Journeymen Garry Wills and Brent Diers Spent Two Years Pedaling 33,480 Miles across Five Continents. Why? for Adventure

By Reese, Joel | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), October 26, 1998 | Go to article overview

Journeymen Garry Wills and Brent Diers Spent Two Years Pedaling 33,480 Miles across Five Continents. Why? for Adventure


Reese, Joel, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Joel Reese Daily Herald Staff Writer

On a sweltering highway in Malawi, Africa, Brent Diers held a wooden skewer between his fingers.

Seven charbroiled mice were threaded on the thin round stick.

"These were whole roasted mice," Diers says. "Apparently, they're considered a real delicacy. People just pop them in their mouths whole, or put them in a stew."

As his traveling partner Garry Wills looked on, Diers mulled gulping down one of the grilled rodents. He twirled the skewer slowly with his thumb.

"Absolutely I thought about eating one," he says.

But did he take the big plunge?

"I couldn't quite cross the line on it," the 42-year-old Diers recalls with a laugh. "I ate the dog in Vietnam, but not the mice."

"Yeah, and the dogs got their revenge," Wills chimes in. "We were chased by dogs all the time."

Such were the adventures, culinary and otherwise, Diers and Wills encountered on their 22-month bicycling trek across the world.

Starting from and ending at Addison's Lutherbrook Child and Adolescent Center, the two starred on a local news show in Ecuador, visited massive ruins in Peru, rode in an armed convoy across a Kenyan desert and pedaled right into a riot in Indonesia.

In all, the duo biked a jaw-dropping 33,480 miles across the globe, accumulating 118 flat tires along the way.

The pair also raised several thousand dollars for Lutherbrook, a residence for abused or neglected adolescents run by the Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois.

Diers is the former assistant director of Lutherbrook, and he now works as the quality assurance manager for LCFS in River Forest.

The money raised will go toward a bike path on Lutherbrook's sprawling campus, according to Leslie Lopez, communications specialist for the agency.

But raising money for Lutherbrook wasn't the point of the pair's odyssey. Their reason resembles Sir Edmund Hillary's explanation for climbing Mount Everest: "Because it's there."

"Biking around the world was one of those things that we talked about wistfully at first, then it just gained momentum the more we talked about it," Diers says.

And, Wills is quick to add, he had boasted of his plan so much that he was trapped: "For me, you talk about it enough and tell enough people, and you kind of box yourself in."

Then again, it's not as if Diers or Wills are novices at bicycling adventures.

Diers, who now lives in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood, has cycled across Iceland and Canada, while Wills has pedaled across Alaska. Together, they've also ridden through Central America and Mexico.

Still, both admit they were surprised by the amount of preparation needed to circumnavigate the Earth.

First, there was the trip to the doctor for inoculations against Japanese encephalitis, yellow fever, meningitis, rabies, polio, typhus, hepatitis A and B, and other ailments.

"We had to go back three times because they ran out of space on our arms," Diers says. "We were human pincushions."

They also sold all their belongings to pay for the trip, which cost them more than $40,000.

"We did it the dumb way - we were totally bad at self-promotion," says Wills, who believes corporate sponsors would have shelled out thousands for the trip if the two bikers had agreed to wear logos.

Then there was the fact that neither spoke any of the languages they were about to encounter - no Spanish, no Chinese, no Swahili, no Xhosa.

"Just English, and not very good at that," Diers says.

When they finally hit the road, their bikes and equipment weighed more than 120 pounds. Their side-saddle packs were bursting with clothes, medicine, water filters, guidebooks, stoves, maps, spare bike parts, and shortwave radios.

And then they were off.

Carrying the cross

Diers and Wills began by heading south toward Mexico, encountering a man in Texas who carried a 15-foot wooden cross across the country. …

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