This summer I am doing a bike touring trip across the United States. This is something I have wanted to do since I was in graduate school - the first time. Now that I have just gotten my thesis proposal approved it seemed like the right time to make the journey. When I come back I will be ready to jump into the year to year and a half of research to finish my PhD.
I will be travelling with two friends and a friend of their's. We will start in Florence, OR (on the coast ~70 miles west of Eugene) on June 17th. We plan to average 50 miles per day which should allow us time to smell the roses, see the mountains and other sites as we come across the country. The general route will be through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvannia, New York, and then probably through New England to end on the Maine coast.
Charlene will try to update this web page through the summer as my postcards and phone calls arrive. Anyone who is interested in where I am and where we've been can check back here. No, I will not, as so many people have asked me, be carrying a laptop, cellular modem, GPS, or video camera for instant web page updates as we bike across the United States. My progress will be charted in the old fashion way with a week or more delay in the reporting.
If you would like to see photos from the trip you can look through The Photo Album.
The following are comments that Charlene thought were worth noting from my cards and phone calls.
Bon Voyage! Heading to San Francisco and driving to Klamath Falls, OR to meet two friends.
June 22, 1996
Well, they're off! The trip began after a stressful weekend wondering if the bike will be at UPS Monday morning for Art to pick up and put together. It was supposed to arrive the preceding Thursday, according to the UPS folks on the Rochester end, but the UPS folks at the other end kind of chuckled and said that Klamath Falls is 'remote', making 6-7 business days the time it takes. On Saturday, Jim went to Eugene to visit new bicycles, just in case a purchase would be needed, but Monday morning the bike was there.
They started off Tuesday morning, 6/18, and have been trying to get into the rhythm of riding/camping. Yesterday they tackled the first mountain pass as they crossed the Cascades. A 9 mile rise, broken by some down-hill stuff. The final climb to the pass was 4 ½ miles, to elevation 4800 (a small bump compared to what they'll face in a few weeks in Colorado). Jim told me he was starving the whole ride up, and was pulling out whatever he had packed up front for snacks. The reward was a 6 mile downhill.
Art, Jim, and Bill are admitting to being sore after the climb. Butts seem to be the problem, particularly.
They have some riding now coming up on the high desert, and I will update you in about
June 29, 1996
The postcards are coming from the 'remote' northwest a tad slowly, so this update is primarily from phone updates, to keep this a little more current.
Unusually cold temperatures followed the bike crew for the first week. That meant a night or two at 30 degrees. Brrr. The daytime temperatures on those days were in the 50's. Not only was it cold in the high desert, but the riders had rain several days in a row, including a particularly bad day where it rained heavily for much of the ride.
Some of the highlights of last week was an overnight stay in Dayville at the Presbyterian church that has been hosting bicyclists following the bikecentennial route. They even have a small kitchen and shower set up for the riders' use. I think Jim and Bill slept on altars while Maureen and Art got the pews. They also got a few more mountain passes under their belts and made it to an altitude of one mile, at Mile High Pass, after a climb of 7 miles at 6% grade.
They now have Oregon behind them, and have started the trek across Idaho, with summer temperatures ahead of them now.
July 6, 1996
On day 12 of the trip (last week sometime) the traveling quartet had the first rest day, spent in Boise, Idaho. Boise was having a River Festival, so the biking crew checked it out. Maureen and Art headed out early to see the parade, but Jim needed to do some bike maintenance. It was also time to rotate tires.
Day 13 had them heading 71.3 miles to Bruneau Sand Dunes. The summer heat has them leaving camp earlier, to get the most biking done that they can. They had to do some of the ride on the Interstate-I didn't know bicycles were allowed, but when it is the only road between point A and point B, there isn't much choice. From the looks of the postcard, the Sand Dunes look pretty neat. On this section of the trek across Idaho there is a wealth of material related to the pioneer movements west on the Oregon Trail. The riding has been tailored to allow some visits of historic sites here.
