I received terrible news yesterday. Long-time Zephyr traveler Mike Knauss passed away on Saturday from heart trouble.
Mike and his wife Pat first joined Zephyr Adventures back in 1999 on a three-day Pennsylvania Amish inline skating tour. At the time, they had just taken up inline skating and were by their own admission not very good. I wasn’t sure they would ever come back on another tour. They most recently joined us this past July on their 21st Zephyr tour. Boy, was I wrong!
In addition to being one of our top three most-traveled Zephyrites, Mike was a major influence on our tours. A doctor, Mike was always very quick to help out when one of his fellow travelers was in need. I remember him helping with everything from a young teenager who got heat stroke in Switzerland to instances of road rash on multiple skating tours. As the years went by, I found too that Mike became more and more an “elder statesman” of our tours, relishing in his role of being able to help others because he had already been to a tour location or knew exactly how our van support would work.
Many of our alumni know Mike, Pat, and their fellow travelers Ann and Jim Waterman. The four of them would always do their own thing on our tours, choosing to take a day off, skate a shorter route, or bike to a nearby town they had read about online. I always thought that was fantastic – they were doing exactly what we told all our participants to do: whatever made them happy. Mike was always very independent on tours and some wondered why he would return with Zephyr year after year. I think, frankly, he simply enjoyed being part of the Zephyr family.
For me personally, both Mike and Pat are perfect examples of why I have chosen to spend the last 12 years of my life running adventure travel tours: I know that Zephyr Adventures helped improve their lives. Looking back at that 1999 tour in Pennsylvania, Mike and Pat at first seemed out of their league. I take pride that their association with Zephyr helped them expand their own horizons, traveling to many new parts of the world and trying many new activities. In fact, these two who I thought would not return had already booked a 2010 biking trip in Spain and Pat’s latest email to me said she had found a place to rent a sailboat so they could sail in the Bay of Biscay!
Mike was born and lived most of his life in Missouri. However, he spent three years practicing medicine in Colorado and I believed never lost his love for the state where I live now. In fact, Mike and Pat went on our Colorado Adventure six different times – mostly skating but sometimes on a bike and once even on a family tour where they had to borrow two neighbor kids! Even though they traveled with us around the world, Colorado was always their favorite location.
To honor the memory of Mike, we at Zephyr Adventures donated money to Plant-It 2020 to plant 50 trees in his name in Colorado. I’ll remember Mike always but now when I hike in or skate through Colorado’s wonderful forests, I’ll specifically think of him. I hope you will too, the next time you are in Colorado.
Mike was a big part of my life the last 10 years. He will always be a big part of the Zephyr family. I’ll miss him.
P.S. Feel free to add your own memories or thoughts in the comments.