Sequim couple to share ‘search for Shangri-La’ (**GALLERY**)

One day, Claire and Bob Rogers pedaled away from their house in Dungeness on a tandem bicycle named Zippy.

It was 1995.

The couple had been married just five years.

They were headed out on a transcontinental bike trip — and damn the doomsaying family members.

“You’ll never make it; you’ll be divorced,” within the year, some told them.

Instead, Bob and Claire have tandem-biked across the United States, Canada, Australia, Iceland and central Asia.

Then they spent the last four months of last year on the Silk Road, cycling from the Tibetan highlands to the Mekong Delta of Southeast Asia.

They call this odyssey their “search for Shangri-La.”

When asked whether they found that mythical spot, both Bob and Claire unhesitatingly say yes.

The couple, who celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary last month, will give three multimedia presentations on their most recent tandem trip.

The dates and locations:

• Sequim High School’s cafeteria, 601 N. Sequim Ave., this Friday.

• The Broken Spoke bicycle shop at 835 Water St. in Port Townsend on Saturday.

• Port Angeles Senior Center, 328 E. Seventh St., on Sunday.

All three presentations will be at 7 p.m. with an admission charge of $5.

Now, let’s get something out of the way right away: The Rogerses’ Asia trek was far from smooth.

Descending a long, wet, curving road in China’s Yunnan province, they crashed the bike, and Claire suffered a concussion.

But “the response of the police, passers-by and the hospital staff restored my fever for bike touring, and we were back on the road two days later,” she said.

A ‘loopy idea’

The couple journeyed on to Laos, which they loved, but then, “one of us got the loopy idea of taking a back road that followed one route of the Ho Chi Minh Trail network,” Claire recalled.

“Early on, we missed a turn and for two days, we pushed and pulled the bike through paddocks, paddies, puddles and jungle.”

Relying on their compass, they made it through, to Vietnam, Cambodia and finally Thailand.

So where is that Shangri-La?

“Ours was in the seeking,” said Bob, 66.

“It was experiences we had, over and over,” added Claire, 46.

“There were instances of absolutely serene beauty . . . where you look, and everything stands still.

And there would be a whole day of working their way up a mountain, to at last drop down into a lofty valley filled with flowers.

The Rogerses also cultivated their own kind of peace.

When you spend this much time together, contending with heat, hunger, aches and pains, you’d better be good to each other.

What knit them close: “mutual respect and communication,” Bob said.

“You have to keep at it; it’s a daily thing to remember.”

“We are both helping each other’s dream along,” added Claire.

Bicycling across Iceland was her idea, and “my poor husband was never so cold — but he was a really good sport.

“When it’s the other person’s dream, you try really hard to support that.”

And when the dream unfolds into reality, “it’s wonderful.”

The Southeast Asia trip was Bob’s idea; “we’re good at alternating,” said Claire.

But that alternate route in Laos, the one that got them lost, that was hers.

“We take the blame when necessary,” she said.

Also while in Laos, the Rogerses learned more about finding the good sustenance.

“Our Lonely Planet phrase book only interfered with getting food,” Claire said, “and we quickly learned how to eat locally simply by watching locals eat.

“The same rules applied in searching out a meal as those we use at home: Is the place busy? Is it (relatively) clean? Is the food hot?”

Connecting with locals

As they pedaled through communities, the couple took joy in connecting with people, free of a car’s or bus’s barriers.

And many times, elderly women saw Claire and said something to the effect of “You go, girl.”

“Their faces brighten up,” when they learn of her and her husband’s adventures, she added.

“Usually, older people see us as young, even though we’re not young anymore.”

Claire noted that she, Bob and Zippy the bike have traveled upward of 40,000 miles together.

Their experiences are documented on their website, www.NewBohemians.net.

As for their next trip, it might be to South America — though Claire said her father, who lives near Baltimore, is not well these days, so she and Bob may decide to stick closer to home.

Having sold their house in Dungeness, the Rogerses bought a motor home and spend some of their time in Tucson, Ariz., when not traveling.

“It will be so good to see long-lost friends” at their presentations, Claire said.

She was an early executive director of the Peninsula Trails Coalition, the driving force behind the Olympic Discovery Trail, and worked with the Clallam Conservation District and Olympic National Park, while Bob ran his own computer-manual business.

The Discovery Trail played a part in their two-wheeled dreams; they want to ensure its accessibility into the future.

“Though we no longer live on the Peninsula, it’s still home to us,” Bob said.

“We want to give back for the wonderful years we had here.”

________

Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at [email protected]

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