Some northeastern Oklahomans may have spotted Paul De Jong pedaling his red Bottecchia westward Tuesday on Route 66.
"I am 66 years old, and I’m riding a 1966 10-speed bicycle, which I’ve restored. It’s very similar to a bicycle I had in high school and rode across South Africa when I was 15 years old," De Jong said.
De Jong was on day five of a journey taking him from St. Louis to Albuquerque on the Mother Road. He said he didn’t know much about the Mother Road, but it seemed like the perfect fit when a friend mentioned it for his ride.
"What has struck me the most is it’s a slice of traditional, small-town America, which most of us don’t see anymore. Most Americans now live in big cities, and we get on the interstate when we want to go somewhere," De Jong said.
De Jong is skipping tourist draws like the Blue Whale in Catoosa in favor of landmarks like Cyrus Avery Bridge and its nearby plaza. He said historic attractions are important.
"And this statue here, I absolutely love it. The horses being startled by this newfangled, smelly, noisy automobile. That’s just capturing the history," De Jong said.
De Jong isn’t cycling the entire way. He’s covering good amount of the trip in the car with his wife, Sandy, and riding on select stretches of Route 66. Sandy is also offering support as Paul rides.
The couple is now planning to see the rest of the highway at some point.