By Day 15, the heat wave hit, with temperatures over 100, making for some gruesome riding. So, departure from camp in the morning was moved up even earlier-5:30 or 6:00. That means going to sleep in the tent earlier, but difficult to do when the inside of the tent is still 95. So, they decided to stay in a motel to get a reprieve from the heat. (That was July 3rd. )
They spent the Fourth of July camped at Massacre Rocks State Park. It was here that they met the cross country walkers! Two people who also had started in Florence, OR and were walking across the country to Florida. They are pushing two modified Gerry baby strollers. Hers weighs in at 150# and his is 250#! That makes riding a bike seem easy.
The heat has been letting up. On July 5th they had a nice 90 mile day with good tail winds helping the riders set a pace of 15 to 20 miles/hour. They are almost done with Idaho, and have completed 930 miles so far.
July 14, 1996
Since the last entry, the happy travellers have left Idaho behind and have been working through Wyoming. By July 6th the weather was more reasonable, and they returned into the mountains after riding through agricultural/desert lands, with the chance to observe how massive irrigation systems allow that. They camped at Palisades Reservoir, nestled in between Targhee National Forest and Caribou NF.
On 7/7 the trip moved into Wyoming and the riders crossed the 1000 mile mark. They were treated to views of snow capped mountains and 'the Grand Canyon of Wyoming'. The weather continues to test them, because overnight temperatures dipped to 40, and stayed pretty cool for the ride on 7/8. They got to experience the Wyoming wind (unfortunately as a head wind). Reportedly the name wyoming is an Indian word for wind.
The riding quartet discovered the meaning of 'remote' on 7/8 when their 60 mile ride passed 'absolutely nothing' except a town 11 miles from the start'. Since then, the biking has taken them to Green River, WY and then a turn south to Utah. They have settled into the Flaming Gorge recreation area for a rest day, on the south end of the Gorge. The trip is now 1300 miles long with the most recent travel at altitudes as high as 8000 feet. The riders seem to be acclimated. Good thing, since they will be in the Colorado Rockies in a few days.
July 21, 1996
On 7/14 there was a chance to check out the dinosaur bones at Dinosaur National Monument. The day's riding included biking down from the mountains, including "a 5 mile run at 5-8% grade with 10 switchbacks. It was fun. Had to stop for several cattle guards though. And of course when the actual cattle stood in the middle of the road." The ride that day brought them back into the desert.
Art developed a bad cold, so the biking for the week was adjusted slightly to give him some recuperation time, but he is on the mend and the group is close to schedule now. The main recuperation day was spent in the town of Dinosaur, CO. It seems that this town in the middle of no where is a hand gliding mecca, and there was a big hang gliding festival when they were there.
Later in the week, they began the climb into the mountains again. This time the BIG ones. On 7/18 they passed through Steamboat Springs. I don't hear too much complaining, so they seem to be acclimated to the altitude, although the highest pass is yet to come. I believe that one will be today. They will reach the 'highest point' on the trip, at 10,000 feet. Then it will be 'downhill' from there. I hear that Maureen is planning for them to 'truck through' the midwest, so I expect I will be reporting on some significant increase in the daily mileage.
July 27, 1996
On the day of the last update, the bicycling maniacs did hit their 'high point'-Cameron Pass-which brought them to 10,276 ft above sea level. To make the day more interesting, it started with a temperature of 35o with a headwind. I received no reports of major altitude problems.
Once they were through the pass, there was 34 miles essentially downhill, steep at the start, with speedometers registering 45 mph max. The following day, they came to civilization and stayed a friend's home in Loveland. Tuesday was a rest day. Art rented a car, dropped Maureen and Jim in Boulder then headed to do some model train browsing in Denver.
Wednesday was the start of 'getting through' the midwest. The riding each day has been in the 90 mile range, and Jim did his first century (not metric, either) on Thursday. Yesterday they reached North Platte, Nebraska.
August 6, 1996
There have been a lot of miles added since the last entry. On 7/27 the riders crossed the 100th meridian-supposedly where the humid east meets the arid west. Just for the record, North Platte is the home of Buffalo Bill Ranch (a state historical site). Yes, they even had buffalo stew for dinner.
