As Wessington Springs resident Eileen Schooler rounded the corner of Third Street and College Avenue during a Sunday afternoon walk, she couldn’t help but notice Freddy Bacher pedaling north on his self-supported, long-distance touring bicycle equipped with 50 pounds of gear. In search of Shakespeare Garden, Freddy asked Schooler for directions and the two struck up a conversation. For Bacher, this type of spontaneous human interaction and “trail magic” is a phenomenon he’s experienced on a near daily basis since beginning his journey a month ago in Montana.
“It speaks volumes to the general kindness of human nature despite political views, religion, ethnicity, or gender,” Bacher explained. “The kindness I’ve experienced from people has blown me away. People really want to feel the excitement of the adventure you’re on. I can’t tell you how many times people have stopped me and asked if I need water or food, or like last night at the campground when I met local Gail Arnott who ended up giving me a brief history lesson about Wessington Springs and recommended I visit Shakespeare Garden and the cottage.”
Wessington Springs made its official debut this summer on the Parks, Peaks and Prairies long distance bicycling route as mapped out by North America’s premier bicycle adventure organization, Adventure Cycling Association (ACA). Established in 1973 the organization touts more than 50,000-miles of meticulously documented bike routes across the country and over 52,000 members who regularly traverse the cycling route network.
No stranger to adventure, Bacher has spent much of his 53 years rock climbing and mountaineering some of the tallest mountains in the world. Only after semi-retiring last year from a 27-year career in the organic food industry did the Denver, Colo. resident shift his gaze from mountaintops to long-distance cycling. His inaugural bike packing trip took him along the coastal west from Vancouver to Tijuana. The transformative trip stirred something deep inside Bacher to continue seeing the world at the speed of a bike.
Before arriving in Wessington Springs, the Parks, Peaks and Prairies route took Bacher through Yellowstone, Devil’s Tower and across the Black Hills including Mickelson Trail that was “glowing with fall color.”
Just like in Wessington Springs – which he hailed for its clean, comfortable and friendly facilities – “trail magic” met him frequently along the passage.
“It truly is about the journey,” he said. “The richness is the experience, the connection with people. That’s where the human spirit is.”