MUNDY TWP. — Grace Harcz left Maine by bicycle on May 19 and traveled the entire way to Miami Beach by July 18 on an East Coast adventure that changed her perspective on modern life. It also made her wise beyond her years.
“Trying to describe the bike trip is like trying to describe Zen Buddhism. No words can explain it; it just has to be experienced,” said Harcz.
When she does try to explain, she does a commendable job, with an intact just- got-back from vacation glee.
“We spent the night eating blue crab and exchanging stories under the stars,” she said of her evening with a father and son who taught her how to steam and shell crabs.
That happened when she stopped in the Carolinas for a retreat from the hectic riding. Biking only about 15 to 30 miles a day during this time, she embraced the landscape as it turned from mountain terrain to ocean views.
“I would go jump in the ocean, use the shower on the beach, then make food in the shade. It was beautiful,” she said of her seaside experiences.
Before stopping in North Carolina for a vacation, the petite 5’2 NMU senior typically cycled 60 to 80 miles per day, carrying a supply load of nearly 100 pounds on her touring bike.
Her experiences, both exciting and nerve-inducing were accented with safety precautions like her use of a GPS device, which allowed her parents to see where she was at all times. She also had code words for them, previously took defense classes, and used her innate intuition to guide her choices.
“You need to be outgoing and let people take you in. That is how you have to survive,” she said.
Her proud mother Becky Benjamin said her daughter has always been an adventurer.
“The cutest thing Grace ever said was, I get up and eat mountains for breakfast,” she said.
Harcz slept by the location that inspired Stephen’s King Pet Cemetery, ran up the same stairs as Rocky in Philadelphia, attended a block party, and even stayed overnight in a fire hall.
It is in the subtle moments though, where the glory of the trip exists for Harcz.
“The trip was a huge humbling experience, almost every day I woke up not knowing where I would sleep that night or what the next mile would bring. The first month especially was really introspective. I was on my own in some extremely rural areas,” said Harcz.
“I was more aware of myself and my surroundings than I have ever been,” she said.
She would get lonely often. There were moments when she even felt on the verge of vomiting from nerves, but she said right before she thought she would give up, there was always someone or something providing exactly what she needed to keep going.
The ancient proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,” mirrors Harcz’s experience on the road.
She learned survival skills and people skills she knows will help her get through anything in life.
“We don’t need a lot of the things we have and usually they just bring on stress. The less I have the lighter and freer I feel. With people, respect goes a long way, a kind gesture and a smile can make or break a persons day,” she said.
“She matured. She realized what is a waste and what is a necessity.,” said Benjamin.
According to Harcz, “You gain a sense of awareness. It is a high. It made me appreciate life more when you slow down.”
Harcz was exposed to different people and cultures on her bike trip and when she studied aboard in Italy and Germany during high school.
Even so, she said, “I really am proud of my community and home will always be my favorite place.”
Harcz wants to thank her family, friends, and Assenmacher’s Cycling Center in Swartz Creek for their support.
To see more of her trip visit her website at cautionwideload-bikeride.blogspot.com.