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Former Iowan uses peddle-power for trip ‘home’

Followed route used by Dutch immigrants

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

ORANGE CITY, Iowa - Former Iowan Johan Hegeman recently arrived back in the Heartland the hard way, biking alone half-way across the United States. Hegeman had travelled by plane to Baltimore from the Netherlands and then covered the remaining 1,823 miles in five weeks, biking 28 of those days, on average 65 miles a day. Hegeman who teaches at a college in Ede, made the solitary trip to attend a conference at Dordt College.

The 53-year-old man trained for the trip in the Netherlands by biking 1,000 miles. He also studied maps, researched trails and obtained advice from professional cyclists on biking in the mountains. The mountains of West Virginia were Hegeman’s test of endurance, the only time he nearly quit his long-time dream to bike across parts of the U.S.A.

In his baggage Hegeman carried the book Amsterdamse Emigranten, a collection of 19th century letters by immigrants who settled in Iowa. Hegeman discovered that many of the people in the 1850s by and large followed the same route he biked.

Hegeman originally arrived with his family in the U.S.A. as a baby and grew up in Paterson, New Jersey and in Sioux Centre, Iowa, where his father served as a minister in the Netherlands Reformed Congregations. In 1965 he went to study in the Netherlands and stayed there to raise a family.