German cyclist travels to Alaska giving out souvenirs

German traveler Klaus Lottgen holds some of the medalions he is giving away as he cycles from Vancouver to Alaska. He was in Clearwater last week. - Keith McNeill
German traveler Klaus Lottgen holds some of the medalions he is giving away as he cycles from Vancouver to Alaska. He was in Clearwater last week.
— image credit: Keith McNeill

A man from Germany is making an unusual trip from Vancouver to Alaska. Instead of collecting souvenirs along the way, he’s handing them out.

Klaus Lottgen of the city of Cologne (Köln) in Germany cycled through Clearwater last week on his way to Alaska.

While he was here he rewarded those who helped him in any way with souvenir medals from Cologne’s famous Rosemontag festival. According to Wikipedia, Rosenmontag is in some ways the German equivalent of Mardi Gras. Celebrations usually include dressing up in fancy costumes, dancing, parades, heavy drinking and general public displays with floats.

His father was an avid collector of the medals, said Lottgen, and had amassed about 20,000 of them before he died recently.

When his father died Lottgen found himself wondering what to do with the hoard. At about the same time he also found himself laid off from his job for the first time in his life (he normally works as a technician in an auto parts plant).

With no work to go to he decided it was time to fulfill a childhood dream: to travel to Alaska through western Canada, but to do it in such a way as to bring him as close to Nature as possible.

“Since I was a little boy I often dreamed about Canada and Alaska,” he said. “When I lost my work I realized it was now or never. “I’m 52 years old. I must live my dream.”

With limited funds he decided he would use his father’s medals to reward anyone who helped him, whether with a cup of coffee, a meal, a place to stay, or even just friendly conversation.

In keeping with his keep-it-simple approach, he is using a 30-year-old Hollands bicycle rather than a modern touring bike for his trip.

He uses a trailer he picked up secondhand to haul his gear plus a small portion of his father’s medal collection.

Lottgen arrived in Vancouver in early June. It took him 12 days to cycle through Whistler and Pemberton to Clearwater. He expected to stay here three days and then take another nine or 10 days to reach Prince George.

This was actually his second visit to Clearwater. He was here in 2008 as a tourist. He likes the scenery here and finds that as he goes farther north, the people become less busy and in a hurry.

One unexpected difficulty he ran into was the work stoppage at Canada Post. The medals are heavy and so he arranged with friends for them to mail him parcels of them to various towns along his route. Although he had some medals with him, he was unsure how he was going to collect a shipment he had mailed to him at the Clearwater Post Office.

Those interested can follow Lottgen’s progress on his website, It’s in German but you can use Google Translate or a similar service to convert it to fairly readable English.



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