Family peddling across country on dream trek

Published 5:00 am Thursday, October 29, 2009

Willie Nelson sings about being “On The Road Again,” but thereis no “again” for one Kentucky family who passed through LincolnCounty Wednesday.

They’re always on the road, at least since August 1. And that’snot the strange part.

The Summers family – parents Bill and Amarins, and daughtersCheyenne, 6, Jasmine, 4, and Robin, 2 – are making the trek fromKentucky to Alaska, including a detour to Florida, by bicycle. Onebicycle that seats all five people.

“Sometimes people move over and give us two whole lanes on theroad,” Cheyenne said as she and her sisters ate ice cream in frontof the Highway 84 Chevron. “I don’t know why they do that.”

And when they stop, they are almost immediately surrounded byonlookers who are curious about the extra-long bike – or the manwith the four pretty blondes making his way down the road in ahelmet.

“I’ve got all my girls here,” Bill Summers said. “It’s not likeI’m doing this with sons. These are strong women.”

Family members said their trip is one simply for the sake ofmaking it. People ask them what cause they’re supporting or ifthey’re trying to raise awareness for anything, but it’s purely anadventure to them.

“We just wanted to go to Alaska,” Amarins Summers said. “To goin a car seems too simple, and too impersonal. Then we found afive-person tandem bike.”

The bike was customized to fit the family, and when it wasfinished, they trained through May, June, and July. Finally, onAugust 1, the family set out on their journey.

“We just did it because it’s a dream we have,” Bill Summerssaid. “We want to inspire people to live their dreams.”

The children are homeschooled, with Bill and Amarins Summersalso able to incorporate different historical things they learnalong the way into the children’s teaching. But it’s also a chanceto do something unforgettable, she said.

“It’s an education for the kids,” she said. “We’re doing thiswithout money, without health insurance, and we’re talking topeople a lot about chasing their dreams, but still takingresponsibility for their actions.”

There’s a deeper theme, too, Bill Summers said.

“We think the quintessential American is someone who takeschances and risks,” he said. “He’s someone who, like ourpredecessors, sees what’s beyond the next river. We’re trying todemonstrate to people how to rekindle the American Spirit and notdepend on the government for their livelihood.”

The Summerses have seen the world already – Bill, who has livedin the Middle East and speaks fluent Arabic, and Amarins from theNetherlands – and got to Mississippi by way of Florida. When theywent through Alabama the Mobile Bay Ferry was closed, so they cutnorth to Hattiesburg. The next stop was Prentiss, and then they hitHighway 84 headed west.

There was a stopover at the Atwood Water Park, they said. Thepeople of Lawrence County were especially hospitable, even sendingsomeone by car to make sure they could cross some of the narrowbridges safely on their big bicycle.

The stop at the 84 Chevron brought a crowd.

“How do you turn that thing?” one man asked. “Looks like itturns about like an 18-wheeler.”

“Very carefully,” Bill Summers said with a laugh.

The Summerses have a Web site where they chronicle the events oftheir trip at The trip has brought all sorts ofadventures, including one in Ducktown, Tenn., where a lawenforcement official seemed determined to get the children out ofthe rain.

“We didn’t like Ducktown,” said Jasmine, to which Cheyenneadded, “They don’t allow children in the rain.”

Amarins said the helpful officer, who may have been a constable,asked the family when they would be stopping again, and implied hemight need to take the kids to the station.

“Dad said no,” Jasmine said.

But mostly the adventure has been one of positiveexperiences.

“It’s hard to say what our favorite part has been, because somany things have happened,” Amarins Summers said. “Jasmine haslearned to swim, we’ve been sailing on the Atlantic, we wenthorseback riding in Lucedale, we’ve seen a crocodile and a lot ofarmadillos.”

Much of the joy has been in meeting the people, she said.

“We find these pockets of wonderful people and beautiful towns,”she said. “We were going to try to actually go in to Brookhaven butthe weather is playing ballgames with us, so we need to go on. Wehave to be in Natchez tomorrow.”

Once the family hits California, they will head north to Alaska,they said. And once that is complete, the sky is still thelimit.

“Hopefully we’ll be doing a book signing tour next,” BillSummers said.