TransAmerica Bike Ride Thoughts

I have so many thoughts about this adventure. The biggest is that I’m glad I did it. Even though it was 30 years later than I had originally intended, the timing turned out to be perfect. You may have a similar forgotten dream that it’s time to revive.

Our country is vast, and it’s beautiful, and the people are extraordinary. Seeing it all at 12 miles per hour gave me a new perspective.

The total cost of the ride (from first pedal stroke to last) was $2418, which is $53.73 per day or $0.83 per mile. I rode 2949 miles, which is 72 miles per riding day or 65.5 including rest days. My plan was $50/day and 65 miles/day.

I was chased by dogs only a half dozen times. Most dogs responded to a yell and a hand fake. Those that didn’t generated a big adrenalin rush that allowed me to escape. I rescued one turtle from the road, chased 2 deer down the C&O Towpath, and finally saw a live snake on my last day. I never saw a live armadillo or possum or raccoon, but I saw many of each.

I had 4 flat tires, or changed the same flat 4 times, depending on how you want to look at it. I wore out a rear tire and had to discard a moldy water bottle. The chamois came unsewed from one pair of riding shorts. I bought new gloves because one of the two pair I took was causing numbness in my left hand. I also replaced my air pump because the one I started with turned out to be a piece of crap.

I ate a lot of high calorie, low nutrition food along the way. In the first 2300 miles I lost only 6 pounds. In the last 650, I lost 10 more. I blame the Appalachian hills for that difference.

I met some incredibly wonderful and interesting people who helped me along the way. My thanks to:

  • Mike in Amboy
  • Ray in Flagstaff
  • Tim and Tari in Edgewood
  • Helen and Kyle in Amarillo (and Chad at the Bike Shop)
  • Moni in Oklahoma City
  • Larry and Terry in Tulsa (and Ronnie for connecting us)
  • Jean in Joplin
  • Stuart and his kids in Springfield
  • Mark and Sue in Rolla
  • Jason and Beth in St Louis
  • Thom in Vandalia (by car)
  • Dora in Terre Haute
  • Barb, Doug, and Jeff just outside Plainfield
  • Bill, Christine, Jeff, and Mark in Indianapolis
  • Jess in Columbus
  • John, Mike, Barb, and Marty in Wheeling

Extra thanks to the people who pedaled with me for a while: Jeff outside San Bernardino; Jason leaving St Louis; Thom in and out of Vandalia; and my new friend Urs for most of 3 days from Columbus to Smithton.

Thanks also to all the people who sent me encouragement here, on Facebook, LinkedIn, email, and text messages. I didn’t respond to all of them, but you should know they helped.

Special thanks to Alex and Joubert for putting up with me in their apartment while I reintegrate.

And extra special thanks to my darling Susie, who loves me enough to let me tilt after a few windmills.

So, as president Jeb Bartlett liked to say in The West Wing, “What’s next?”

 

 

 

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TransAmerica Bike Ride Day 45 – 115 miles

I left Hancock on the road instead of the trail, but it seems that I’m always looking at the grass on the other side of fence. After climbing some long steep hills I decided to try the C&O Towpath, hoping to avoid some hills.
The information I had gotten about the Towpath was accurate. It is much more rugged than the GAP, and it was flatter than the roads. It was also very wet and muddy. The bike and I got covered in mud quickly. It turns out that the mud is just like the water. Once you’re covered, you’re covered.
Unfortunately, there was no marker to indicate where I should get off to get to Leesburg, my intended destination for the day.
By the time I realized I had passed Leesburg, I was only 30 miles from DC. I called Alex to tell him that I was riding in today. He rode out to meet me and guide me to his place. He got soaked and muddy as well. I rode 115 miles today, which is my longest ride of the trip. I did the same thing at the end of my trip around Lake Michigan.
So I’m here! I’ve ridden 2949 miles over the past 45 days. It was an incredible experience.

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TransAmerica Bike Ride Day 44 – 73 miles

I slept well in the building where embalming used to be done. My waitress at the Take Six told me about the building’s history. I may have been the only person in the 3 story building overnight.
As a result of solid sleep, I had breakfast at the Donges Drive Motel and still got on the road shortly after 7:00. I took roads rather than the GAP out of Meyersdale but it only took 4 miles for me to decide that I preferred the gravel of the GAP over the hills of the streets. I took the trail to its end in Cumberland.
In Cumberland, I tried to get the story on the C&O Towpath trail. Even at the Towpath Information Center I could only get the party line. However, one of the Center’s employees gave me the party line with a stern caution about the impact of last night’s heavy rain. I got back on the road, and started climbing hills I thought I would avoid.
I made it to Hancock, MD without event. The hills were rough, and much slower without Urs to chase. I’m glad the first half of the day was on the trail.
Today I entered Maryland, my 13th state. I also crossed the Mason & Dixon line at the same time. And I crossed the Eastern Continental Divide.

