Miles and memories
By Deb Silverthorn
Holly Kuper made this summer one of memories and miles, traveling with her son, Dylan Harris and her niece, Emily Kuper. Twenty-one cities, 4,000 miles and 11 states later, they have tales to tell.
The inspiration for the trip came from Kuper’s niece, Emily, who lives in New York. “I spoke with Emily and she said she missed me. Deciding how we could be together, my first thought was ‘road trip!’ I invited Dylan and in a couple of weeks we were on our way,” said Kuper. The route took them from Texas through Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois and back home.
They traveled from June 22 until Aug. 3 in the family’s 1991 Vanagon, with the odometer reading nearly 200,000 miles by the time they got home. “We’ve taken wonderful vacations with this baby for almost 30 years,” Holly Kuper said, “and this was exceptional.”
Kuper and Harris spent two weeks driving to New York. Their game plan for the trip was to explore each stop along the way on their bikes. On Day Two, on Vanderbilt University’s campus, Kuper biked onto a curb and tumbled, pulling a muscle. Undeterred, she handed the van’s steering wheel over to her son, borrowed crutches and wheelchairs and biked freely after just two weeks.
“Biking is the most intimate way to see the country, because you see it close-up,” said Kuper, who grew up camping with her parents, Alan and Ginger and her sister Kate, all of blessed memory, and her brother Peter. “There’s great freedom in not knowing exactly where to go, what to do or when to make a stop. It’s unbelievably special.”
“Mom has always been an inspiration and her fall didn’t change the excitement of the trip at all,” Harris said. “She got up, figured how to move and kept going. It’s how she lives.”
The travelers avoided restaurants and hotels. They cooked most of their own meals using the double-burner stove they brought along, and used the van and outdoor spaces as their dining room. At campsites, they’d recharge their devices, use a portable shower and pop-up restroom and wash clothing by hand. They visited friends and family along the route, keeping physically distant outdoors. Except for a few nights spent in a relative’s home, they slept in their van.
They talked a lot, laughed a lot and sang a lot, with Harris serenading by ukulele.
Dylan, who graduated from Akiba Academy, Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and the University of Michigan, has lived in San Francisco for more than a decade working as a mobile app developer. He is the author and creator of BikeToEverything.com.
“The most freedom I’ve ever felt is when I’m getting around by bike. It’s a passion that I want to share that can provide value,” Harris said. The summer trip with his family made his blog, “How to Find A Good Bike Route,” especially vivid.
Harris’ appreciation for biking is lifelong; his mom and dad, Hugh Harris of blessed memory, led family adventures when he and his sister Olivia Harris, now a professional singer, were young. Kuper has taught her children a lot about being independent, pushing forth and living life in focus. For more than three decades she has been a go-to photographer in Dallas and around the world. Family vacations often integrated Kuper’s magazine photography assignments.
While tough to choose, this summer’s sweet spot for Harris was in Chicago. “Riding on the ‘rails to trails’ along Lake Michigan was breathtaking, and riding bike lanes from the low-income neighborhood where we stayed, through the city was incredible. We saw the neighborhoods change from rundown urban to fancy downtown urban,” he said.
“My best childhood memories are of ending up somewhere by complete happenstance,” Harris said. “This summer was the same and better.”