The daily distances got longer on the plains, and Nebraska was basically flat, with endless corn fields. Along route 30, the 'towns' are spaced 8 to 15 miles apart, each one signaled by a water tower and collection of grain elevators. Although it is flat, the winds can make the riding challenging.
On day 44 (7/31) of the trip, Nebraska was left behind. Iowa proved to be far from flat. It has varied from rolling, to county roads that are straight up and down without regard for grades. The US highways there proved to be more manageable riding. On 8/2 they bucked 'downtown traffic' in Des Moines, went on a bike shoe buying mission for Art, played tourist, and then stopped in at Adventureland. At that stop there was some roller coaster riding and log flume riding. (I just don't picture this crew at an amusement park!)
On 8/4 the bicyclists spent the night visiting an old colleague of Jim's-John O'Brien. Maureen had friends in the area who visited, and there was a big barbecue for the travelers. It sounds like they had a great visit before hitting the road again. Yesterday was a day of 'punishing head winds', and another landmark: they crossed the Mississippi River and entered Illinois. The trip is now > 2500 miles long.
August 14, 1996
The states are flying by, with Illinois and Indiana behind the bicycling quartet. Illinois was flat to gently rolling terrain, but not as pretty as Iowa. Hot, humid summer weather returned for their travels through IL. They passed through Andalusa, Princeton, Ottawa, and Momence. The campground in Momence was far from luxurious, and they were plagued by mosquitoes there. In fact, it prompted the fastest getaway of the trip-the group was on the road by 5:45 am the next morning!
They spent 3days/2nights in Indiana, and now they are crossing Ohio. They arrived in the Cleveland vicinity yesterday, and are having a rest day there. (At Bill's house.) They are beyond the 3000 mile mark, and they will be in western New York in a few more days.
August 20, 1996
Bill guided his fellow bicyclists along his local trails outside of Cleveland as they headed east. The trails were pleasant, but they ended up smack in the middle of downtown Cleveland rush hour traffic. They survived that experience and continued traveling east. Over the next few days they skirted along the southern portion of Lake Eerie, into Pennsylvania and then into New York State. Bill and Jim later told me that after some of the riding they have done on this trip, they really appreciated the roads in western NY-good grades and WIDE shoulders.
On Sunday, 8/18 Bill and Jim headed into Fairport via the Erie canal tow path. Charlene met them on her bike for the six mile ride from the Rochester city line to Pittsford. It was perfect weather, the 9th perfect-weather weekend in Rochester in a row. Maureen and Art detoured to the Warplane Museum's Air Show in Batavia, NY on the way to Fairport. Everyone converged on Jim's and Charlene's place in Fairport that evening and had a rest day there yesterday. There is about one more week of riding to the Atlantic now. The travelers left by 6:30 am this morning heading for that goal.
August 25, 1996 - HE'S HOME!
The quartet went separate ways on Tuesday, leaving Fairport, NY with different coastal destinations in mind. Jim decided to head towards New Jersey. This would give him a chance to have some close friends who live there join him for the last leg of his journey to the Atlantic Ocean. He would also be able to drop by to have his Mom see that he finished and survived in one piece.
Maureen and Art continued with their original plan to end up at the New Hampshire Coast with a projected arrival date of 8/27. Bill was planning to take a slightly more northern route in New England to finish 8/28 at the coast near Portland, Maine.
On Tuesday, Jim traveled through the Finger Lakes region of NY, putting in for the night in Ithaca. The following day was some of the toughest biking he had on the trip, traversing a very hilly region of the Southern Tier of NY. The end of this 90 mile day included a 2.5 mile climb at 10% grade to get to the campground. Even the Rockies didn't have grades that steep!
Thursday was a little less steep, but almost as long. The 85 miles that day got him over the line into northwestern NJ. (Montague, NJ). The longest day of the trip turned out to be the following day, when he clocked in at 105 miles to get down to his friends' house (Paul and Katrin) in the Princeton area.