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TransAmerica Bike Ride Day 43 – 83 miles

I had a short ride from the motel to the Great Allegheny Passage. Of course it included a big hill. Once I got on the trail I didn’t think it was all that great. I guess I’m just a city boy. I like paved roads and city scapes. The GAP is too bucolic for me. I saw some incredible views, but I don’t think I’ll be riding any more of the trail. My legs looked like they had been breaded for frying after the first couple of hours.
It was strange to have no cars passing by all day. I didn’t see as many bikers as I expected. When I reached Rockwood, my intended destination, I had to burn a couple of hours before the hostel opened. Since there was no cell service I picked up some brochures. One of them talked about the hostel in Meyersdale, which was less than 15 miles away. So off I went.
When I got to Meyersdale, I discovered that the hostel was closed indefinitely. I found a hotel that has a hostel room. I really wanted to have a hostel experience. Turns out I have a room with 6 beds all to myself and a communal bathroom that I share with no one. Can I count this as a hostel experience?

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TransAmerica Bike Ride Day 42- 63 miles

I woke up shortly after 4:00 this morning to the sound of rain. I didn’t know the time but I was sure I had overslept because the rain wasn’t supposed to arrive in Wheeling until after 9:00. Turns out it was early. Urs and I prepped for another day in the rain. Barb fixed a great breakfast and gave us copies of her book about English landscape.
We rode thru downtown so Urs could visit a local radio station to present his demo CD. His transcontinental ride is doubling as a promotional tour. The rain stopped around the 30 mile mark. We were riding on dry streets by 40. Then it started raining again. The second wave didn’t last long and dropped hardly any water on us.
Around the 55 mile mark, Urs and I parted ways. I enjoyed his company over the 3 days and close to 200 miles we rode together. I now have a friend in Zurich, and he has one in Indianapolis. Given the freaky similarities we discovered during our talks, it won’t surprise me if we meet again.
This was my last day riding the hills. I can’t describe the joy I feel from knowing that. Tomorrow I start riding on the Great Allegheny Passage, headed for the City & O Canal Towpath that will take me into DC.

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TransAmerica Bike Ride Day 41 – 61 miles

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday we rode in the rain, but the roads were smooth and gently rolling. Today we had a beautiful sky and almost no wind, but the hills were trying to kill me. Urs and I rode together again today. He’s a younger man from hilly Switzerland. I watched him zip up the hills like they were nothing then hover at the top like the hawks in the sky waiting for me to get there. Luckily for me the hills were still rolling, albeit not so gently. What I lack in climbing power I make up for in downhill fearlessness.
About halfway thru the ride we came upon a gravel road. We decided that we should continue rather than double back. Of course the road kept getting worse. We eventually reached the point where we had to take a portage. We walked our bikes for the better part of a mile to get back on paved roads. The experience didn’t damage our spirits.
Before we knew it we were in Wheeling where John, our warmshowers host, met us and rode with us to Mike’s house. Mike was actually hosting us. A couple of blocks from Mike’s house, John missed a pedal and tore open his calf on the front sprocket. He had to be driven to the emergency room.
I had been joking with Art about delivering a personal Mother’s Day greeting to his mom all afternoon. Before it was over, Barb had insisted on having us stay with her and Marty. We thanked Mike, and John who had come back to get his bike. John had to have 16 stitches in that calf.
Barb and Marty were awesome to us. We had a fabulous conversation over Chinese food and drinks.
Here’s my shot of the day. No explanation required. Just smile.

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TransAmerica Bike Ride Day 40 – 75 miles

For 39 days I’ve schemed around the weather. Today my bike was never on dry pavement. Jessica fixed me breakfast, and some great coffee. I stalled until 8:30 then I put on my rain jacket and hit the road again. The temperature was warm enough and the rain light enough that once I was wet it didn’t bother me.
Just outside of Columbus another bike rider pulled up next to me and commented on what lovely riding weather we were having. Urs was also riding across the country.
As we talked our journeys sounded freaky similar. When I was leaving the Santa Monica pier, he was leaving Venice Beach. We hadn’t followed the same route until St Louis. But oh the coincidences. Our bikes have almost the same equipment: rims, panniers, drive train. He even has a pair of toe shoes for post-ride wear.
Urs and I rode together all day. It was nice to have someone to share the miserable weather with. We’ll ride together tomorrow and perhaps a part of Monday. He’s from Switzerland and has New York as his final destination.
I didn’t take any pictures because of the rain.