Noemie Schmidt arrived in Cambria Monday night, March 1, pushing the partly pink bike she had ridden across wide stretches of the U.S. since last August. A flat tire and shaky spokes left the 19- year-old from Sion, Switzerland, stranded but not discouraged on her way to Big Sur.
“Do you know where I can get some desert?” she asked a passerby in the East Village. “Well, the
desert is a long way from here— did you mean dessert?”
Of course she did, and was promptly pointed in the direction of Linn’s, where she found pastries aplenty. With fluency in four languages, minor slip-ups can happen, she chuckled.
Asked why she flew to New York and launched a solo cross-country trek with stops in Nashville, Mississippi, New Orleans, San Diego, San Francisco, Vancouver and, now, Cambria?
“I’ve always wanted to go to Asia and Africa, but I’m not ready in my head yet,” she explained. So she came to America. “The United States is beautiful, huge, and full of opportunities,” Schmidt enthused.
In fact, she went on, the U.S. is not at all what her European friends had said it would be like. “They said Americans are greedy, not friendly, they have no culture at all and I won’t like it. But I love this country. People are sweet and every time I needed some help, friendly people were there for me.”
She came to the states without a bicycle, but after traveling by bus from New York to North Carolina and then to Nashville, she knew it was time to get closer to the road and to the people. So she bought a used bike in Nashville for $200, learned to attach her huge backpack and rode the back roads to Oxford, Miss.
There she visited the site of some of the most dramatic events in recent U.S. history; she was impressed with the statue of James Meredith. whose bold attempt to integrate the University of Mississippi was a flashpoint in the Civil Rights movement.
“Bob Dylan’s song, ‘Oxford Town’ inspired me to go there,” she explained.
From Mississippi –which she “loved so much” –she rode her bike across Texas, met more people and ended up visiting San Diego, San Francisco, back to Santa Barbara and to Cambria.
On Tuesday morning she had two new tubes installed in her well-worn tires at Cambria Bicycle Outfitters and prepared to head
north in the rain for Big Sur— with a stop at the elephant seal beach on the way.
Her flight out of San Francisco back to Switzerland was a week away, but she was already regretting that she couldn’t stay in the states longer.
“I hate going home, but I’ll be back some day,” she said, smiling, as she lashed her 70-pound pack to the back of the bike.
— John FitzRandolph, special to The Cambrian