Miles of experiences
This 72-year-old Japanese man who speaks little English rode a bicycle from Los Angeles, California, to Austin.
Yoshi Nagata doesn’t live in America, but his daughters do, and he always wanted to get the full American experience. To do so, he decided to take this trip, using the historic Route 66 highway for most of the way.
He also wanted to send a message to his grandchildren about always improving, taking on challenges, taking risks and preparing for those risks.
Nagata saw much of what he wanted, but he also learned a lot. Mainly, he learned that people of any background can be very kind in times of need.
Cold weather frequently delayed his trip and caused him to run face adversity.
“He had to stop one day because of the weather and he found a hotel in a little town one night to stop and get out of the bad weather. But it was eight miles away from him, and his hands were so cold, he could no longer hold the handlebar,” said Don Gray, his friend from Mason who translated his story. “He asked a man at a convenience store where he stopped to drive him to the hotel, but that man’s car was too small to bring the bike.”
The man took him to the hotel, and in the morning, he met a couple visiting from France who drove him back to the bike.
“All people – Americans, Hispanics, Germans, Canadians – can be very kind,” Nagata said.
The frequent stops made Nagata realize his end goal was no longer to bike every mile, but to take in experiences he would remember forever, like eating at the historical Big Texan Steak Ranch & Brewery in Amarillo with one of his daughters and meeting up with his friend Gray.
Nagata met Gray on his first day in the United States seven years ago. On that day, he accidentally got separated from his family, and had to spend most of the day in Fredericksburg.
“His daughter and son-in-law rented a motor home, and he and they were going to travel to Big Bend,” Gray said. “They stopped for gas in Fredericksburg, and Yoshi decided to go out, take pictures and explore the town. The husband, who was driving, didn’t know he stepped out, so when he finished pumping gas, he left without him.”
Nagata tried ask people for help, but because he spoke hardly any English, no one helped.
Until Gray came along.
Gray let Nagata use his phone to call his daughter, who told him they would be back in 45 minutes. He stayed with Nagata while he waited.
During Nagata’s stop in the Hill Country this time, Gray took Nagata to the Doss Consolidated Common School District, where he volunteers. Here, Nagata was able to experience an American classroom.
Gray also took him to see areas in Fredericksburg, including the National Museum of the Pacific War.
Nagata made it to the steps of the State Capitol of Texas at 4:43 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 10, where a team of supporters awaited him.