Father-daughter biking trip adds adventure, understanding

Bianca Derka, 12, of Buda, and her father, Pavel Derka, 52, will finish their big bike adventure after more than two months on the open road. The unlikely cycling pair did what Derka said no one thought they could. Oh, and they blogged about their adventure along the way. (Photo by Pavel Derka)

by KIM HILSENBECK

In less than a week, two bicyclists will ride into Austin and end their 1,700-mile cross-country trek at the state capitol.

Given this is Central Texas, a mecca for serious cyclists, some may consider the feat mundane. But the pair is not your run-of-the-mill bike riders.

Bianca Derka, 12, of Buda, and her father, Pavel Derka, 52, will finish their big bike adventure after more than two months on the open road – blogging about their adventure along the way.

They encountered high temperatures, steep hills, rain and a few motorists that buzzed by a little too close for comfort.

“I was nervous, but now I’m more relaxed,” Bianca said.

Despite a few mishaps – such as a flat tire and a fall –father and daughter said the trip has been nothing short of amazing.

“You learn to appreciate the little things,” Derka said. “And you find out about the kindheartedness of people. We met so many unexpectedly nice people along the way.”

Derka recalled a truck driver with the nickname “Hubcap” who saw the riders, stopped, and gave them each a bottle of water. He said people they met offered help, food, water, even a place to stay.

“You see America in such a different way; the trip is beyond my expectations,” Derka said.

Bianca Derka pumps away as she heads uphill across the Virginia state line. (Photo by Pavel Derka)

There are two other reasons why this trip is not ordinary. For starters, Bianca just learned to ride a bike two years ago. Even then, Derka said, it wasn’t very much or often.

Possibly more extraordinary is that Pavel Derka has Stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“Doctors gave me two to seven years,” Derka said. “I’m extremely lucky.”

So the trip, already a big adventure, took on more meaning for the father and daughter. Bianca and her sister live in Buda with their mom, Darla Fowler. Derka lives in North Carolina, where the girls were born and raised.

He recently lost his photographer job with the state. The ride has given Derka a chance to spend some truly quality time with Bianca.

“We have had these wonderful talks; I’m learning from her,” he said.

While her mom was nervous about the trip, she believes everyone should have a big adventure, because to her, life is exploration.

“Keep a sense of adventure – don’t moan the past,” Fowler said.

And she felt Bianca was ready.

“She’s a survivor kind of kid. She likes challenging herself,” Fowler said. “She’s very inspiring.”

Her daughter seemed up to the challenge, though admitted some trepidation early on.

“At the beginning, it was really tough, physically and mentally,” Bianca said, “but you get used to it.”

The way she got used to carrying an extra 35 pounds of equipment on a bike, pushing on even when her muscles screamed, and camping outside most every night.

She also thinks the trip helped her grow in some ways; both Derka and Fowler said she used to be a shy girl.

“I learned a lot; I am more independent now,” Bianca said.

Derka had nothing but praise for his youngest child and her attitude on the trip.

“She is amazing,” he said. “There was no complaining. I tried not to put any pressure on her about riding; if we had just gone a week and stopped that would have been OK, too.”

He laughed.

“No one thought we could do it,” Derka said.

Asked for what lessons she learned on this adventure, Bianca didn’t skip a beat.

“You have to suffer to appreciate things,” she said. “And don’t underestimate the power of ice cubes.”

Blog info To check out Bianca and Pavel Derka’s bike adventures, visit their blog: http://waywordway.com

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