By Jennifer Shaw, The East Bay Times

There are those people who get quite irked if they encounter flight delays or highway traffic, or anything that increases the time it takes to get somewhere.

But those are not annoyances for Anne Breedlove and James Eldredge. They wouldn’t have it any other way — preferring to navigate the terrain via bicycle — at an average speed of 10 miles per hour.

The Martinez residents run some of their errands that way, pedaling over hills to fetch their produce from Berkeley Bowl, or traveling several miles to return their library books at the Pleasant Hill branch.

And on May 23, 2008, the early retirees, Breedlove, 56, a former junior college history teacher, and Eldredge, 62, a longtime employee at the Chevron Refinery, took to the open road, cycling across the United States, up to Canada and back to Texas, before returning home for Thanksgiving.

“If it weren’t for family, we’d just keep pedaling,” says the mother of two, whose adventures have fostered her penchant for just going where the road takes you.

For instance, their cross-country sojourn had just one destination that was set in stone — seeing Laura Ingalls Wilder’s childhood home in De Smet, S.D.

“It was adventure in the way I could relate to,” she says, describing the home on the range themes of one of her favorite writers.

Prior to that journey, the couple, who both relished getting their first 10-speeds as teenagers, had taken some excursions on two wheels, equipped with a credit card and a change of clothes for one California trip, and savoring a self-guided tour of France to celebrate their 20th anniversary in 1997.

“That was the transformative experience,” Breedlove recalls.

They have accumulated more equipment for camping and cycling in inclement weather conditions that they now load into canvas backpacks and racks mounted on the front and back of their touring bikes.

Logging an average of 1,000 miles per month in the last 20 months — with an average of 45 miles per day — the pair is clearly hooked on using this mode of transportation as a means to see the world.

Their terrain of choice has included the perimeter of Hawaii’s Big Island and this past January, they cycled 5,000 miles in Australia.

When they’re not staying with fellow cyclists they meet through Warm Showers, an online social network of 9,000 members worldwide, the duo’s accommodations are in a tent — or something every bit as rustic.

Breedlove recalls such a stop in the Outback they made to wait out a storm. They slept in an abandoned sheep shearers quarters without running water. She passed the time reading a book about a woman who rode solo in Argentina and Chile, the couple’s tentative next destination.

And, seeing the world on a bicycle was clearly more fuel-efficient at a time when gasoline cost more than $4 a gallon.

“I’ve become quite politicized by the whole experience,” she says of the choice to take it slow.

“The single most visceral difference is speed or lack thereof. Most Americans can’t imagine a vacation at less than 65 miles per hour.

“The bicycle humbles you. That’s a lot of time to think “… The nuances, the details, the simplicity, you just don’t see it. On a bicycle it’s just you, the elements, your muscles and lots of time,” she says of the “Zen-like experience,” and a lifestyle that has lent itself to other life-affirming pursuits, such as journal writing, sketching and taking photographs.

And it is a lifestyle that has inspired others.

“They’re actualizing these dreams. A lot of people (have regrets) and say, ‘I didn’t do this or that,’ but they’re actually following through with it,” says Berkeley resident Kathy McFadden, who has been friends with Breedlove since they attended a printing program at San Francisco City College more than three decades ago.

“They’re just this great unit “… It says a lot for them as a couple. When you go on a trip like that, it gets tough. It’s uncomfortable. You don’t know what you’re up against,” McFadden says.

She says the husband/wife team is an ideal pairing of an introvert and an extrovert, with Eldredge handling machinery malfunctions and Breedlove monitoring the maps.

“In the middle of Timbuktu, you don’t want your bike to break down,” Breedlove says.