He has pedaled his bicycle at least 2,000 miles since June 19, riding along mountain passes and country roads, making friends and banking memories from his life experiences.|
His tent, sleeping bag and a few essentials add about 50 pounds to Nick Mattson's bike frame. But the 21-year-old Bellingham, Wash., resident takes roads seldom traveled, encountering strangers along the way.
"You get all kinds of looks," said Mr. Mattson, a Western Washington University student majoring in recreation. "Most people initially think you're crazy, you've lost your mind. The other side is they might say, 'I wish I could do something like that.'"
Mr. Mattson plans to pedal all the way to Bar Harbor, Maine. "I've always dreamed about going coast-to-coast," he said Tuesday outside Jerry and Sparky's Cycle Shop in Davenport.
Mr. Mattson stopped in the Quad-Cities area to visit his grandparents, Jerry and Connie Mattson, of Aledo, and his uncle, Randy Mattson, also of Aledo, for a few days before moving on.
"Yep, I slept on a bed last night," Nick Mattson said. "It was a good night's sleep."
For the past month, he has pedaled anywhere from 65 to 120 miles a day, living mostly on oatmeal, Ramen noodles, eggs and lots of water.
"He'll eat 12 eggs a day," his grandfather said. "They're hard-boiled, and he cooks them the night before."
Mr. Mattson usually takes his cleanest shirt and wraps it around a sack of clothes for a pillow.
Along with his grandparents, he took his bicycle -- a GT Peace Tour -- into the Davenport bicycle shop Tuesday for some maintenance work.
He said he has learned much in his travels, meeting different people with different stories, finding inspiration in acts of kindness.
There was the day Mr. Mattson was stranded in his home state, standing along the road for hours.
"I was having some rear shifter trouble," he said. "I was trying to hitch a ride for like three hours in the sun.
"A man stopped and introduced himself as Eric Weatherman. He was fascinating," Mr. Mattson said. "He took my bike to one of his garages and fixed my bike.
"It turns out he had been the ex-mayor of Kettle Falls," Mr. Mattson said. "He helped a lot of people.
"He hands me this business card and hands me 10 $100 bills. I asked, 'Is this some sort of trick?'"
Mr. Weatherman said he had some health issues and appreciated Mr. Mattson's endeavors.
"He told me, 'You know, I've been given a second chance in life.' He told me, 'When you get to the East Coast, let me know you made it.'
"He changed the whole direction of my trip," Mr. Mattson said. "I have a little more wiggle room financially. It kind of restored my faith in humanity."
Mr. Mattson said riding alone through small towns and rural areas under blue skies brings strangers up to him offering a glass of water.
"The biggest thing is you realize the kindness of people," he said. "Most of the time, I'm riding through small-town America, and there's a community feel about it."
He pitches his tent in city, county and state parks, spending nights under the stars.
"There are definitely times where you're talking to yourself in your head, when it's two or three days in a row with just you and yourself," he said. "You kind of crave human interaction.
"Other times, it's extremely peaceful and meditative," he said. "You're doing the revolutions when pedaling and looking around at the scenery, the country roads, and you get absorbed in your surroundings."
His trip has taken him through Washington, a piece of Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and into Illinois.
Once back home, he plans to write a letter to his good samaritan friend, telling Mr. Weatherman thanks.
"I'll send him quite an extensive letter," Mr. Mattson said. "I have a little log journal of my day's events, keeping tabs of all the deeds I've done.
"I'm young, not tied down, and I got the time off school. I just went for it."
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