CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/The Loop) — When Mike Lüthi set out on his journey from Bäretswil, Switzerland to America for his cross-country bike ride, he wasn’t sure what to expect.
However, traveling from town to town and staying with mostly complete strangers, and “never knowing what will happen next,” was his favorite part of the trip says the 21 year old Swiss Army soldier.
Beginning in Bozeman, Montana, Lüthi made his way south, eventually arriving in Chattanooga, where after over 2,500 miles of pedaling from the Midwest to the Southeast, his bike trip will come to an end.
One of the most memorable stops during the trip for Lüthi was in Stillwater, Oklahoma where he spent several days on the campus of Oklahoma State University. In Stillwater, he says that he met many new people, as well as saw his first American football game as the Oklahoma State Cowboys played the Missouri Tigers.
Lüthi also had the chance to see a Tennessee Titans game which was very special to him.
“I love NFL,” he says, “But nobody in Switzerland knows about it much.”
He enjoyed the game, but said that he would have loved to see Ben Roethlisberger play.
In addition to being a 2-time Super Bowl winning quarterback, Roethlisberger is also a spokesman for “Swiss Roots,” a campaign that helps Americans of Swiss origin reconnect with their heritage, which makes it easy to understand why Lüthi is such a fan.
“Big Ben (Roethlisberger) is my favorite football player,” says Lüthi. “His name Roethlisberger is Swiss-German, which is why I like him so much.”
Lüthi also had the opportunity to see an NHL game while in Nashville, as the Nashville Predators played the San Jose Sharks. “Hockey is my favorite sport,” he says, and he,”Couldn’t believe I was at an NHL game!”
“Nashville was very good part of my trip,” says Lüthi, because it is also the place he met his new friend Jeff Glaser, 22, from Nashville, Tenn. who has also completed a cross country bike trip from Charleston, South Carolina to Los Angeles, California.
“I was going to get some drinks during the half time of the Tennessee game, when I saw Mike biking down Charlotte Pike,” says Glaser. He leaned out the window and waved at Lüthi as he passed him, but was stopped by a red light soon after.
“When he rode up beside me, he was stopped next to me at the red light, so I ask him where he was headed,” says Glaser. “I couldn’t believe it when he said Chattanooga.”
Glaser, who spent a weekend in Chattanooga with his friend Blake Meador over the summer, asked Lüthi if he would want some company on his trip to Chattanooga.
“I was excited when Jeffery asked me to ride with him to Chattanooga,” said Lüthi, and the two set off for the Scenic City on a Thursday morning. They spent the night in a Manchester hotel before arriving in Chattanooga Friday evening.
When they arrived and got settled, Lüthi spent the first part of the evening listening to some American music and enjoying some American beer.
“American beer is so expensive in Switzerland,” he says. “It costs about seven American dollars for just a glass of Budweiser in Switzerland,” Lüthi said after buying a six pack of Bud Light for about that price. “I could not believe how cheap it is here. I had to ask Jeffery if that was the price for just one bottle of beer or all six of them.”
After listening to some music and answering dozens of questions about Switzerland for his American hosts, Lüthi was ready to experience the Chattanooga night life with an evening at Chattanooga Billiards Club.
After a “very fun” Friday night, Lüthi spent much of Saturday trying to find a way to mail his bike back to Switzerland. After finally finding a suitable box at a local bike store, he mailed it from the UPS Store for just over $800.
“The cost was more expensive than I thought,” said Lüthi, “But I am happy that it is finished, and I don’t have to worry about carrying my bike around for the rest of my trip.”
Later that evening, Lüthi had to the opportunity to see some live American music, rapper Lil Wyte, at Chattanooga’s Midtown Music Hall. “He had never heard Lil Wyte before, but I think had a great time,” said Blake Meador, a senior from Nashville, Tenn, who housed Lüthi over the weekend at his Chattanooga apartment.
“I loved having him stay here. It was awesome learning things about him and his country, but it was just as good to teach him things about America and the English language,” said Meador, who was thrilled to give Lüthi a drinking glass with every NFL team logo on it, as well as a University of Tennessee hat.
“I just hope he wasn’t getting annoyed by me asking him ‘how do you say (blank) in Swiss-German?” said Meador.
Sunday Lüthi explored some Chattanooga’s outdoor scenery, such as Lookout Mountain and Coolidge Park, but due to the rainy weather, he spent most of the day indoors. Although he was able to spend a Sunday watching the NFL, he said that he would have rather spent it all outdoors.
As Sunday night rolled around, Lüthi was ready for another night at Chattanooga Billiards Club and after a third late night out in a row, he made his way back
to the apartment to get some much needed sleep before his early morning bus trip back to Nashville.
“I had very much fun in Chattanooga, and I am very glad I met Jeffery in Nashville or I would not have had much fun,” said Lüthi of his stop in Chattanooga. “I am also thankful to Blake for allowing me to stay here. Also for the NFL drinking glass and hat that he gave me.”
Lüthi’s final stop on his trip before he flies back to Switzerland will be New York City. That will be a very different experience than his previous stops in Colorodo, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee, but it is a fitting way to end his trip in the states.