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  • 22 Oct 2014

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Riding a bike into the unknown

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Yuichi Tsuchida made two good Lake Oswego friends on his long trip, Fukumi and Larry Hauser. Tsuchidas highlight here was experiencing a Thanksgiving dinner for the first time.Yuichi Tsuchida, an intrepid 21-year-old explorer from Japan, stopped riding his bicycle to take a water break in Death Valley. There was sand, sand everywhere. And suddenly something else coming straight at him.

I had never seen anything like it before,  Tsuchida said. It was a tarantula. I moved my bike to another location, and the tarantula kept following me. 

Tsuchida moved his bike once more and the tenacious tarantula turned in his direction again, and this time it was joined by other tarantulas. A wise young man, Tsuchida quickly rode away rather than risk becoming part of a plot for a future horror movie.

That was as scary as his 2,000-mile-long trip up the West Coast, from Arizona to Canada, got for Tsuchida. He did meet a few urban grumps who yelled at him, and he did face a life-and-death situation on his journey. He arrived with almost no English language skills and no experience as a long-distance bike traveler. But Tsuchida ended up having an experience that far surpassed his expectations. Tsuchida arrived a lonely stranger, but he left with many friends.

I didn t realize how many people would support me throughout the trip,  Tsuchida said. I had been determined to do it all on my own. I didn t realize the importance of the friends I would make.  by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Yuichi Tsuchida jumps for joy after seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. The 21-year-old Japanese man saw a lot of country but returned home without a scratch and only a few scares.

Some of his experiences were downright unbelievable. Like the time he stopped at a town in Northern California. He met a married couple who invited him to stay at their ranch. Tsuchida not only got to ride a tractor for the first time in his life, but the couple gave him a pack of food and snacks for the next leg of his trip.

I was surprised they would take in a stranger like that,  Tsuchida said.

Two of the best friends he made were Fukumi and Larry Hauser of Lake Oswego. They provided Tsuchida a haven of rest in their home at the end of his trip and were an enthusiastic audience for his many stories of life on the road. Strangely enough, Tsuchida and Fukumi Hauser had met once before. Tsuchida is the grandson of Fukumi s cousin, but she had not seen him since he was a baby. She was surprised and delighted when relatives informed her Tsuchida was traveling in the United States. She soon established contact with him by email.

I was really surprised he hadn t done it before, and I was really worried about it in the beginning,  Fukumi said. There was a 10-day period where we had no connection with him, so we checked the local news reports on the Internet. We saw nothing about anything bad happening to a bike rider, so we thought, Good. He s OK.  

Actually, the possibility of winding up dead and missing was something that occurred to Tsuchida before he came to America to start his trip. He was determined to have a big American adventure before completing his college education, and a bike ride up the West Coast was exactly what he wanted to do.

Tsuchida said, I wanted to do something I would remember for the rest of my life.  At the airport, his father told him, I know you can do it. 

Still, it seemed like a daredevil thing for him to do.

I was concerned about all of the guns in America,  Tsuchida said. I was a little afraid. I thought I might meet death by being shot at and then thrown where no one could ever find me. I decided I somehow had to survive. 

And survive he did. He did have some close calls, like a car very nearly running him down. Even more harrowing was when he was riding in mountains in California and became so mixed up that he considered turning around and going another direction.

I wondered if I had taken the wrong road, but I decided to keep going,  Tsuchida said. The sign showed the place where I wanted to go, so I didn t turn back. 

If he had turned back he would have died,  Larry Hauser said. He would have run out of food and starved to death. 

As it turned out, nothing could stop Tsuchida on his journey, not even tarantulas. Every time he got in a sticky situation something would happen to get him out of it, like the timely arrival of a bus or a stranger who was eager to help him. Tsuchida may have been soaked by rain, exhausted and often very lonely, but he ended up without a scratch on him.

He met some scary people,  Fukumi said, but he met many kind people. 

Tsuchida ended his trip with a flourish by having Thanksgiving dinner with the Hausers and eating turkey for the first time in his life.

Yuichi Tsuchida saw many remarkable sights on his American sojourn, such as the Grand Canyon, Death Valley and Yosemite National Park. But he decided that his trip of a lifetime was not about natural wonders.

I found it was all about learning about humans,  Tsuchida said.