After arriving at the office Friday, I was informed by our office manager, Susan Waller, there was a woman coming into town and she was riding a bicycle.
My first thought was, this must be a young lady pedaling to bring awareness or raise funds for a charitable organization. Good causes, of course, but there are many riders in that category.
What really piqued my interest was when Susan said she was 73-years-old. Holy cow! That’s a horse of a different color.
I met Hanna Elshoff downtown for a photo shoot with local officials and had her meet me at the office. She beat me to the office, pedaling her ELF, a cross between a bicycle and a car.
Her story was inspiring as we spent nearly an hour together. What an awesome lady. From growing up in a tiny German village, to immigrating to the United States at the age of 18, to now pedaling from the southern part of Minnesota down to the Florida Panhandle with intentions to return home.
The amazing thing is Elshoff is doing this alone. She meets strangers in every community along her journey, which she says will cover two years, and stays in Lions Club dens, cheap hotels, or just pitches a tent and camps out for the night.
She teared up once, recalling a story from early in her trip. The young lady she was staying with lost her grandmother exactly a year earlier. Elshoff was told how much she reminded the lady of her grandmother.
So far she has pedaled well over 2,000 miles. That’s nearly a month of travels for me in my vehicle and I’m dead tired from doing it. She carried on like what she’s accomplished is nothing.
Before I met her, I was just hoping to be able to roll out of bed by the time I turn 73. Now, I may have to find me a bike. She was full of energy and full of life.
The highlight of her journey, though, was meeting former President Jimmy Carter in January and getting his signature to place with her U.S. citizenship papers.
Hearing how an American farmer with a dream to be president inspired her to apply for her U.S. citizenship was heartwarming. To listen to her trials and tribulations to finally meet Carter was something else.
What I learned from that nearly one-hour interview was to chase your dreams. No matter what anybody else says to deter it, go for it. Overcoming any obstacle somebody throws your way will make the journey that much more important.
Thank you Hanna Elshoff for sharing a brief glimpse of what you have overcome to be an American citizen. You are an inspiration to many.
• Rick Head is the editor of The Alma Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org