• Mon June 11 2007
  • Posted Jun 11, 2007
By SARAH STRANDBERG, Courier Correspondent DECORAH To love, honor, cherish --- and bike around the world. Before Ward and Jacky Budweg of Decorah said their wedding vows more than seven years ago, Jacky made her future husband promise one thing --- that they'd travel the world together on bicycles. Ward signed the "prenup," written on the back of a cocktail napkin, and the couple is now just weeks away from fulfilling that agreement. They plan to ride as far north as the road takes them in Norway and as far south as Tierra del Fuego. "I'm not nervous, just trying to get everything done. I'm excited," said Jacky. "I feel lucky. For two people to have the same dream it's pretty remarkable." "I want to learn as much about the world as I can. I want to learn from other people. If we get some place, and they need help, then we'll stay there for a while," Ward said. Preparations The Budwegs sold their business, Decorah Bicycles in January of 2006 and since then, Ward has been working in construction and part-time at the bike shop. Jacky, a registered dietician, worked her last day at Winneshiek Medical Center Tuesday. They're not sure what they'll do when they return from their trip. But they realize they'll have to start out from "square one." "We've done that before in life. We're not scared about it," Jacky said. The Budwegs recently sold their house and have eliminated their possessions to about 20 percent of what they previously owned --- selling or giving away clothes and furnishings. Everything they retained can be kept in a space about 12 feet by 3 feet and eight feet high. Ward and Jacky have kept their purchases to a minimum and have paid all their bills. Proceeds from the sale of their house will cover the cost of the two-year trip. Planning to camp and cook their own food, they've estimated a daily budget of $50, but realize, depending on where they are, they could exceed or go under that amount. Passion for biking Jacky has had a "seize the day" philosophy since her fiance died of cancer at age 21. "I started thinking, if I want to do something, I need to do it. Life is so short and he was so into living that I decided I'm going to live for two," Jacky said. Her belief that it would be best to see the world from a bicycle seat was cemented later when she and a classmate biked from Seattle, Wash. to Santa Barbara, Calif. after their college graduation. They hauled their own tents and gear. The Budwegs shared that passion for biking when they met. They've completed numerous RAGBRAIs and GRABAAWRs (Great Annul Bicycle Adventure Along the Wisconsin River). Ward has ridden across the state of Iowa in less than 24 hours, and recently completed the Trans Iowa --- 324 miles, all on gravel. He also was a mechanic for one of Lance Armstrong's Tour of Hope bicycle rides across the country. Even though she's in top physical condition, Jacky said she can't keep up with Ward on his bike. "I'm going to have him carry more weight," she said with a laugh. "I'll have a mirror," Ward joked. The Budwegs will be riding 35-pound, steel frame Soma mountain bikes, and each will carry about 65 pounds of gear including tents, sleeping bags, air mattresses, a cook stove, dishes, food, three sets of clothing, and toiletries. Jacky's one nonessential item will be her hair dryer. Safety From other travelers, the couple learned that you're viewed differently when you enter a community on a bike. "It's an equalizer, it's not intimidating," Ward said. But they've also prepared for the realities of the world today. Because of United States' image in certain countries, the Budwegs have Canadian patches on their bags and will be wearing Canadian jackets and jerseys. They have special passport covers so only the person checking them will be able to see what country they're actually from. But when they meet people, the Budwegs plan to identify themselves as Americans. "We're not bad people," Ward said. In case of illness, the Budwegs have international travel health insurance and will take along their own antibiotics. Following the advice of another traveler, they've been collecting all the inactivated credit cards they've been mailed over the past few years. They'll keep them in fake wallets with a few bills, which they will readily give up in the event they're mugged --- something they anticipate will happen. And if they sense they're in the midst of a bad situation, they have a key word --- Berky (short for the Birkebeiner ski race in Wisconsin they've both competed in). If one of them says "Berky," they'll drop what they're doing and leave the area. Itinerary The Budwegs' goal is to reach North Cape, Norway, far above the Arctic Circle, in July when it's the warmest there. They plan to reach Germany in time for Oktoberfest, then travel to France, Switzerland, Central Europe, Italy and as many other countries as they can before arriving in Spain around Christmas time. From there, the route takes them to Portugal, Morocco, and Argentina in January when it's summer. They plan to travel through as many countries in South America as they deem safe, then fly to New Zealand, and Australia. Other countries they plan to travel through include Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Korea and Japan. From there, they hope to fly to Anchorage, arriving in June of 2009. Inspiring Ward said it's been rewarding to see the impact their preparations for the trip has had on people. "When we tell them what we did, they say, "I'm going to take half of what I have and take it to the Depot (Decorah's nonprofit store for used clothing and household goods). It's freeing, actually liberating. It's inspiring people to do things," he said. "Good plans can come together." Contact Sarah Strandberg at

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