The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge


By Woodrow Golding © 1986

Issue: October, 1986

From my vantage point sitting on my front porch observing the traffic as it moves north and south on the Blue Ridge Parkway, it is sometimes interesting to note the different modes of transportation used in this modern day and age. The luxurious RV's and large travel trailers which make up a large portion of the traffic are, for all intents and purposes, homes mounted on wheels. The smaller trailers and pickup campers may not be so luxurious and homey as their larger counterparts, but they have a distinct advantage in not being so heavy and are more maneuverable. Also they don't require towing a small car or carrying motorcycles (sometimes even bicycles) to use to gadabout when they reach their destinations. Vans are popular vehicles, too, for those who are inclined to travel lighter. They, too, can be used for sleeping for small families. Last but not least, we don't want to forget the motorcycles and bicycle travelers.

I am more inclined to favor the bicycle riders because I was a bicycle enthusiast once myself. Once I rode a bicycle from Marion, North Carolina (to my) home (a distance of about 135 miles). For several days I learned to sit on my back instead of where I was supposed to sit. I also found it more comfortable to stand when I ate than to sit. It makes me have a kind regard for others who travel long distances on bikes.

Bicycle marathons are very popular nowadays. Occasionally I see a line of cyclists traveling the Parkway consisting of forty or more people. It was just this summer I watched the Cross Country Bicycle Race go by traveling the Parkway.

Three or four years ago, I was alerted from my work in the garden when I heard a shrill scream and looked up to see someone tumbling in the air having been thrown from a bicycle. There were three riders in this group and, when I saw two of them hovering over another who was lying prone on the pavement, I knew someone was hurt seriously. I rushed to the scene and saw an attractive young lady lying there in a pool of blood. She had a large gash cut on her head. A passerby hastened to call an ambulance. I went to the house and got my pickup truck and loaded the three bicycles and the two guys who accompanied the lady cyclist and gave them a lift to Galax while the lady was carried by ambulance. It turned out that she had a head concussion and a broken collar bone. On the way to the hospital, the boys told me that the three of them had started from Richmond (their home) and had traveled through North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and were on their way back to Richmond when the accident occurred.

The most interesting cyclist I have met, however, was Heinz Stucke. Heinz was a West German youth I met while working on the Parkway in 1968. In my work I traveled from Mabry Mill to the North Carolina line daily. One day I met a man laboriously pedaling his heavy laden bike up a long steep grade going north. The bike got my immediate attention when I observed the large placard mounted in the center of the bike frame. On it was printed in big letters, TOUR DU MONDE, ON A BICYCLE 'ROUND THE WORLD. Underneath the lettering was a map of the world with a line crossing through almost every country of the world. Every square inch of the frame was covered with writing naming the different countries the biker had visited.

At Mabry Mill the next morning, I saw the biker I had met the day before. He was in the center of a crowd of tourists who were curiously looking over the strange bike and its rider. When the crowd had finally drifted away, I strolled up to the young cyclist and struck up a conversation with him. In answer to my many questions, here is a gist of the story he related to me:

My name is Heinz Stucke. In search of adventure and, with the desire to see something of this world of ours, at the age of 20, I started my trip around the world on August 22, 1960, from my hometown of Hovelhof near Paderborn, West Germany.

I chose the cycle mainly because it is the cheapest form of transportation and, because it is an ideal way to see the world; slow enough to study thoroughly each country and its people and fast enough again to traverse long distances.

At the time of my arrival in Mexico on April 27, 1968, I had visited 72 countries in five continents, filled four passports, the fifth one was lost and the sixth one was issued in New York. I covered the following distances: by bicycles 70,000 Kms. (43,750 miles): by other transportation, for example ship, plane, car, about 150,000Kms. (93,000 miles).

My average daily distance covered is approximately 100 120 Kms. (60 70 miles), but, some very hard roads often slowed me down to a mere 40 50 Kms. (25 30 miles). 300 Kms. (190 miles) in twelve hours is my personal record covered in the Syrian Desert.

The luggage is evenly distributed over the entire bike and comprises camping outfit, cooking utensils and photographic equipment. The notice board in the center of the cycle shows the route already covered and every other available space on the bicycle bears the names of places visited.

My ambition and intention to complete this round the world trip has been so strong that not even illnesses, bad roads and dangerous adventures could deter me. I contracted typhoid fever for instance in Persia; pneumonia in Egypt; in Egypt also I was beaten unconscious by soldiers; in Soviet Russia I was locked up; in Algeria bandits selected me as their target; in Morocco I had to push my cycle right through the night in flooded territory; in Ethiopia I was without water for two days, once in Algiers and again in Peru I lost all my money; on a recent trip to Expo 67 in New York, my diary, 1,000 selected slides and my photographic equipment (value approximately $1,000) were stolen; and last but not least I had quite a few painful accidents on my bike; notably a crash with a truck in the desert of Atacama (Chile), 1965 and another at Christmas 1967, in Salvador. My motto, is, "Every blow that does not kill me hardens me."

The expenses of my trip are covered by articles I write for various newspapers, photos I sell, talks I hold and by the generosity of enthusiasts I meet.

Wherever I went I've tried to capture the people, their lives and their environment photographically. Besides this vast collection of color slides, I have kept a diary which bears out my experiences.

I stayed in Mexico until after the Olympics and visited all the different states of the Republic. From Mexico the next leg of my trip has brought me here in Virginia. From here I will go into Canada, Alaska, Hawaii, the Far East, Japan, Australia and through India back to Germany.

The many trips I realized to jungle regions were always a great adventure. Lacking roads I usually had to leave my bicycle behind. On foot, with canoe or raft, I covered great parts of the Amazon jungle. I was usually able to obtain help from natives to guide me through these jungle regions. On one occasion two natives and I killed a snake of unbelievable size. After we killed and opened it, we found in its stomach an alligator of two meters in length (more than six feet).

That was the last I've seen or heard from Heinz Stucke. I have thought of him many, many times since. I would give an arm and a leg to know if he completed his journey as planned and got back home to Germany safely. Some day I may write him at Paderborn, West Germany and see if I can find out.

If anyone reading this story wonders how I was able to remember this story word by word, I wrote it down in Gregg Shorthand and have kept it and treasured it all these years.