April 10, 2014

From Europe to Texas, halfway there...

 Frank Vandenbogaerdi and The Impulsive Texan    

Being here in the center of the nation, we get to see a lot of interesting things and to meet some very interesting folks. We're on a busy state/national highway, here in Central Texas and we get a lot of travelers from all over passing through. So yesterday, a friend called me and asked if we had camping spaces available anywhere in Comanche. I told him we had camping spots available in the City Park, but it was going to start filling up on Thursday, so one day would be relatively quiet should he choose to stay. He relayed the message to the man and at about 4:45 he showed up at City Hall. And then an amazing story began to unfold.

Frank Vandenbogaerdi is a teacher from Belgium and he is taking a bike trip across America. He began his journey in Miami, Florida in early March and was passing through Comanche on his way to San Francisco, California, on his bicycle!

After he arrived at City Hall and we set him up with a spot at the Park, he began to tell the story of his adventures and his trip across the USA. He spoke for 30 minutes on some of the things he had done and how enjoyable his trip had been so far.  I asked him "why are you doing this Frank. Is there a charity, or event that your riding for"? He told me that since he was a young teenager, he had dreamed of riding a bicycle across the United States. So he was basically fulfilling an item on his "bucket list".

What is making this trip so special, is that at the end of his journey, his wife will join him in San Francisco to help celebrate his three month journey and to spend some time together on a tour of California and the west coast, before heading back home to Belgium.

I asked one final question before he took off to spend the night at the park. "Frank, what is the one thing that you will take back to Belgium as being one of the most memorable aspects of the trip"?. Without hesitation he said "the incredible generosity of every person he came in contact with is what has been most memorable. He went on to say, "Americans are a kind, gentle and very giving people. So without a doubt it was the way the people treated me so generously and kind, that I will always remember". The heart of the old Implusive Texan swelled up with American pride.

I left work with a very high respect for people like Frank. I also have a bucket list that has twenty-five or so items on it, but only a few have been "ticked" off. Frank is about to fulfill yet another of his bucket list items in June when he completes the cross country tour of America. What a driven man he is and one that I am proud to have met.

I've heard it said before, "People come into your life for one of three reasons...a reason, a season or a lifetime". I like to think he came into my life to try and motivate a tired, old Texan into reaching out and fulfilling more of those "bucket list" items, that are sitting, incomplete on a pad of paper, on my desk. I actually feel a bit of a spark burning inside right now.

Safe travels and God-speed Frank and welcome to Texas, USA!