Couple stops in Albert Lea during worldwide bicycle voyage

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 12, 2002

Imagine taking a trip spanning the continents of North America, Europe, Africa, Antarctica and South America, including many of the countries in between.

Now imagine the same trip from the seat of a bicycle. That’s what Pat and Cat Patterson are doing right now. The couple, who arrived in Albert Lea on Wednesday, are taking the trip of a lifetime &045; a transcontinental expedition that won’t bring them home until October 2004.

The Pattersons left their home in Oxnard, Calif. on April 12, beginning a thousand-day cycling trip that will take them to the ends of the earth, crossing the ocean via airplane. From here, the trip will take the couple to Canada, Greenland, Norway, and through Europe to Spain, where they will cross the Strait of Gibraltar into Africa. Once in Africa, they will ride the west coast to Senegal, head east toward Kenya, and south toward Cape Town, South Africa. Given the opportunity, they’ll touch Antarctica before going north into South America, where they will zig-zag through the continent, crossing part of Brazil twice before entering Central America.

Email newsletter signup

From there, they will ride through those countries and Mexico before finally making it home again.

The couple, former owners of a real-estate firm, sold their business before embarking on their journey. The funds from that sale, combined with Pat’s Social Security income, are financing the trip.

Mechanical failure on Cat’s bike hampered their progress &045; for two days, she could only use three gears. &uot;We took it to a bike shop in Sioux Falls (S.D.), and I think they got a little curious with the shifting mechanism,&uot; she said.

That mechanical failure led them to Albert Lea. In a Worthington hotel, Pat was on the telephone with a technical support representative from the manufacturer of the couple’s bicycles. Two men entering the hotel noticed the bicycles and commented that they were glad that they weren’t the ones riding. This led into a conversation with Cat. Overhearing the conversation, Pat asked the men if they knew of a place along the route where they could have a spare part shipped.

One of those men happened to be Coby Mack, an employee of KATE Radio. He recommended having the part sent to the station, which Pat did, adding a repair stop in Albert Lea to their route.

One thing that impressed the Pattersons during their stay here was the hospitality they found. When they reached Albert Lea, they met Luis and Espi Cardenaz on Fountain Street, and asked them for directions to Fountain View Inn after Luis complimented them on their bicycles. Knowing exactly where it was, the youths instead led them there.

They were also impressed with the customer service at Martin’s Schwinn Cycling and Fitness. In a bike shop in Rapid City, S.D., Pat was told it would be about a week before they could service his bicycle, but Martin’s Cycling accommodated them into their schedule, working them into the rotation.

Pat referred to employee Jason Ferrington as an &uot;ace mechanic,&uot; saying he took everything apart, including parts he wasn’t familiar with, understood how to make it work, and got it all back together. &uot;Now we’re on the road again, thanks to people we didn’t even know existed until the day before yesterday.&uot;

Their original travel plan would have taken them to the Twin Cities, but the Pattersons are glad they came through Albert Lea instead. Had they stuck with it, they’d have a different story to tell, Pat said.

One question the couple is regularly asked is why they are traveling so far on bicycles;.

&uot;Basically it’s just for the adventure,&uot; Cat explained. She said they had been caught up in the stress of corporate life for about ten years and needed some time off from it. They sold the company, put their possessions into storage and decided to take the ride.

&uot;It was also for the physical and mental challenge of it,&uot; Cat added.

&uot;There’s no money to be made doing this,&uot; said Pat. &uot;You have to do it because you want to.&uot;

Travel by bicycle is much slower than methods that are more conventional. It takes the Pattersons an entire day to go the same distance that a car will go in an hour. However, the more relaxed pace gives them a chance to see more dimensions of life, including wildlife that they would miss out on while driving by car.

Sharing a wanderlust, the Pattersons are no strangers to travel. In 1988, Pat began a two-and-a-half year voyage around the world with Lori and Stephanie, his daughters from an earlier marriage, also on bicycle. The trip inspired Pat to pen a book chronicling his journey in words and pictures, &uot;Voyagers Two &045; an around the World Bicycle adventure.&uot; However, due to conflicts with the publisher, the book hasn’t been published.

Upon her graduation from San Diego State University, Cat rented a car in Paris and traveled around Western Europe for six months.

&uot;That’s really where my desire to travel started,&uot; Cat said. &uot;Four years of college is great, but I got more education in that six months of traveling than I did in the four years. Certainly not subject-wise, but life and how to deal with people, and coping with the problems you’ll encounter when you travel.&uot;

Cat also at one time worked for an airline, which gave her another opportunity to travel to Europe. &uot;I don’t think they’ll do it today, but at that time the people who worked in the airline industry traveled for free,&uot; she said.

Cat said her parents also traveled, at different times, throughout the world, mostly for business purposes. Though healthy in their 80s, their traveling days are now behind them.

&uot;They’ve done it,&uot; explained Cat. &uot;They’d rather just be home and have family over.&uot;

Though a love of travel seems to run in Cat’s family, Pat’s is the opposite. &uot;I have a brother who never goes anywhere,&uot; he said, adding that his mother was the same way.

Cat added that though she will have to return to when this trip is over, she hopes to ride across Australia someday. She also has hopes of someday seeing Asia, which Pat saw on his trip around the world 12 years ago.

As exciting as a life on the road may sound, the Pattersons caution that it isn’t for everyone. It requires living out of bags and packing as little as possible, which means wearing the same clothes almost every day and showering when the opportunity arises. Although some nights are spent in hotel rooms, two bikes in the room can make for some very cramped quarters.

&uot;It really is a lifestyle that you have to get used to,&uot; said Cat.

Editor’s note: More information about the Pattersons’ journey is available on their Web site at