DIXON – Patricia Jo Kearney asks a question of everyone she meets on her 10,000-mile journey across the United States.
"What do you love?"
After all, it was her own answer that led the 55-year-old to take this 10-month, cross-country tricycle trip that included a stop in Dixon on Thursday to meet with her friend Mike Cleary's family.
Cleary, formerly of Dixon, lives in Carlsbad, N.M., where Kearney's trip started and where she lives.
He suggested she make a pit stop to meet with his mother, Nancy Cleary, sisters Patty Scott and Colleen Reglin and 5-year-old niece Vanessa Reglin, who still live in Dixon.
They had appetizers from BBY at the Riverfront pavilion and she shared her story.
At 14, Kearney set a goal to travel across the country on her 3-wheeled bike, known as a recumbent tricycle.
"I've known my whole life I was going to do this," Kearney said. "My kids have known, too."
When her mother died and with her three children grown up and on their own, she knew it was time to hop on her tricycle (named Henry David for author Henry David Thoreau) and ride.
She saved up money, left her job and hasn't regretted a day since.
"There's a lot of beauty when you're absorbing the countryside from a bicycle," Kearney said. "It's quiet. You are low to the ground, you can feel the weeds as you go, and you're almost one with nature. I can feel the wind and smell everything. I can hear the sound of tiny creeks as I go over bridges."
Kearney so far has traveled through California, Washington, Montana and South Dakota. She stays mostly at campgrounds and cheap motels to save money, and travels with her tent, sleeping bag, clothes, phone and maps.
She is about halfway through her trip, and will see Maine, Florida and Texas before heading back home.
Thursday's trip started at Timber Lake Campground near Mount Carroll and ended in Dixon. She rides 40 to 80 miles a day.
Thursday, she was getting a ride to Champaign for a short break and to make some repairs to her tricycle.
The adventurist enjoys the amount of time she has to think, to take in the scenery and, most of all, to meet new people, like she did Thursday in Dixon.
Nancy Cleary knew there was a chance Kearney could visit, but she didn't know when. She got the surprise phone call late in the afternoon.
"It's been wonderful," Cleary said. "I learned a lot from her, and I just think it's amazing. I was worried at first with a 50-some-year-old woman riding out there on her own, but she likes it."
Before she left, Kearney asked them the same question she asks everyone she meets on her trip: "What do you love?"
Cleary said her children, and before the other women could speak, young Vanessa yelled out: "Kitties!" and everyone laughed.
"You know, I've met so many good people on this trip," Kearney said. "Everyone from criminals to really rich people, there's a lot of good."
Go to www.travelinjo.com to follow Patricia Jo Kearney's trip across the United States, read about her journey or how to donate toward her trip.