Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | August 1, 2016

Day 46: A wonderful surprise visit

Day 46
Destination: Kewanee, Ill.
Monday’s mileage: 55 miles. Total: 2,515

Mark and Kurt

Kurt Young Binter and me, after the ride. He’s the skinny one on the left.

It’s hard to define what it means to be a “good friend.” Here’s one manifestation of it.

Kurt Young Binter, a dear friend since high school and the best man at my wedding 30 years ago, woke up at his home in Milwaukee at 3 a.m. today. He threw his bike into the back of his car. He drove 3 and a half hours into the heart of Illinois. He parked and rode his bike to intercept me while I was chugging along into a steady headwind on my way to Kewanee.

Kurt arranged this surprise with Melody, who had helped pull this scheme together. The surprise was perfect; my shock was real. You can see evidence of it from a slideshow Melody threw together on the 55andalive facebook page. Melody will post the video on our website later today (hopefully), and you’ll want to see this one. (As it turns out, it’s more time-consuming to produce a video than it is to write a story. Who knew!?)

Here’s how it went down. I was chugging along, 30 miles into my ride and grinding away into a decent headwind when I rounded a turn and happened upon a befuddled looking guy on a bike. He was looking at his cellphone, feigning confusion and seemingly lost.

I slowed down, plucked the earbuds from my ears and asked if this “stranger” needed a hand.

“Yeah, do you know where Cambridge is?”
“Yeah, it’s up this way,” I said.
“This way?” he said haltingly, helplessly it seemed.
“Yeah, this way. East,” I said.
“Do you mind if I ride with you there?” he asked.

By this time, you’d think I’d recognize my good friend. But the context was all wrong. Why would someone I know show up on some random country road in the middle of the cornfields of this part of Illinois?

“Yeah, sure,” I said. “No problem. What are you up to?”
“Oh, I’m just looking for a friend,” he said, taking off his sunglasses, hoping I might then finally recognize him.

When he did this, I finally did “get” the joke. And when that happens, I almost always descend into a flurry of profanity and howls of laughter. I apologize in advance if my language offends you. But this is how it went down.

“Jesus Christ,” I said. “Fucking Kurt Binter.”

We laughed. We hugged. His actions before I recognized him started to snap into focus.

“I was wondering what the fuck you were doing pointing that camera at me while I was answering your questions,” I said (this is a rough transcription of what I think I said. The video will tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.)

Mark and Kurt riding

Friends don’t let friends ride all the way across the country by themselves, it turns out.

We rode into Cambridge. We had some lunch. And we rode another 15 miles or so (25 miles together along the rolling hills of west-central Illinois) before Kurt needed to roll back to his car, throw his bike in the back and head for Milwaukee.

Some days of this tremendous bicycling journey across the country have been a real gift. This is one of them. After a week of sharing the road with family, friends and 15,000 others during RAGBRAI, I was back to solo riding — until Kurt came along to carry me forward just a little bit closer to the finish line.

This is how friendship revealed itself today.


  1. May you meet many more “lost” friends on the road!

  2. What a wonderful surprise!! Hello to Kurt from mom.

    • Hello Mrs. Wollemann !

  3. That leg of your ride wont be forgotten. Was a nice story.

  4. It went down better than I had hoped!

  5. […] you get a visit from an old friend. Sometimes you run into new friends on the road. That’s what happened […]

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