The Harrison family — father Bill; mother, Amarins; and daughters, Cheyenne, 7, Jasmine, 5, and Robin, 3 — are on their way from Kentucky to Fairbanks, Alaska, a journey of more than 7,000 miles.
They are making the trip on a bicycle. That's singular — bicycle. The family has already pedaled its specially designed bicycle more than 4,000 miles through heat, sandstorms and a fire that destroyed its original small trailer.
The Harrisons reached Petaluma March 25, escorted into town by a convoy of Petaluma Wheelmen. So great was the local hospitality that the family stayed in town for seven days, the longest they have stopped in one place since they began their journey on Aug. 1, 2009.
They started their adventure with a trailer containing a tent and all the provisions they felt they would need. They also started with $300 and five hearts full of faith.
So far, that faith has been rewarded.
"We've met some wonderful people. People who just want to help," said the father.
That proved especially true in California. "They (Californians) have treated us like royalty," said Harrison. "They are very giving, caring people. Not at all like I had imagined."
The Wheelmen made sure the family had a safe journey from Marin and through town to the westside home of Tom and Carolyn Maloney.
Carolyn, a native Kentuckian, not only served as the Harrisons' local publicist, but also as a surrogate grandmother. Having raised 12 kids of her own, she quickly adopted the family, providing warm beds, food, showers and love, all with an accent of Kentucky pride. She even taught the girls to sing "My Old Kentucky Home."
The Maloneys weren't the only ones to befriend the travelers. They were loaned a car for a rare motor cruise to Yosemite, and spent a night sleeping with the animals at Safari West.
The week-long break came at a perfect time for the adventuresome family. "We are dead tired and we need a rest," Harrison said early in the family's visit with the Maloneys.
Although the Harrisons are open to whatever opportunities — like a book or TV story — that might result from their trip, the father says that is definitely not what it's all about.
"To us, this trip is just an extension of who we are," he explained. "From Derby Day (in May) to Thanksgiving, we live outside. We're just doing that, except now it's on the road.
"This is simply a journey. It's not complicated. It is an earthy, gutsy, personal down-to-earth trip with just the basics.
"We didn't take off hunting fortune and fame. If it happens, great, but it's not about a bigger house or a bigger car. It is about doing something as a family. It is about tasting, touching, feeling and hearing America with all your senses."
He illustrates his point with a story of swimming in a river in Georgia. "There were millions of butterflies. The girls were laughing, and I could hear a storm rumbling in the distance," he explained. "I closed my eyes, and it could have been 500 years earlier. It was just about enjoying the moment."
The Harrisons call themselves the Pedouins, a take off on the Bedouins, the nomads who roamed the deserts of the Middle East. Harrison is a home remodeler. He is vague about his past, preferring, as he explains, to leave some details for a book he is planning to write.