2012-07-25 / Front Page

Carsonville native pedals across U.S.

BY MARGARET WHITMER
Reporter


Jason Pohl, formerly of Carsonville, and his co-trekker Melanie Amaroso are in the midst of a cross-country road trip that started in Washington in May and will end in Maine about a month from now. They stopped by last week to visit Pohl’s aunts, parents and relatives, staying with Pohl’s aunt, Tonya Wysong, in Carsonville. 
Photo by Margaret Whitmer Jason Pohl, formerly of Carsonville, and his co-trekker Melanie Amaroso are in the midst of a cross-country road trip that started in Washington in May and will end in Maine about a month from now. They stopped by last week to visit Pohl’s aunts, parents and relatives, staying with Pohl’s aunt, Tonya Wysong, in Carsonville. Photo by Margaret Whitmer American author H. Jackson Browne Jr. once said that when you look back on your life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the things you did.

With the spirit of that idea in mind, a former Carsonville man and his friend – already no strangers to adventure - are in the midst of one of their biggest yet: A classic road trip across the United States via bicycle.

“So far it’s been fantastic and we’ve been really, really lucky,” said Jason Pohl, 22, who with his co-trekker Melanie Amaroso, 23, stayed for a few days in his hometown of Carsonville last week before beginning the last leg of a cycling journey that began in Washington state in May.

Pohl spent his childhood in Carsonville, moving to rural San Diego when he was 12.

Amaroso moved to Fort Collins, Colo., from Norfolk, Va., at age 13. Both attended Colorado State University, where Pohl studied journalism and Amaroso studied journalism and international studies. They met as co-workers at a Barnes & Noble Booksellers.

They found that they shared a spirit for high adventure. They are long-distance runners and Pohl has run the Boston Marathon. They also love mountain climbing and have made it a goal to climb every major mountain in the world. So far, they have climbed 12 of the 54 mountains on their “bucket list.”

The cross-country biking trek was Pohl’s idea, as a graduation trip.

“We were always throwing lots of crazy ideas around,” Amaroso said.

Once the idea took hold, the pair began planning their major expedition. Pohl worked four jobs to raise money and Amaroso also worked full time.

They bought their bikes – both Motobecane Gran Turismos – for $700 each and began assembling all the camping gear and equipment they would need, including saddle bags (called panniers), tents, sleeping bags, a stove, extra tire tubes, a patch kit, a pump, clothes and food.

“We’d never ridden bikes ‘loaded’ until the day of the trip,” Pohl admits. “We were just winging it and keeping our fingers crossed!”

The trip began May 21 in the coastal town of Port Angeles, WA. From there, they pedaled through Washington, Idaho, Montana and along the Canadian border parallel to Glacier National Park, keeping to the back routes of high country so they could soak in all of the amazing natural beauty.

“It’s an experience you wouldn’t normally get if you took a car,” Pohl said.

Often they camped, but Pohl explained that there is an online community of hosts around the globe who welcome touring cyclists with open arms. Their names and locations are available on the website www.warmshowers.com.

Pohl and Amaroso could access their contact information via cellphone and stayed overnight with many of these hosts – which has proven to be among the highlights of their remarkable trip.

“They would feed us, buy meals, provide a place to stay and help with route planning,” Amaroso said.

“We met the most wonderful and interesting people with lots of stories to tell.”

Added Pohl: “The people we’ve met are what has made the trip amazing. It’s been as much about the relationships you develop along the way.”

The pair has experienced every extreme of weather.

“Washington was the rainiest, coolest and most miserable,” Pohl said. “It rained for seven days straight and was forty-two degrees.”

Added Amaroso: “You’d be soaked in ten minutes.”

The pair was in eastern Montana when this summer’s historic and punishing heat wave struck at the end of June.

“It went from being cold and miserable to hot,” Amaroso said.

Pohl said, “This hot, baking wind was blasting in our face the whole way and it started not being fun anymore.”

They also found that their bank accounts were dwindling, so reluctantly they opted to cheat just a little - taking a train from North Dakota to Minneapolis, Minn., transporting their bikes by rail.

“But we’ve been riding ever since then,” Pohl said.

They rode across northern Wisconsin through the Upper Peninsula, took a ferry to Mackinac Island and then to Mackinac City, and on into Carsonville.

Pohl has always come back to Carsonville every summer to visit relatives, including his aunts, Tonya Wyfong and Debbie O’Connell, and grandparents, Robert and Marjorie O’Connell. So the pair put Carsonville on their route. They also stopped by to visit Pohl’s parents, Gerald and Betty Pohl, in Palms.

“I grew up in a small town and it remains a part of you,” Pohl said. “I love small towns.”

They left last Thursday to conclude their trek. They plan to cross into Canada via Port Huron, cycle along the Ontario border until they reach New York and then tour through New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, ending their trip in Maine.

They estimate they will have traveled 3,200 miles, if you exclude the 800-900 mile train ride.

While they’ve viewed lots of scenery, experienced every weather extreme and met scores of interesting folk, they have yet to see their first bear, Pohl said.

“There were some raccoons that ransacked our camp and took all of our food,” he said. “They left their footprints, just to insult us.”

The trip has opened the pair’s eyes to a fact that those who may focus too much on negative news reports may forget.

“We’ve seen so many people who do so much good. They get by and have a great life,” Pohl said.

He admits that he is saddened by the state of many of the small towns they have visited that he loves so much, including those in the Upper Peninsula and Wisconsin.

“So many businesses are shut down. So many homes are empty,” he said.

But neither has any regrets, saying they’d definitely do it again.

“It’s travel the way travel should be – slow and not racing through the day,” Amaroso said. “I’ve lived in the U.S. all of my life, and I’d never seen as much as I have now. Some people never do.”

Added Pohl, “There are days when you feel like quitting. It gets repetitive and wears on you. But then you meet another real cool family and you get recharged.”

They are already talking about their next dream: Cycling all around the world.

Since that would take about three years, they realize they’ll probably have to do it one section at a time.

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