Casey’s truly amazing adventure

Last
week, I had the opportunity to interview Casey Zmich, a retired truck driver,
who recently spent fourteen months exploring the United States and a bit of
Canada on his bicycle. He rode a total of 16,000 miles and had a close up tour
as he traveled through cities, countryside, desert, and other landscapes. He
describes himself as 66 years young.
Tell
me about you and about your life before getting into long-distance bicycling?
Did you ride as a young person?
As
a teenager, I rode bicycles with my friend Tom. We rode to Cuba, NY, from Buffalo.
We traveled at night because it was cooler and there was less traffic. We went
hunting for ducks and rabbits. Put it on the grill, cooked while we were
playing rummy. We did four trips per summer for three summers in a row until we
were old enough to get cars and then we gave up bicycling. The bicycling was
fun but the girlfriends and cars were even more fun.
What
was your more recent motivation for long distance riding?
I
had several. My main motivation was a gentleman, whom I met in Niagara Falls,
when I took  my bicycle out or the first
time. He was a Frenchman, 68 years young, and he rode a bike, like the one I
had, all the way from San Francisco to Niagara Falls. It took him three months.
That’s about the ongoing time so you can take breaks and see scenery.
Tell me about your first long distance ride.
I
started in Buffalo. My first adventure was to Toronto, and I stayed in a lady’s
garage behind her book store. The name of the book store was what motivated me.
It was called the “Great Escape.”
In
May of 2015, I began bicycling. Also I joined the YMCA to build up my core and
get more energy. Took spinning classes. I met a lot of nice people at the YMCA.
They were following me on Facebook during my trip.
What
about this ride? What was your motivation?
I
was escaping from everything: the news media and negative people. I don’t like
listening to it. Other people in Buffalo motivated me that I rode with. There
was a couple at Campus WheelWorks, who went off on a 14,000 mile ride for their
honeymoon.
Casey’s distinctive hat,
complete with
a tooth and a feather
How
did you train before going?
I
went to the YMCA every day in the morning and indulged very heavily into the
spinning class and also worked out my center core, which is very important and I
changed my diet, to where I take in better foods. If you eat junk, you’re going
to get junk energy back. Also I ride with a lot of bicycle clubs around Buffalo
and Grand Island and got good advice from the other bicyclists.
I
rode around Grand Island quite a bit because there is less traffic out here.
Also I like crossing bridges.
What
did your route look like?
I
left Cheektowaga and rode to Pittsburgh and then the Great Allegany Passage and
the C&O Canal to Georgetown in Washington, D.C. From there, I headed south
on U.S. 1 to Key West. Then, when I began my trek north from Key West, one of
my warm showers hosts gave me the maps to travel the southern tier to San
Diego (link to description of the warm showers program.). I have a friend in San Diego, so I decided that I would touch four
corners of the United States, including Alaska. So I had the maps for Pacific
Coast highway sent to my friend in San Diego. I ventured to Vancouver and then
I began my trek through British Columbia. I went to Hope and north to Prince
George. From there, northward to White Horse in the Yukon. The scenery is
absolutely gorgeous. Then I ventured to Anchorage, Alaska, and rode to Land’s
End in Homer, Alaska. I took a picture of Land’s End in Homer, Alaska, and
Land’s End in Key West, Florida. When I began to come back, I was going to ride
across Canada, but British Columbia had a lot of forest fires going. So, in
White Horse, people pointed out the Alaska Marine Highway. We looked at the
schedule and found when the schedule for the ferry leaving out of Skagway,
Alaska, to Bellingham, Washington. From there, I began my trek eastward to
Toronto. I stayed at my favorite bookstore and garage, Where I began my trip, I
wanted to end it. Then returned to Buffalo. I arrived in Buffalo on Thursday,
Sept. 14th. The first place that I stopped was at my (93-year-old) mom
Kazimiera’s house.
What
were some of the highlights of your trip?
I
was at an avocado farm for four days in Homestead, 20 miles south of Miami.
Gabriela, a warm shower host, needed my assistance to put up a display at a
convention hall in Miami for Air BnB and she showed me Winwood and treated to a
dinner for my assistance in helping her set up the display.
I
made Key West for their fantasy fest party last ten days of October. It’s like
a Key West Mardi Gras. The main costume is body paint. There are certain people
who don’t mind running around the streets wearing nothing but body paint. Some
of them were very nice designs. Some of the people were very good and they were
nice to look at. It was a crazy time.
Another
interesting part of the adventure was, when I got to the Florida/Alabama line,
there’s a bar called the Florabama bar. They catered to the bicyclists, they
had a room to put the bicycles in. They had entertainment going. Bands,
