Thirty-three countries, four continents, 21,000 miles and a fireworks show in Scotts Valley.
That’s the journey Roger and Dee Sims of Bromley, Kent, in the United Kingdom have taken since they mounted their bicycles on April 1, 2010, for a trip around the world.
“We’ve enjoyed every country we’ve been to,” said Dee Sims, 49.
She and Roger Sims, 50, rode south from San Francisco into Scotts Valley before July 4 to visit his sister Valerie Sims and her husband, Tim Johnson, and sons, Matthew and Edward.
The travelers will stay in town through Valerie Sims’ birthday on July 15 before continuing south and then east through the southern United States, covering 30 to 60 miles per day, to reach New York in time for New Year’s Day.
While on a short cycling vacation in 2004, the Simses met a Canadian couple who were biking around the world.
“They weren’t super athletes,” Dee Sims said. “We almost thought you had to be a super athlete. We thought, ‘We can do it.’”
Inspired by the Canadians’ adventure, the Simses took six years to save enough to start their own trip.
Then Roger Sims sold the bike shop he owned and contacted a bicycle supplier he knew, who built custom touring bikes for the couple.
Fully loaded with camping gear, clothing and food, Roger’s bike weighs 150 pounds, while Dee’s weighs about 100. Included in their gear are maps, a laptop, an iPad and a spot transmitter that sends a signal to their blog and their family about where they are.
The couple found renters for their home in Bromley and set out. They pedaled through parts of Europe and passed through Turkey and Iran on the way to China.
“Iran stood out for their hospitality,” Dee Sims said. “Three or four times a day, people would ask us to stop to give us fruit or ask us to stay at their homes. They are an extremely friendly people.”
Another highlight was visiting Myanmar and Burma. There were few tourists, Roger Sims said, and the land was “very raw and natural.”
Their journey continued through Hong Kong, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Singapore.
In December 2010, the couple was stopped by an accident.
“Dee was hit by a motorcycle in Laos,” Roger Sims said. “It was one of the quietest roads; a drunk on a motorbike came around a bend on the wrong side of the road. We thought that was the end of the trip.”
Her leg was injured and her bicycle damaged. But a replacement bicycle was shipped in, and after two months of recuperation, the couple was back on the road.
Shortly afterward, Dee Sims’ father died, and the couple flew back to England for the funeral before resuming their adventure in Thailand.
From Asia, they hopped a plane to Australia, but harsh conditions along the roadways — fast cars and few shoulders good for riding on — limited them to 1,000 miles on the roads of Australia before flying to New Zealand.
Then they boarded another plane, this time across the Pacific, to Vancouver Island, Canada.
The couple has averaged about 9 mph throughout the journey.
“We call ourselves Team Tortoise,” Dee Sims said.
They crossed to the United States on a ferry in the San Juan Islands in May and made their way down the Pacific coast to Scotts Valley.
“America has been one of the friendliest, if not the friendliest country,” Dee Sims said. “People are open and outgoing. They will walk up to you and ask you what you are doing. That has been a really nice experience.”
During their travels, the Simses have found opossums and raccoons in their tent and seen animals of all kinds, including water buffalo and a 10-foot red-bellied black snake, on the cycling track.
“On a trip like this, the highs are very high and the lows are very low,” Dee Sims said.
They have been together for 14 years and married for seven, and both agreed that their travel experience — biking each day and camping each night — had been valuable for their relationship.
“It’s brought us closer together,” Dee Sims said. “It accentuates your strengths and weaknesses. “
“We have a much, much better understanding of the world,” Roger Sims said. “Some of the countries have moved us to tears, because of the poverty and animal cruelty — Eastern Europe and China especially. It makes you very, very humble at times.”
- Roger and Dee Sims record their travels around the world by bicycle on their blog, www.afistfullofgears.co.uk