A German man who traveled cross country to visit Union said he was impressed by the kindness of strangers.
Herman Konrad, the father of Christina Konrad, bicycled from San Francisco to Union where his daughter has been staying as an exchange student.
He landed April 20, bike in tow, and began his 4,000-kilometer (roughly 2,500 miles) trip to Missouri camping along the way.
“I never did a bike trip in the state,” Konrad said. “I have done a lot of bike travel in Europe, but not in this type of environment.”
Christina, who will be a high school junior next year, has been living in Union since August 2012. She attended classes at Union High School last year.
Christina and Herman both will fly back to Germany Monday, June 10.
“Coming here was a very special experience,” he said. “Others go to New York, I go to Union — this is the heartland of the country. I am glad to have done it.”
Konrad rode across the Western United States, stopped at the Lake of the Ozarks where his daughter’s host family was staying for a weekend, and then biked to Hermann.
“It was really a good experience with people helping me,” he said. “As a cyclist, people were interested in what I was doing — people were very friendly and helpful.”
As a storm approached in Kansas, Konrad was in a bike shop and asked if he should camp for the night, or stay at a hotel. A man at the bike shop gave him the key to a nearby church and told Konrad he could stay there.
Konrad said he encountered that kind of friendliness during his entire trek.
“People came and asked if they could help,” he said. “It makes it much easier if people are helpful.”
Konrad, a retired IT specialist, said he was impressed with the friendliness of Union residents.
“It is a very friendly town,” he said, “a Missouri town and I like Missouri.”
Konrad lives with his wife, son and Christina in a town south of Munich in the Bavaria region of Germany.
He described the topography of Missouri as similar to home.
“It is a bit like Bavaria — hilly and steep,” he said. “As a cyclist I was really impressed by that. I like this part of the country very much. It is very green.”
While in Hermann, Konrad experienced a taste of home. He said Missouri wines are much like the German wines in their sweetness.
He added that it was interesting seeing the German names on signs, and the names of people, throughout the area.
Konrad said he also was impressed with Union High School.
“I saw a lot of identity and pride about the school itself,” he said. “There is nothing comparable in Germany.”
Konrad said he rode his bicycle from Hermann into downtown Union. He snapped some photos of the Franklin County Courthouse and stopped at Elmer’s Tavern for a beer.
While he was there, he heard someone call his name. It was a friend of his host family that he met just days earlier at the Lake of the Ozarks.
“It was funny. I came here thinking I was anonymous,” Konrad said. “I enjoyed it. I arrived with people knowing me here.”
Konrad utilized websites like Adventure Cycling Association to plan a route and find suitable campsites and where he could get water.
“My route was pretty much fixed,” he said. “I mostly camped, or took a motel if I could not camp.”
He had made several trips to Alaska, but has been to the “lower 48” states just once.
“I came up with the idea last year — combining my visit with a bike trip,” he said.