singers, etc. They had house drink called the Bushwacker. Be very careful about
that. It has four shots of liquor in it, and tastes like a milkshake. I rolled
out of the bar and next to my bike and fell asleep because I was so toasted
from it. Then I woke up early in the morning and rode over to Fort Davis, where
I caught a ferry across Mobile Bay to Dauphin Island. Camped over there for
several days. My judge friend joined me over there for another few days of
camping. While we were there, we went to a Christmas light show called
Bellingrath Christmas Light Show. It was absolutely amazing: 65 acres of
Christmas lights. I’ve never seen Christmas lights like this.
In
New Mexico, I had to climb my highest pass, the Emery Pass, in New Mexico, at 8,220
feet. It was absolutely gorgeous. In San Francisco, a warm shower host, Shirley,
let me use her vehicle to go to Yosemite National Park. When I returned, I
began my journey over to the Golden Gate Bridge and, further up north, I met up
with a bicyclist from Switzerland named Stephan and we rode for five days
through the redwood forest. I posted it. It was my favorite part of my ride.
Now I have six friends in Switzerland, who said I can come over there and stay
if I want. They were amazing. I never thought that I would be in a state of awe,
seeing trees that big. It’s called the Avenue of the Giants.
So
then, I ventured into Portland, where immediately I saw a marijuana store. I never
thought that I would see the day when they were selling marijuana outright like
that. Then the Tidal Pool areas of Oregon were absolutely gorgeous. Portland is
very bicycle friendly and all friendly type of a city. Arriving in Washington,
it was a very nice state. Mount St. Helen, Rainier, Mount Adam, and Mount Hood.
That’s where I caught my ferry ride from Los Angeles to Vancouver Island, the
city of Victoria in British Columbia. There’s where I began my ride through
British Columbia to Prince George, and onward to White Horse. And the Yukon. And
venturing over to Anchorage, Alaska.
Alaska
is great. Make sure you have rain gear because it is a the large north American
rain forest. Also the temperature change during the night. You never know when
it will be warm and when it will be cold. I like the mountains and the
landscape but, during the summer, it never gets dark. I was in Alaska during
two weeks of June and two weeks of July. I enjoyed riding in the twilight of
the night. You get to see most of the animals eating alongside of the side of
the road. I saw several grizzly bears eating with cubs along the side of the
road. Moose wandered around. Several times, I rode until four in the morning.
They say it’s the last of the wilderness. You just have to be careful where you
put your food because the bears will smell it out.
Did
you have any mishaps along the way?
My
back wheel came apart in Palmer Alaska and I had to get a ride to Anchorage, 35
miles away so they could build a new one for me. I had five chains replaced, two
cassettes, and three gears on the crank. I went through four sets of tires and
probably 20 flats and, other than that, the bike was a good touring bike.
What
would you recommend for people who want to do a long bicycle ride like you did?
Get
in shape. Do ask a lot of questions to other bicyclist who have toured; on line,
there is a lot of information. Advice I give is to always do what you’re
supposed to do on a bicycle. Pay attention; the law of averages will have it,
as soon as you look away, the big hole will be there and you will wipe out.
Also wear bright clothing and, if it’s near dark, make sure that you have
lights. Just use common sense and don’t go into dark places in cities. As a
matter of fact, try to stay clear of the cities, especially at night.
After
having had this experience, what did you take away with you?
The
mountains, trees, and the landscape. I love seeing Niagara Falls or the Grand
Canyon, every time I see them. I see the power of the universe in putting it
all together.
Are
you thinking about taking another journey?
I’m
not stopping. I hope to go to South America next. I want to go to Argentina by
bicycle.
What
would you like people reading this to know?

I
want people to move and to exercise and to eat right. The best part of my trip
is when someone tells me that I give them inspiration because I look happy and
healthy. I tell them hurry up and join a gym. Jog over there and sign up. I
never thought that I would be doing anything to inspire people to change up
their lives.

6 thoughts on “Casey’s truly amazing adventure”

  1. My brother and I met Casey while camping in So Cal. What an interesting man.
    Much of what he related here is how he told his story to us by the campfire.
    Very honest and interesting man.

  2. Wonderful story! I rode across the country and continue to have cycling adventures, but this story is exceptional! Great advice too.

  3. Casey, I just met you today in Silver Creek. I was on my way to Portland, ME via bike. I love the story. I'm just starting my journey. I have about 1300 miles in to my trip. Some day our paths will cross again. Tim Kilness. Chippewa Falls, WI.

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