HOUSTON – Tia Tee Khao worked frantically as a flower delivery man in Portland, Ore., and one day decided he wanted to smell the roses.
“I got on my bike and started riding,” said Khao. “My journey has taken all across the United States. I have met a lot of very good people and learned a lot about America.”
Originally from Malaysia, Khao said he heard about the Natchez Trace when he was in Kentucky and headed this direction.
“But I got tired of the Natchez Trace and decided to try the Tanglefoot Trail,” said Khao. “It’s a lot more level, there is no traffic so you can really enjoy the countryside and let your mind wander.
“The Tanglefoot is also a lot quieter,” said Khao. “I think I like that the most.”
Khao said he averages between 30- and 90-miles a day depending on the road and weather conditions, the people he meets and the things he stops to see.
“America has so many small town treasures and I wish I could experience them all,” said Khao. “I really don’t have a route I am following. I really feel blessed and love doing this.”
Khao said he prefers to camps on private property and has found people open to his needs. He said he also camps in and around fire stations in small towns.
“I always ask property owners before I go on their property and I’ve found if you go in small stores and ask for a place to camp, you can usually find one,” said Khao. “At fire departments, I usually just set my tent up on the lawn.”
Khao said he carries everything he needs to camp and fix his bike on three specially made packs.
“It really doesn’t take a lot of money to do this,” said Khao. “I have found people in the south not only will allow you to camp on their property, they will feed you, too.”
Khao pulled into the Houston McDonald’s Restaurant last week and manager Anderson McFarland struck up a conversation.
“People see the bike and the way I am dressed and ask what is going on,” said Khao. “I have found the people in the South to be very polite and – how do you say – hospitable.”
Khao said he worked hard at his flower business and sometimes misses it.
“Maybe I will find the right place to open another one,” said Khao, “but maybe I’ll just keep riding and see where this journey takes me.”