On Sept. 9, a long-held dream for two men was fulfilled when James Meussig cycled into Astoria.
Meussig, 37, of New York City, began his journey in Astoria, New York, about six weeks ago. The youngest of five children born to Harry and Ruth Meussig, his father immigrated to this country as a teenager and worked hard to ensure that his children would do well. He drowned in the Atlantic Ocean when his son James was just 18 months old. When Harry Meussig died, his dream of cycling across his adopted homeland died with him.
The young James grew up hearing stories of his father's dream and never forgot. At the age of 36, he set out to fulfill his and his father's dreams and found himself, "enjoying the beauty of our land, the power of our cities, and carrying on the American tradition of achievement of personal and shared goals," said his sister, Gillian Meussig of Seattle, Wash. Meussig celebrated his 37th birthday on the road.
Along the way, at Lolo Pass, crossing from Montana into Idaho, Meussig met another cyclist by the name of Henry Gerstenberg, aged 68. Gerstenberg was just a few years younger than Meussig's father would have been had he lived, and reminded Meussig of his father in many ways, including the fact that both were of German descent. The two traveled together for 10 days, all the way to Hood River. Gerstenberg was an explorer who was following the Missouri River; he was also a retired government physicist and an artist, with works exhibited in the Baltimore Museum.
Along the Old Columbia Highway in Hood River, Gerstenberg fell off his bicycle and, despite efforts of park rangers and paramedics, died on the roadway. Devastated but determined to continue, Meussig carried on and arrived in Astoria as planned.
As part of Gerstenberg's family's request, Meussig took the bandanna from around Gerstenberg's neck and brought it to Astoria. He dipped it into the Pacific Ocean before mailing it back to the family.
Meussig and his sister spent a few days in Seaside before driving up to Seattle. Meussig will fly home to New York City soon, with his bicycle, which he says can travel with him for just $10.
Meussig was in no hurry on his trip. He stopped at many places along the way, including Yellowstone National Park, where he said he spent a week cycling around in circles.
"It's the most exciting and, at the same time, most relaxing vacation (I've) ever had," he said of the journey. "Every day is a new day, you never know what's around the corner." He has been left with "a feeling of exhilaration and confidence," and laughs as he says that there is nothing New York City can now throw at him that he hasn't already dealt with in some fashion.