February 22, 2016
Bikecentennial group 1TAWB613 (TA stands for TransAmerica Trail, W means westbound, B stands for Bike Inn, staying indoors in gyms, dorms, etc., and 613 identifies the date they left, June 13, 1976) lost touch shortly after 1976. When Gary Mollenhauer found an old list of Bikecentennial group addresses in 2007, he was inspired to reconnect with everyone in his group.
After he tracked them down, his Bike Inn group held a reunion in Chicago in 2011 along with the camping group 1TAWK613 (K means camping group) joining them for part of the reunion.
Gary’s group plans to reunite again and hold a reunion during the Montana Bicycle Celebration, July 15–17, and you can too. Use Adventure Cycling’s resources on the new DIY Reunion webpages to find out how to reconnect with riding buddies and hold your own reunion in 2016.
Gary Mollenhauer shares the story of how he reconnected with his Bikecentennial group below.
How did you find your group members after being out of touch for over 30 years?
I was the one that tracked down all our group members in 2007. At the end of our 1976 trip, our group exchanged addresses, along with birth dates. I sent everyone Christmas cards in 1976, but then I lost the list of addresses.
In 1977, and for a few years after, I just replied to those who sent me Christmas cards.
Luckily, in 2007, I was going through a box and found the 1976 list of addresses and I noticed that Ivan, who I was closest to on the Bikecentennial trip, had his birthday coming up in a few weeks. So I tracked him down and gave him a surprise call on his birthday, May 31st. We had a long conversation, and he more or less challenged me to find all the other group members.
So I started looking and I started finding and I set myself a goal of trying to find everyone, or as many group members as possible by June 13th, as I wanted to send an email to everyone on the 31st anniversary of the start of our trip.
At first, I thought I would probably only find the nine American males in our group, but we also had three women and three men from Holland and I never thought I would find any of them.
Regardless, I started with the addresses from 1976, did reverse address searches on all the Americans and, for example, that got me to Todd’s parents and Yvonne’s parents. In another instance, one of the women in our group was twice divorced, but lucky for me she had gone back to using her uncommon maiden name.
After finding all the Americans in the group, I set my sights on our three “Hollanders.” Since I buy and sell on ebay.com, I went through my PayPal transactions, looking for the most recent transaction with someone in Holland. I found one and emailed him, asking if he could help me locate any of the Dutch. He found a phone number for what turned out to be our oldest group member’s daughter. I called her and sadly, he had died, but he also found a number for what turned out to be Johan’s mother. She told me that Johan had emigrated to Brazil long ago, and gave me his number. I called Johan in Brazil and it took him a bit of time to realize exactly who was calling him!
Where did you hold your reunion five years ago?
We chose Chicago since three group members live in the area and Chicago is reasonably central to where all the other group members live.
How did it go?
It was amazing. We had 12 out of 13 living members attend, including Johan who traveled from Brazil with his wife to be with us.
It was like no time had passed at all. We were right back having conversations about everything under the sun, just like we did on the 1976 trip. Personally, I was surprised that there was not more conversation focused on looking back at the trip.
What kind of activities did you plan?
On the first night, we had a reception dinner at a group member’s home. The next night we met at a restaurant and enjoyed a lengthy slideshow of the trip. And the last day we had a joint reunion with camping group 1TAWK613, also having a 35th anniversary reunion in the Chicago area.
Two of our group members kept journals in 1976 and although unscheduled, it was my hope that we would read from a journal and after each day’s entry, ask reunion attendees if they had a specific memory from that day that they would like to share. Unfortunately, this did not happen and I feel not having that reminiscing session was a mistake. So a reminiscing session(s) in Missoula next summer is now a top priority for our reunion.
Story courtesy of Gary Mollenhauer | Photo 1 courtesy of Yvonne Perez-Collins | Photo 2 & 3 courtesy of Wib Paul | Photo 4 courtsey of Marilyn Erb.
40th ANNIVERSARY HIGHLIGHTS is posted every other Monday by Adventure Cycling’s events and outreach coordinator, Eva Dunn-Froebig. Eva and guests will preview 40th anniversary events and projects and interview Bikecentennial cyclists. Adventure Cycling’s 40th anniversary celebration in 2016 will honor the past and look to the future of bicycle travel. Fill out this form to express your interest in the 40th anniversary.