Image courtesy of Howard Levitt and Wendy Scheffers
Howard Levitt isn’t the first person to ride a bike across the country. But as a San Franciscan these past 40 years and recent retiree from the National Park Service (NPS), his quest is not only interesting, but inspirational as well. Whether you’re also ready to take on a cross-country ride or not, you can follow Howard’s example and support our work advocating for people who bike in San Francisco by joining as a member today.
Howard, along with his wife Wendy Scheffers — a professor at San Francisco State — have been biking for a long time in the Bay Area. Upon his retirement from the NPS and with Wendy by his side, Howard decided to take on one of the biggest items on his bucket list.
We caught up with them at the beginning of their trip taking a rest day in Sisters, Oregon to ask some questions about their plans and their biking experiences in the Bay Area.
“I’m a lifelong cyclist,” Howard told us, “and for 15 years a daily commuter.” Howard consistently rode his bike from his and Wendy’s house in Noe Valley to his work at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area Headquarters in Fort Mason. The days he didn’t bike, he said, “I arrived more stressed, so the commute was a sort of de-stressor.”
Howard also takes advantage of the landscapes and biking opportunities in the Bay Area to train for his cross-country rides. He mentioned Lake Merced, the Great Highway, Golden Gate Park, the Presidio, Twin Peaks, Mount Tamalpais and Mount Diablo as places he normally biked for training.
“Riding in SF prepares you for the roads you encounter on the trip,” Howard said. “It gets you comfortable with traffic sounds and vehicles passing you.”
This isn’t the first time Howard and Wendy have taken on a big biking challenge, however. In addition to a bicycle tour in Colorado, Howard has also done a four-month solo tour in France, Switzerland and Italy.
Wendy added that as part of their honeymoon, an 11-month trip around the world, they took six weeks to cycle from London to Athens. More recently, on a trip last October, Howard and Wendy spent six days exploring France by bike, with Howard on a mountain bike and Wendy on an electric-assist bike.
“It was fun to cycle together again. I can pass him up the hills,” Wendy said of the trip, laughing.
Even with these impressive rides under their belts, Howard said they had done “nothing quite like this” cross-country trip.
While Wendy does bike regularly, she prefers to ride with Howard on her new electric-assist bike for a shorter period before heading back to drive the trailer to the next location or drive there and bike back to meet up with Howard.
“Wendy’s support makes this trip possible without carrying gear,” Howard said.
A challenge of this nature has been in the works for some time, as it was a big goal of Howard’s. Howard and Wendy’s sons and friends also provided inspiration for them to take the trip.
“Our youngest son is joining us in Boise, Idaho, and his girlfriend a few days later,” Howard said.
He and Wendy are looking forward to their four-day layover in Grand Teton National Park, as well as the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming.
“We’re hoping for some tail winds in South Dakota, and we hope to see some small towns and farms we’ll cycle by in Wisconsin and Michigan,” Howard said. He and Wendy are eager to talk to all sorts of people outside the San Francisco political bubble.
Wendy added, “We’re looking forward to seeing the country and scenery change instead of going highlight to highlight like in a car. We’re experiencing America at a slower pace.”
If you’re interested in keeping up with them, they are documenting their trip here. We wish Howard and Wendy good luck on what remains of their coast-to-coast journey! We welcome anyone inspired by their adventure to become members of the SF Bicycle Coalition like Howard and Wendy, and support advocacy for safe, livable, bikeable streets here at home.