… that’s the fun thing about it. That’s what keeps me going.”
“Bill is a 69-year-old former doctoral student in English, college instructor, newspaper writer, editor and movie critic, computer network engineer, professional brewer and certified beer judge. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of people, places and history, but lacks the depth of those interesting places and stories that only local residents possess,” explained his brother, Martin. As part of his meeting people along the route, one common question he asks is: What does Springtime mean to you?
For that, he gets many answers, and hopes to record them in a book. Although he is unsure of publishing, he would like to try to write it nonetheless.
And although he is now 69 and the trip is generally a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it is actually not the first time he has ridden a bicycle across borders. In 1985-1986, he took a 15,000 mile bike trip across 27 countries in Europe that took 11 months. “You get older, get a lifetime of experience. It seems easier for me now than it would have then,” said Pierce of the benefit of his current age.
He hopes that others are able to take something from his trip as well. “I hope that people get as much from my trip as I get from them. Otherwise, I feel like I’m stealing all your stories, and what am I giving back? Maybe a few stories of my own.”
If you would like to follow Pierce in his journey, he keeps a blog going at www.ridingintospring.com/blog. There you can find photos and information on where he has been and where he is going. As of March 20, he was in Jay, Oklahoma, following his designated route of U.S. Highway 59, which stretches from the Mexico border to the Canadian border.