‘Groundhog Day’ movie draws bike group to area

PUNXSUTAWNEY — There were many unique styles of bicycles on the road in Punxsutawney Monday, operated by a group of cyclists from Europe who are pedaling their way across the U.S. from Portland, Ore.. to Washington, D.C.. as part of "RollOver America (ROAM)".

The ROAM riders have been pedaling their way across the U.S. on velomobiles since July 28, and are scheduled to arrive Friday in Washington.

A velomobile, or tricycle car, is a human-powered vehicle, enclosed for aerodynamic advantage and protection from weather and collisions.
They are virtually always single-passenger vehicles.

Wes Reutimann, of Pasadena, Calif., said the enclosed bicycles are common vehicles used for commuting mostly in Europe.

Reutimann, who is one of the few remaining Americans participating in the event, said that traveling on hilly terrain (like western Pennsylvania) and going uphill due to the weight of the vehicle is not the best, but velomobiles are quite efficient on flat terrain.

Reutimann is part of a group that originally numbered 60 people from six countries. That number has dropped to 36 riders as they head into the home stretch to the nation’s capitol Friday, Reutimann said, adding that this is the first cross-country tour of its kind by velomobile.

"Even though the bikes are common in Europe, it is very rare (to see them in use) in the U.S.," he said.

The majority of velomobiles are manufactured in Europe, with another manufacturer located in Canada, Reutimann said, adding that his family is of Swiss origin, so he spent quite a bit of time living over in Switzerland and has always been a bike enthusiast.

"When I first discovered these types of bikes. I instantly fell in love with them," Reutimann said. "I like the way velomobiles look and how (they) ride.

"When I heard about the tour, I knew it was something I wanted to participate in," he said, adding that when the group planned the course they thought it would be fun to drive through Punxsutawney and see Punxsy Phil, since most everyone in the group had seen the movie "Groundhog Day," starring Bill Murray.

"At the Punxsy Area Chamber of Commerce they gave us Punxsy Phil stickers to place on all of the bikes," he said. "Some of the riders have stickers from all of the different states they've traveled through adorning some of their bikes."

Volker Mensing from Hanover, Germany, is driving the sweeper truck which is a 1978 Dodge pickup truck he had shipped to the U.S. to follow the group along the route with parts and tools and to make sure none of the riders gets left behind.

Mensing said he can load three velomobiles onto the top of his truck and room in the back for one of the riders to lay down in case they should become injured or ill during the cross-country ride.

The bikers were to stay Monday night in Patton before continue their trek to Washington.

To learn more about velomobiles and the cross-country ride go to ROAM's Web site, www.rolloveramerica.eu.

With the price of gas it might not be the last time a velomobile is seen in the Punxsy area, but most of their mileage is spent on public roads and bikeways.