Many would consider biking to the market a trek. But retired truck driver and auto mechanic Henny Zandbergen, 65, takes trekking to another level, having traveled against all odds and all types of weather to complete a cross-country bike journey that occupied his thoughts and dreams for a decade by riding into Laguna Beach.
Zandbergen visited Newport Beach 25 years ago and fell in love with the experience of a sun-soaked lazy beach day, an experience mostly lacking in his hometown, North Reichen in Holland. So on May 8, with his “beach fantasy” as sustenance, he began his ride across the United States.
After landing in New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport, Zandbergen set out through Pennsylvania rain with the intent of using gear in a 50-pound bag strapped to his back to camp out overnight.
“After the first night I found out camping wasn’t for me,” Zandbergen chuckled, about his first sodden days. After endeavoring to sleep and eat in a tent during thunderstorms, he spent the remainder of his nights in motels.
Throughout his 4,165-mile journey, Zandbergen dined mostly at gas stations because they proved time efficient. In, coffee, sandwich, out. In the 67 days it took him to bring his dream to fruition, he rode 75 miles a day and hardly ate dinner, losing 17 pounds along the way.
“I brought one set of civilian clothes that I had to throw away because they didn’t fit anymore,” said Zandbergen, jubilant about his new physique.
He remains nonchalant and modest about his feat. “Early in the morning when it’s not too hot, from 6 to 12, I got some of my best rides. I would do 50 miles in the morning then squeeze out another 25 in the afternoon.”
Throughout the southbound leg of his journey from Oregon to his nephew’s Laguna Beach house, fog temporarily dampened his spirits. The cyclist anticipated a sunny coastal beach ride, but instead encountered cold air and cloud-covered skies.
“On the road you can dream, think, fantasize about anything you want. One thing I dreamed about very often was finding a shoebox full of money and what I would do with it. Probably buy a home on the beach. But it’s just to keep your mind busy.”
Zandbergen got lost a few times near San Francisco where the road turned into a highway. Passersby could offer directions if he had been in a motor vehicle, but were clueless about guidance to a cyclist. He found his way on his own.
Finding the hills of Laguna too steep, Zandbergen pushed his bike for the first time on his journey when he finally reached the home of relatives, Tina and Bart Zandbergen.
“He called us and said ‘I’m here’ and as soon as we hung up the phone, the sun came out.” Tina Zandbergen explained.
“All the way cross the east coast I kept on dreaming and fantasizing about this beach and this kind of weather,” said Zandbergen, gazing out onto the shore break of El Morro Cove. Laguna breezes signaled that he had finally reached his seaside vision.