An Unforgettable Bike Ride

Bertenshaw recalls incident during long-distance bike trip in 1996


K Queen

Mr. Bertenshaw has traveled the world and lived in many foreign countries.

K Queen, Reporter

In the summer of 1996, English teacher and world-traveler Thomas Bertenshaw rode a bike from Prague, Czech Republic to Athens, Greece with two of his friends for 23 days. But not everything on that trip was sunshine and rainbows. 

Bertenshaw was riding through Europe, hoping to cross to Romania to avoid a terrible war raging through Yugoslavia. But upon reaching the border, the group decided to go through war torn Yugoslavia.

“But be all as it may, we foolishly decided to go into Yugoslavia,” Bertenshaw said. As they rode through the small country, they couldn’t exchange their U.S. dollars for the local currency and had no common language to use when speaking with locals.

While looking for a place to sleep on their second day of riding through Yugoslavia, they found a local named Tozza who allowed them to sleep at his house for the night. Bertenshaw and his friends had dinner and some brandy before heading to bed at the local’s house at 11:30 p.m. But as Bertenshaw was resting on the couch, the local snuck downstairs and put a gun to Bertenshaw’s head.

Bertenshaw quickly pushed the gun away and wrestled with Tozza for a few minutes, causing the gun to fire three times, hitting various objects around the men. 

“I put my hip into his belt buckle and I pinned him up against the wall with the gun out in front of us,” Bertenshaw said. After getting the gun away from Tozza, Bertenshaw ran out of the house and ran into the woods. Bertenshaw then proceed to find his two friends who had escaped out the window during the fight. 

The group decided to walk down the road until they found a local waiting at a bus stop. After trying to communicate with the local, a bus came at around 5:15 a.m. and picked them up to take them to a small rural mining town pass Tozza’s house. When arriving at the town, police forces came and picked them up at the bus stop.

Police were called by the neighbors during the fight Bertenshaw was in and arrested Tozza. Police had been searching for the group of Americans when the group had gotten on the bus and rode to the rural mining town. But be all is it may we foolish decided to go into Yugoslavia. In the end, Bertenshaw and his friends gave a testimony of what had happened that night, got their passports, money, and bikes and were able to finish their ride to Athens, Greece.

“Personally, it was kinda scary, because that could happen to anyone,” Nora Foeller said, who is a student in Bertenshaw’s class when learning about the story.

Bertenshaw has also rode long distances from many other places as well, including riding from Chicago, Illinois to Seattle, Washington; from Boulder, Colorado to Salt Lake City, Utah; and from Glacier National Park to Aspen, Colorado. Each trip takes him about 21 days to finish.