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Biking in Remembrance

German riding across U.S. in honor of 9/11 anniversary

September 21, 2011
In New York City's Central Park on Sept. 11, 2001, Thomas Bruns was greatly disturbed by the horror he saw that day. For Bruns, who is from Wuppertal, Germany, it made no difference that the attack wasn't against his homeland.

That was "the most sad thing to happen to me … seeing all the people there crying," he said.

Thomas Bruns, from Wuppertal, Germany, recently spent a night in Milltown. He is riding across America in remembrance of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Bruns was in New York’s Central Park on Sept. 11, 2001. It was “the most sad thing to happen to me … seeing all the people crying,” he said. Photo by Chris Adams
An avid traveler who has biked across parts of the world, Bruns had been wanting to ride his bicycle across the United States. He planned on doing so in 2008 but decided to wait until now so that he could ride in honor of the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

Therefore, after flying with his bike into New York, the 47-year-old Bruns began his journey, which will end either in San Francisco or Los Angeles, depending on the weather, about four weeks ago.

Journeying through Pennsylvania, where he was given a lift by a motorist because of flooding, and then to Maryland and West Virginia, Bruns biked into Kentucky, going through Lexington and then to Louisville, in time for the city's 9/11 ceremony.

Bruns crossed the Clark Memorial Bridge to Jeffersonville the next morning, making his way across the Ohio River much quicker than most motorists due to the temporary closure of the Sherman Minton Bridge. From there, he ventured to New Albany and then west, ending up in Milltown that evening, staying at the Cave Country Canoes campground along the Blue River.

"Really nice place, nice people," Bruns said of Milltown, before heading back on the road.

During his stay, he attended a Milltown Town Council meeting and was provided breakfast and a shower by Jerry and Robyn Carmen, owners of Carman's Mini Mart.

Bruns got the bug for travel when he visited Africa to see the animals following his education to become a zoologist. The trip was part of his national service, required by Germany of its young people at the time.

"I couldn't stop," he said. "I really enjoyed it."

Single with no children, Bruns said he has the freedom to take to the open road. He, however, does carry a cell phone so he can stay in touch with family and friends, in part to let them know that he is safe.

Bruns estimated that it will take about another 10 weeks from when he left Milltown to get to California.

"The average I make is about 50 miles a day," he said.

While Bruns is intent on making it to the West Coast, he also wants to see America and has been making time to stop at attractions along the way. From Milltown, he planned to visit Marengo Cave before continuing west.

Some of the most memorable things Bruns has seen so far weren't planned. During a stop in Pennsylvania, he tried to strike up conversation with a member of the Amish community. He spoke in English and the man didn't answer, but, when Bruns spoke in German, another man did and invited Bruns to stay at his home that evening. Bruns said he was surprised that the home featured electricity — from solar panels.

"They said, 'Well, that's the sun. It's made by God,' " he said.

Then, on his way to Milltown, a passing motorist saw the large German flag that, along with the American flag, adorns the back of Bruns' bicycle. The motorist, Gregor Gertz, was originally from Germany. He stopped, and the two men talked for a long time.

"Really nice man," Bruns said of Gertz.

Once Bruns arrives in California, his journey won't be over. In fact, it'll be just beginning.

"Actually, I'm on my way around the world … From California, I fly to Japan," he said.

From Tokyo, Bruns will go to South Korea and China then to Southeast Asia and Australia. From there, he will fly to South Africa and bike his way north back home.

"It'll take about three years," he said.

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