John Paraskevopoulos is ready for another day of travel.
By Beverly Clinkingbeard
John Paraskevopoulos rode into Blanchard from Omaha/Council Bluffs at dusk via the Wabash Bicycle Trail. Ray Hoffman happened to connect with the traveler and John camped for the night in Blanchard.
By invitation, the next morning, John came to the house with a bagel and a jar of peanut butter in hand to eat for breakfast. We introduced ourselves and stumbled over how to pronounce our names (mine being the easier), and identifying his as Greek. It seemed appropriate he also enjoyed a container of Greek yogurt offered him.
John said he is on his way to New York City where he hopes to find work and experience life there. His mode of transportation is a 1976 vintage bicycle that he found in a garage all rusty and in need of TLC. He restored the bike, new tires and paint. He carries a tire repair kit and has had to break it out twice.
So why would a guy start off on this kind of adventure? John said he started his trip in Oregon (he’s from the Oakland, CA, area), rode across the Cascades, crossed the Continental Divide in Yellowstone, and after Cheyenne, Wyoming, he pedaled across the plains. He decided to do the trip being very concerned for what he felt were politically contentious times for our nation. With no idea what to anticipate, John put his feet to the pedals, and as he’s met folks along the way, his views are changing. “Everywhere people have been incredibly kind,” he said. “I have a greater sense of the country being a whole. We’re more united than I had originally thought.”
When asked if there were any moments of danger along the way, he said, “No, the biggest hazard has been litter on the road. A big 18 wheeler going at a high rate of speed can blow one off a bike, so I try to stay on the small two-lane highways where the traffic is less and slower.”
He is using his savings to finance the adventure and has had various jobs while attending college. Also, he was a volunteer at Oakland International High School. It is a high school for refugees and the curriculum is designed around [learning] English as a second language. His other interest as he pedals through America’s small towns is antique “vernacular architecture,” described as being buildings built featuring local art and materials.
From Blanchard, John rode southeast toward Elmo and Maryville, Missouri. He wanted to see old architecture in St. Joseph, Missouri, and from there, planned to head to Kansas City, where he would pick up the Katy Trail and travel across Missouri, then on to Kentucky and Virginia. He is taking life one day at a time, enjoying the scenery and people along the way. He is also unsure how one enters New York City riding a bicycle.
John can make 80 miles a day with the bags on his bike weighing about 50 pounds. Many times we’ve wondered where he is on his trip, if he is safe, and are people still being “incredibly kind?” We hope so. He’s a gentle soul.