Where the bike path ends

Even after biking across the country, newlyweds Dave and Erin Hughes still had the energy to gear up for a trek through Sunset Hills.

Know what’s a good way to figure out if you and your spouse are cut out for each other? Try taking a 110-day, 5,000 bike trip for a honeymoon.

David Hughes, Mt. Lebanon High School class of 2000, got married in Seattle, where he works in sales and community relations for Full Circle, an organic community-supported agriculture program. His wife, Erin, a research scientist at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health, was from the Seattle area, so her family was well represented at the wedding. David’s parents, Frank and Nancy, still live on Valley Park Drive and most of his family is from around here.

So David and Erin decided to take some time off, see a big chunk of the country and have a second wedding celebration in Mt. Lebanon. Next step: explaining to your boss that you will be taking the next, say, 15 or 16 weeks off if that’s cool. Turns out it was.

Both David and Erin’s employers were very excited about the trip. “I actually tried to quit,” Erin says. “But my boss said, ‘Let’s just leave things open.’”
The couple never did any serious training, but both put in about 50 miles a week in bike-friendly Seattle.

They started in San Francisco, where they had been house-sitting, and headed south to San Diego, through the desert in Arizona, north into Utah, then east through Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana, northwest through Ohio to Lake Erie before swooping down into Pittsburgh.

“It really brought us together,” David says. “It pushes you like nothing else.”

As David and Erin were discussing their trip at Uptown Coffee, a 40ish man in a suit approached, said he noticed their bikes out front and quickly launched into the story of his own years-ago cross country bike trip that ended up in Crescent City, California, and how he would do it again in a second.

“We get that a lot,” David says.

Erin agrees, adding that in lots of the towns they rode through, the bikes attracted a lot of attention, resulting in invitations to dinner and even to stay the night, including a night in a fire house in Newton, Kansas. “They told us they’d rather see us walk in their doors and get a good night’s rest than scrape us off the highway from heat exhaustion,” Erin says.

The pair made it to Pittsburgh in time for a Labor Day wedding celebration and are now back home in Seattle, resting up and making plans for their next trip, which is looking like South America.

You can follow David and Erin on their blog: wherethebikepathends.wordpress.com.

—MERLE JANTZ  mjantz@mtlebanon.org

Matthew Tragesser spent part of his summer with his family in Guatemala, his mother’s native country, volunteering at a hospital and orphanage. He took along $990 in donations that he collected before the trip.

This Christmas most Mt. Lebanon families will enjoy turkey, mashed potatoes and good company. But the Tragesser family knows not to take any of that for granted after meeting people who can only dream of such a life. On a recent trip to Guatemala, Matthew, 15, and Stephen, 14, volunteered at Obras del Hermano Pedro Hospital and Orphanage and saw what life is really like for the underprivileged.

The Tragessers, of Orchard Drive, have always considered volunteering to be important. But Elizabeth wanted to plan a project that would allow her sons to get involved in a way they had not been able to previously. “I often feel like my kids are living in a bubble,” she says. “When you go out and see that other children are underprivileged, your eyes are opened. My children were never exposed to anything like this before. Now they are much more appreciative for what they have.”
A Guatemala native, Elizabeth found out about Obras del Hermano Pedro Hospital and Orphanage through relatives and friends. Matthew eagerly took his mother’s lead and began to raise money for the center through Surgicorps International, a Glenshaw charity. He sent a letter about his plans to volunteer at the hospital/orphanage to his family and friends and raised $990.

The Tragessers traveled to Guatemala in August. At the hospital and orphanage, Matthew played with the children—talking with them, coloring with them or comforting them. “I could tell that it really made their day. I felt like I made a big change.” Later on in his trip, Matthew even acted as a translator at the hospital for some families who did not speak English.

The children made a lasting impression on Matthew. “This experience made me realize how lucky I am,” he says, adding that he hopes he meant something to the children, especially a little girl named Leslie. “She was 6 or 7 years old. I really felt like I made her feel like she had a friend there.”

The Tragessers’ efforts have caught on. A group of Mt. Lebanon High School students, traveling to Guatemala this summer on an exchange program, helped to deliver clothing and toys collected by the Tragessers to the center.

—HANNAH DIORIO-TOTH  mtlwriter@mtlebanon.org