It took him two years, one bicycle, and the kindness of numerous strangers to complete this feat.
Now nearly 100 years old, Fred Birchmore is still talking about the experience today.
In a recent article in Smithsonian magazine, Mr. Birchmore talks about what made him abandon his studies in international law at Germany’s University of Cologne to bicycle across Europe and Asia.
Bad luck in the form of a robbery caused him to miss the beginning of his second semester at the university so he opted instead to bicycle across the Syrian desert. Not necessarily a choice everyone would make!
His bicycle, which is now in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, weighed 42 pounds, had one gear and was named Bucephalus after Alexander the Great’s horse.
When he finally returned home (after visiting Afghanistan, India, Vietnam, and Thailand, among many other countries), he still couldn’t shake the urge to travel.
He rode more than 12,000 miles across North America before getting married in 1939.
When he got married later that year, it was clear from the beginning that he had chosen the right spouse. For their honeymoon, he and his wife, Willa Deane, covered more than 4,500 miles on a tandem bike through Latin America.
It must have been an amazing adventure and it certainly gave Mr. Birchmore a new perspective on life as an American.
According to Mr. Birchmore, “Americans eat too much, sleep too little, work too hard, and travel too fast to live to a ripe old age.”
For more about the amazing Fred Birchmore, you can read his biography, Around the World on a Bicycle.