June 15, 2010
Cyclist on trek through North America
Italian stops in Cortland on his way to Canada and 1 million kilometers
Armando Basile has pedaled across four continents and traveled nearly a million kilometers on his bicycle.
Along the way, the 67-year-old has been pelted with eggs, hit by a truck and lost his wife to a brain tumor.
He’s still going, though.
“It’s beautiful,” Basile said of his travels. “I like to speak with people.”
He camped Sunday night in Cortlandville and stopped in downtown Cortland Monday as he completes his latest journey — a three-month tour of North America.
Basile started his trip June 8 when he arrived in New York City from Germany.
He is biking through Central New York to get to Canada. From Canada he will bike to Chicago, from Chicago he will go to Los Angeles, then Nevada, until he returns to New York.
In Cortlandville he stayed at the Yellow Lantern Kampground.
What started out as a regimen for rehabilitation, soon became a hobby for recreation.
Basile was born in southern Italy. When he was 16 he moved with his father to Germany to find work. Basile stayed in Germany where he married and had a son. He worked as a bricklayer, a job he enjoyed, until he seriously injured his back in 1983.
His doctor advised him to start a physical therapy routine to help rehabilitate his ailing body. Basile decided to bike to relieve his aches.
It started small at first, short rides in Freiburg, the city where he and his family lived. Soon the rides became long and adventurous. He and his family biked through various European countries.
Basile, 63, no longer has the back pain and has traveled America, Canada, Australia, Africa and Europe all on his bike. When he is not biking, he is in Freiburg, Germany, where he lives.
“I think it’s wonderful,” said Sandy Panzanella, former owner of Yellow Lantern Kampground about Basile’s journey. Basile called the Yellow Lantern Kampground and spoke to Panzanella, who was born in Italy. Basile was told by Beth Merrill, a friend he met in Germany, to visit the campground. Basile said he has gained many friends along his way, but he has also had some devastating losses.
During a biking trip in France in 2002, his wife was pedaling on a street in Avignon, and out of nowhere a 9-year old boy accidentally hit her front tire.
Some time after, a malignant tumor was found in her brain, Basile believes it came from the fall. In 2005, she died.
Basile thinks about his wife on those long nights alone on the road, he said, but things have changed. He now has a girlfriend and Dirk, his son, now 28 does not ride much. Basile bikes with his grandchildren, Dirk’s children. His 13-year-old granddaughter can bike 100 kilometers and his grandson can bike 50 kilometers.
Usually, however, it is Basile and the open road and the characters he meets on his rides.
Last year, in Australia, he biked the perimeter of the country. Biking through the deserts, where it can get well over 100 degrees, he ran out of water. Dehydrated, he biked and biked until he found people. He was delusional. He almost died of thirst had it not been for people filling his water bottle.
People usually helped him. Basile does not have any sponsors and he does not make much money. He receives a pension, but it is not enough to pay for hotels so he saves money by camping. He does not own a car or television. So often he depends on people to help him.
He usually finds them. Usually.
In New Castle, Australia, he was pelted with full cans of Coca-Cola. During a trip in Stockholm, Sweden, he was the target of young men throwing eggs. He had bruises from the Coca-Cola cans and his white bike uniform was filthy with yellow yolk.
“Alcohol no good,” is the only explanation Basile gave on why he was the target of physical abuse.
There was also the time when Basile was hit by a tractor-trailer on a highway in Canada. He spent days in the hospital and had pain all over his body.
Regardless of his lack of money and opposition he sometimes faces on the road, Basile keeps riding. It keeps him in shape and he has not had any problems with his back.
“It’s a fantastic way to prevent injuries by staying healthy,” said Ehren Heyer, owner of Heyer Physical Therapy in Homer. Heyer talked to Basile as Basile ate lunch at the Blue Frog Coffeehouse. “The worse thing is people who get hurt and lay on the couch and don’t do anything.”
“It is fascinating that he biked Australia in 90 days,” said John Cheetham, a customer at the Blue Frog. “Australia is a rough and desolate country, especially with the outback.”
Basile will spend some time in Syracuse before going to Vancouver.
He plans to bike in Australia, China and South Africa next year, which will likely be the year he biked 1 million kilometers since 1983.
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