The first time Michael Himes ’79 set out on a long-distance cycling trip he was a rising senior at The Mount. He wanted desperately to meet up with his friend and classmate Kevin Maher ’79 at the beach, but with no willing chauffeur or car of his own, Michael had only one way of getting there. He hopped on his bike and pedaled the 160-some miles from Catonsville to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and he loved every minute of it.
While born of necessity, Michael’s newfound passion quickly grew into much more than a means of transportation. Between 1981 and 1989, he embarked on five cycling tours, totaling 20,000 miles and 16.5 months on the road. Three tours took him across the United States; the other two were spent traveling throughout Western Europe. Then, in 1990, adulthood took hold and Michael began a demanding and time-consuming law career. He practiced law for nearly 30 years, carrying with him always his dream of cycling the world.
“So, I retired the moment my partnership agreement allowed, December 30, 2016, caught a flight to Australia on December 31, and landed, along with my Salsa Marrakesh touring bicycle, in Sydney on January 2, 2017,” he says. “I’ve been riding happily around the world ever since, now coming up on 30,000 miles under pedal.”
After nearly 30 months of hopping hemispheres to escape winters and chase down new adventures, Michael has made tracks on five continents and countless countries – Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, South Korea, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, and all over Europe. “Belfast to Budapest, Gibraltar to Helsinki, and everywhere in between,” he declares.
Having tackled so many different types of terrain, each offering unique challenges and sights, it’s hard for Michael to pick a favorite place. However, he is particularly partial to mountains – the Andes, the American Rockies, the Pyrenees. One experience stands out in his mind.
“I had just finished cycling the Carretera Austral in Chile, and its terminus is a literal dead end at Lago O’Higgins,” he explains. “The way out was a two-day trek that entailed a challenging crossing of the Andes into Argentina, seeing Mt. Fitzroy, and cycling onto the climbing mecca of El Chalten, Argentina. I was riding with an Israeli fighter pilot, and while hanging around in our camp the night we crossed the Andes together, we both thought it to be one of the best rides in the world – a ‘great to be alive’ feeling coupled with accomplishing a difficult feat through very remote and stunning natural beauty.”
While he has followed trails to wondrous and breathtaking views, historic landmarks, and unforgettable rides, many of the memories Michael holds dear from his travels involve the people he has met along the way. Like the Israeli pilot, they have each positively impacted his experience through their compassion and company.
“There are countless people who have, however briefly, welcomed an itinerant cyclist into their lives, their homes, and so many of whom have shown such warmth and kindness and generosity to me,” he says. “The Taiwanese woman who bandaged my bloody leg; the Japanese man who made a hot meal for a shivering cyclist seeking refuge from a snowstorm in the Alps; the Dutch man who stopped to put my broken bike into his car to save me the ten-mile walk into town; the Sri Lankan boys who ran behind me, laughing and pushing me up a very, very steep mountain; the countless smiles and free drinks and meals offered around the world are the things I will always remember.”
Though, Michael never stays long with his new friends. He gets up each morning and rides, leaving behind his hosts and helpers in favor of the solitude of his ongoing journey. He rides regardless of weather or circumstance. “I have cycled through earthquakes in Taiwan, raging wildfires in France and Chile, snowfalls in the Japanese Alps, cyclones in New Zealand, drenching downpours in Asia, terrifying winds in Patagonia, and I’ve ridden up to my axles in water cycling along the flooded Danube River,” he exclaims. “But, I pedaled on!”Read more stories about Gaels abroad in the Summer 2019 issue of The Mount magazine.