Couple Biking from Alaska to Argentina Make San Francisco Stopover To Assemble Pot Pies

Categories: Environment
Roland and Belinda Hinmueller ​
At the central Salvation Army kitchen in SoMa Wednesday morning, two line cooks wore cycling jerseys along with their hairnets. You could consider kitchen hands Roland and Belinda Hinmueller a type of extreme migrant worker: a New Zealand couple pedaling from Alaska to Argentina on their yellow tandem bicycle "Big Bird." The trip is a more eco-conscious and ambitious version of Che Guevara's motorcycle journey across the Americas as documented in The Motorcycle Diaries. Yet instead of working at an Amazonian medical clinic a la Comandante Che, the New Zealand couple is volunteering at Salvation Armies along the way.

The oddest thing of all is the duo isn't on an extreme reality show testing whether their marriage can withstand a pan-American trip on a tandem bicycle. (Whether they'll write a revolutionary's coming-of-age tome at the end of the trip is anyone's guess.) Nope, it seemed this was a sighting of that rare species of altruistic people who want to donate their time to a worthy cause -- the type of story that concludes the nightly news and restores your faith in humanity.

During Salvation Army stop No. 11 in San Francisco yesterday, the couple assembled 360 pot pies and delivered meals to seniors. Today they'll be talking to kids at a Salvation Army after-school program about their cycling adventures.

The idea for the cross-continent trek emerged after the couple married last year, and decided to stage a huge adventure before having children. They wanted to work in community service during the trip, which they've named "Cycling With Sally." (In some countries, the Salvation Army is known as the "Sally Army.") Roland, 32, took a sabbatical from his job as a primary school teacher and 28-year-old Belinda up and quit her job as a registered nurse to start cycling in July.

"We feel fortunate to be able to take a year off, and we wanted to give back," Belinda said, punching out circles of dough with a cookie cutter for the pot pie crust.  "We get a lot of satisfaction out of it," Roland added while scooping the chicken-pea-carrot goop into the shells. (We couldn't help but note that the bushy beard Roland has been growing since the beginning of the trip made him a doppelganger for Zach Galifianakis of The Hangover fame, minus the paunch.)  

Biking 50 to 70 miles a day, the couple is right on schedule to reach the tip of Argentina in a little more than a year's time. (You can check out their progress on their blog.) They admit they had to hitch a ride into San Francisco after one of Big Bird's rims cracked 150 miles north of the city. The giant bike is currently in the shop for repairs before the couple take off on the next leg of their trip down Highway 1 toward Santa Cruz on Friday.

Bon voyage!

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