by Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette — It seems even in Switzerland, Niagara Falls is a big deal.
Carol Hutmacher likes to travel around the world, but she'd never been to the United States – except one time she had a layover in a New York City airport on her way from Peru back home – let alone the majestic cataract which has spellbound millions. But she certainly knew about it. It's one of those things always talked about back home, she said.
Saturday, everything changed when the 28-year-old had the opportunity to see the landmark everyone associates as part of America in her homeland. But her journey to the waterfall isn't the typical flight and hotel stay. No, she and her boyfriend, 31-year-old Gregory Beguelin, took a roundabout path around the entire country.
And they did it by bicycle.
"We started in March in Miami," Hutmacher said. "We went to San Francisco, up the coast to Vancouver and now we're heading east. Of course Niagara Falls is a landmark we didn't want to miss.
"The Oregon Coast is also beautiful, and the desert was something to see because it is so different than home."
The visitor admits to having little knowledge of the United States as a country. But the trip has opened her eyes to both the way people act here and how we treat visitors who happen to be looking for a little help or guidance along the way.
People like Sara Ficke, who was minding her own business in Denny's Kitchen on Niagara Street when a rain-soaked Hutmacher and her traveling companion made their way in during the hard rain for a spot to dry off.
"We've been really surprised at how friendly Americans are," she said. "Some of them have even invited us in for sleeping or eating. This is a wonderful country, we've really enjoyed our time here. We've only had good experiences."
Ficke listened to their conversation, where Hutmacher explained where they'd been along the journey. How they went up the west coast of Florida, through Fort Myers, where she lives, and how they'd gone, by bicycle, to the west coast and now were headed back again.
The story made her sit up and pay attention.
"They were talking about how far they've gone," she said. "I thought, 'my goodness.' It's so interesting to hear of someone biking so many miles, and they did it with all their worldly possessions strapped to the back of their bikes."
Hutmacher and Beguelin are keeping track of their travels on the Internet for everyone to read. Available at www.crabcake.ch, the text is only available in French or German without a translator. For the language-challenged, however, there's also a map which shows the path they've traveled.