OPRF grads Kaz Boyle, Tim Walsh and Tim Senechalle set out this summer to cycle from Amsterdam to Rome and back. Boyle and Walsh, a science teacher at Julian Middle School in Oak Park, are accomplished journeymen. In 2002, they cycled across the U.S., and in ’04 they canoed 800 miles down the Mississippi River. This column includes information from their fourth dispatch and from their final dispatch.
They’re home now, Boyle hobnobbing with Hollywood’s finest, Walsh prepping for the impending school year in Oak Park. Both are more than likely recovering from yet another exhausting adventure, reflecting on yet another mesmerizing experience, and regurgitating at the sight of pork-a meal they continuously devoured for weeks at a time.
What drives these guys to set out on such risky expeditions?
Well, it’s a variety of things I’m sure: The challenge, the discovery, the experience, the danger, the triumph. Boyle’s mom, Joanne, who still resides in Oak Park, says the reason is simple: “Can you imagine looking down from the Alps on Italy? It must have been breathtaking. I wish I was younger.”
Joanne’s words had me picturing the future, 20 years from now, Boyle and Walsh sitting out on someone’s back porch, drinking cocktails while smoke wafts from a burning grill. Someone says: “I went to Rocky Point, Mexico, and drank the water.” Another person says: “Yeah, well I road-tripped to South Bend to see Notre Dame take on Michigan. We nearly ran out of gas!” A third person hollers: “That’s nothing. I spent a week in the Florida Keys and never once put on sunscreen!”
Now Boyle and Walsh just look at each other, smirks galore.
“We’ve done nothing but ride bicycles across the country, canoe 800 miles down the Mississippi River, and cycle from Amsterdam to Italy and back, all in the last six years.”
Complete and utter silence.
These guys have a story, or 2,000; if you’ve kept up with Boyle’s e-mails you know.
“At a farmer’s market in Pont L’Eveque, we ate some of its eponymous cheese, but not before I joined in a circle dance with costumed locals, following the steps as they were shouted out in French-like a square dance … in a circle,” went a portion of one dispatch from the journey sent from Antwerpen, Belgium.
Another sang to: “We’ve become less stressed about finding places to sleep. One night was an unused farm field, cows and horses and the first donkey Walsh has seen came to the fence to investigate us. It poured on us that night, the constant lighting preparing us a half hour before the rain hit. The next morning was grey and slow. We took it easy, waiting out the rain at the cafe having a post petit dejeuner calvados. We were nearing the D-Day invasion beaches and were surprised to see so many American flags-often grouped with the Union Jack and the Maple Leaf and the Trois Coleurs.
“In Grandcamp Maisy we witnessed a surreal parade of teenagers in ill-fitting costumes performing complex choreography to epic arrangements of “Let It Be” and “So Happy Together.”
They’ve seen things that maybe tourists wouldn’t go out of their way to see. “In Ypres we came across a monument to the British soldiers who died during WWI-thousands of names engraved into a majestic archway.”
They’ve met several people, some of them more interesting than others. “Over drinks that night (in Brugge) we met a group of Uraguayans on a global journey. Tim again got to use his Spanish. The sky was getting light when I finally crashed. … In St. Seans, I did my best to follow the conversation of a drunk guy with a basset hound. Tim got to ignore him as he doesn’t speak French.”
Boyle’s last dispatch reflected on how the month-long journey may have changed him as a person.
“‘I feel older, like I’ve grown,’ I said to Tim as we milked the tailwind 15 kilometers south of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. He felt the same way, passing in reverse order windmills, intersections and architecture we recognized from our first day. We remembered the naiveté, the almost adolescent exuberance with which we reacted to our first canal drawbridge, our first pasture of puffed-up sheep. Now we were undaunted by the motor-scooters that shared our bike path, tearing past us with obnoxious sounds and odors. Now we understood the myriad graphic street signs, or most of them anyway.
“It was a gift, to return to the starting point by a new route, to realize all at once how our adventure had affected us.”
I don’t think he’s referring to the pork.