Bicycles built for 40-year marriage
PEDAL POWER: After tackling the U.S., pair ponder next challenge.

[email protected]

Published: October 22, 2007
Last Modified: October 22, 2007 at 03:13 AM

Patti and Brian Hohner could have marked their 40th anniversary by taking a limousine to Girdwood. Instead, the 59-year-olds from Wasilla had family drop them off in Indian so they could bike the remaining 17 miles to celebrate at a chalet their kids rented in the ski town.

The Turnagain Arm cruise was just one more in a quest that has led them to bike beautiful sites in nearly every state.

The couple were seeking relief from winter when they traveled in 1992 to Hilton Head Island off the coast of South Carolina. In addition to Atlantic surf and sun, they discovered beach bikes.

"We rode forever on hard-packed beach, looking at all the houses," Patti noted in their biking diary.

They pedaled around Lake Washington in 1994 and toured Sanibel Island off the coast of Florida in 1995. The next year, they booked a trip with an adventure company and discovered the pleasures of top-notch hotels and fine dining after a day's ride through Grand Teton National Park. They followed it up by cruising through the red rock of Sedona, Ariz.

As the 1990s came to a close, they biked Oregon's Cannon Beach on Big Wheels -- the grown-up version of the three-wheel plastic trikes for children -- pedaled past old churches in Denver, and took to the carriage trails at Acadia National Park in Maine.

Lots of their 10- to 20-mile rides piggybacked visits to trade shows to stock Patti's store, All I Saw Cookware, and Brian's business trips. Others were side trips while visiting family Outside.

"If we go, we have to bike," Patti said.

The kids leaving home spurred them to get serious.

"It hit us, what are we going to do now that the kids are gone?" Patti said. "So we decided, let's just ride in every state."

In 2000, they visited monuments in Washington, D.C., then took in five neighboring states. They biked four more states later that year.

"We must have had lots of energy that year, and money and time," Patti reflected.

In 2002, they swung between historical Spanish missions in San Antonio and ticked off seven more states.

All in all, the challenges have been small, they said.

"We've been lucky, and there's a lot of planning," Patti said.

There have been the inevitable flat tires, bad weather and inoperable gears. Their approach to setbacks might be a recipe for a good marriage: "All the good goes along with the bad," Patti said. "You just deal with it. Try to make the best of it. Try not to whine too much."

After they discovered Patti's rental had no brakes on one trip, they began purchasing bikes for multiple-state tours. They've donated bikes to churches and youth groups in Massachusetts, New Mexico and Tennessee.

They learned about "leaf peeping" the hard way, during a 33rd anniversary trip to six New England states.

"The leaves change colors, and everyone goes to see them," Brian said. "We couldn't find a place to stay; the hotels were packed." They ended up one night in a remodeled barn doing service as a B&B.

And biking in Oahu, Hawaii, proved dicey.

"They don't have bike paths, so you have to ride on the highways," Brian said. "It gets crazy."

They hit four Midwestern states in 2004, then lay low for two years while Brian weathered a broken ankle and knee surgery.

Patti closed her store in February, and Brian retired in March this year. They celebrated by biking in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and New Mexico.

"I wanted to see the balloon fiesta in Albuquerque," Patti said. They escaped the bumper to bumper traffic by pedaling back and forth to the balloon park.

That leaves just North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah to go.

"It'll be sad when it's all over," Patti said. "What are we going to talk about?"

"We could bike Europe," Brian said.