Don Feidner

Newspaper Article

Last Update: 19 September 2010

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The following article appeared in the Odenwald Echo - a local newspaper near Don’s home in Hoechst, Germany, on 23 September.

In 153 Days Around Germany
Remarkable Bike Trip: 8086 Kilometers in the Saddle Gave Don Feidner Deeper Insight and Removed Kilograms

Arriving at the Island of Lindau on Lake Constance

HOECHST. Sitting on a sofa in his own living room and sleeping on a comfortable mattress are things that Don Feidner (58) will have to get used to again. Feidner, who moved to Hoechst in 1992, sat in the saddle of his heavily-loaded mountain bike for 153 days and scrubbed away 30 to 80 kilometers per day – thus pedaling around the entire country of Germany, including its islands in the North Sea and the Baltic. On 16 September, after riding 8086 kilometers (5021 miles) on his bicycle and 66 pounds lighter, he returned punctually to his responsibilities at the Potato Market in Hoechst, Germany.

“I wanted to put a little distance between me and a stressful job, meet a few people, and talk with them” said the American, who worked until March this year as a technical writer at SAP and is now retired. It was his job to write documentation for new software, “...complicated material, working under time pressure.” Deep in thought, he reminisced what it was like before the trip as a married man and father with two sons (16 und 18).

To put as many miles as possible behind him was not Feidner’s goal as he rode away from his home on 16 April. But he did want to do something for his health. He had already done a lot to become more fit by riding his bicycle and paddling in his kayak. “I hat severe asthma, wasn’t really eating properly, and I was much too fat – 218 pounds at 5 feet 9 1/2 inches.“ It was no surprise that both diabetes and high blood pressure were torturing him. Jogging wasn’t something Feidner liked to do, but during a few short vacations on the bicycle, he began to realize what was best for him.

Don Feidner (Blue Jersey) on the First Day with Relatives

Chalk Cliffs near Sassnitz, Rügen, in the Baltic Sea

The idea to take a long trip on a bicycle as a first goal for retirement came to him about three years ago. “That it would end up being more than 8000 kilometers wasn’t part of the plan. I figured it would be no more than 6000 kilometers”, said the bike freak, smiling. And now he feels “better than ever”. The problems with the lungs seem to have been blown away, and now that Feidner has gained back a few pounds, he is optimistic about keeping his ideal weight.

There was another reason why 153 days in the bike saddle were especially good for the former US Air Force Officer, who moved to Germany during the Vietnamese war in 1967 and came to know and love Europe: “I was surprised how helpful and friendly the Germans are, how beautiful this country is. The clichés you hear about the people here aren’t really true.“ Don Feidner had barely parked his bike that was loaded with 6 pieces of luggage when the first person he saw walked up to him. They asked where he came from, where he was headed, and whether they could help him or not. “Every day I met at least five people. Very often, we ended up having long conversations – about life, philosophical questions, politics, or religion.”

Frequently, the 58-year-old was asked whether his bicycle trips could be viewed as an escape from reality. Smiling, the nature lover and friend of the mountains answered, “it’s more like a vacation INTO reality – away from unrest, blindness and subjection to unwanted tasks, away from TV, the Internet and the feeling that I continuously had to be available. Feidner finds it more interesting to live actively than to watch others living, “to do for myself what we see in travel documentaries on TV“. The sometimes humorous encounters with the many ethnic differences in Germany, observing the flight of the Bass-Toelpel in the North Sea – that can “really enrich your life if you allow it to happen and are willing to take the time to do it.”

Bass-Toelpel Flying along the Cliffs of Helgoland

Fixing a Meal Alone in the Woods

Surely there were times during his trip around Germany when the biker experienced fear while camping alone in the woods, or was frustrated when he rode up incredulously steep trails in the mountains or as he was plagued with a bad cold. But after this tour he has proven that: you can do just about anything that you set your heart on if you really want to do it. Besides: “It was not really such a great feat.” He took his time to conquered one mile at a time.

During the winter of 2005-2006, the Hoechst resident prepared by pedaling about 6000 kilometers on his stationary bike in his own home. During the first six weeks of his trip, he still had some difficulties with his lungs, but after three months, he could easily ride 70 to 80 kilometers per day. His fuel: muesli with fruit in the morning, later in the day, salads and potatoes in all variations.

The route around Germany went past the first larger waypoints in Karlsruhe and Saarbruecken and continued clockwise along the border, which Feidner crossed many times. He took nearly 4000 photographs during these five months and with the help of his laptop, including a solar charger, Feidner kept his Internet Website “Ride into the Future“ continually up-to-date. There were only 10 days that he didn’t sleep in his tent – a cold and heavy rainfall forced him under a roof. There was only a short interruption during his trip for another reason: when his wife, Angela, celebrated her birthday in July, Don Feidner returned to his home – by train.

On Hoechst “Potato-Market Saturday”, Don Feidner rolled over the mountain pass in Beerfelden “down into the Muemlingtal – the valley where I live“. After all, as an active member of the Herbertscher Choir, he had promised to help out selling food to the visitors at this annual event. And after all that sport, something solid just had to go into the “1000-kilometer biker”: a hefty beef sausage. One day later, Feidner was sitting in the saddle again to ride the 25 miles to his father-in-law’s home near Frankfurt. It is certain that he will continue to put many more kilometers behind in the future.

Sunset on Aachen Lake in Austria (South of the German Border)

Don Feidner, who has lived in Höchst since 1992, plans to write a travel book about his encounters during the trip. You can find his Web site in the Internet under

Written by Birgit Reuther on 23.9.2006
Translation: Don Feidner


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