Saturday, 8/24/96 (Day 68 of the trip) was the FINAL DAY. He crossed the state making his way to our friend Marty's home, where Marty, Sue and I were waiting to bicycle along with him to Sandy Hook and the ocean. With this last stretch of bicycling Jim completed 3995.8 miles to reach the east coast, and he had NO FLATS the entire trip! (He seems more pleased with this fact than anything else, since he added the BOLD face type.)
We have safely returned to Fairport. Jim is thrilled to know that he doesn't HAVE to get on the bike tomorrow, or the next day, or even the next day, if he doesn't feel like it. I will be turning over the mouse and keyboard to him. He promises to get some photos from the trip on the web site, too.
It's good to have him home.
Maureen and Art's Finish
Maureen and Art followed the signed NY State bike Route 5 (Route 31 in the Fairport
area) to cross the state. Their first day out of Fairport was 106 miles - the longest of
their trip. The next day ended in St. Johnsville at a marina campground. Guess who had the
campsite next to them? Yes, the other three cross country travelers were reunited at least
for the night. Continuing on the next day saw some strong climbs coming up out of the
Mohawk River valley at the beginning of the day. The morning had been quite foggy and
Maureen was glad to have the new red flasher on her bike. After lunch in Saratoga Springs
they ended up again at a marina campground in Schuylerville along the Hudson River.
Crossing into Vermont on Friday they battled on and off heavy rain and the steepest
climbs to that point. Seems like everyone experienced the toughest days in the bicycling
east of Rochester. The weather looked pretty lousy so they opted for the indoor camping in
a motel that night. The next day New Hampshire was not to be outdone by Vermont and
presented some of the "most serious and pervasive climbing" of the entire trip.
The day ended at the Hilltop Campground in Sulivan, NH. Maureen suggests never to camp at
any place called "Hilltop" except if it's late in the day and nothing else is in
a reasonable distance. The 2 mile climb to the campground was the steepest of the 71 days.
Sounds like Jim's toughest day when he ended a 90+ mile day with a 2.5 mile 10% grade
climb to reach Bear Spring Mountain Campground.
It's now Sunday and they decided to make a somewhat longer day than planned and got to
Manchester, NH to stay with Art's sister and brother-in-law. They were welcomed with a
"New Hampshire Welcomes Cross Country Bicyclists" sign on the front lawn. The
next to last day was purposely made a short one to explore some of Art's old stomping
grounds. The last night camping was spent at the fitting Sunset Lake Campground. The trip
was completed at 9:24am on Tuesday 8/27 in Hampton Beach, NH when they dipped their front
wheels into the Atlantic Ocean. Art dumped part of the Pacific Ocean water he had been
carrying and filled the bottle with some Atlantic Ocean water. They ate ice cream and had
a celebration lunch at Brown's which Art had been planning since the beginning of the
trip. The travel back to Klamath Falls was uneventful.
Bill journey was going to be the longest. He wanted to get out of NY State faster than
Maureen had originally planned. His first day saw the only real mechanical problem for the
trip. His right pedal fell apart somewhere around Syracuse. Fortunately, it happened
within a mile of a bike shop and he was quickly put back into tip-top mechanical shape. He
camped at Green Lakes State Park at the end of a 97 mile day. The next day he saw some of
the steepest and longest climbs since the West mainly on the "short-cut" that he
was taking to get to the marina campground for the night. It was quite a surprise for him
to see Maureen and Art at the next campsite. He enjoyed watching the boats at the marina
and listening to the concert that evening so much that he decided to spend another day
here in St. Johnsville. He explored the town and really enjoyed the combination library -
art gallery- museum. A fellow cyclist named John from New Zealand provided some company
while in St. Johnsville. John has bicycled all over the world and he had many stories to
The next day, Friday 8/23, was to be a long hard one. The route was quite hilly and the
rain was rather bad. In Amsterdam a minor spill took him to a bike shop to replace a
broken mirror. The day was going rather slowly that he tried to put into a motel around
Ballston Spa. There was nothing available other than a $90 per night motel. He decided to
press on to Prospect Mt. Ski Area near Bennington, VT. Sounds like trouble - end of the
day and a place with hill or mountain in it. Sure enough the last 8 miles was a steady
uphill at an appreciable grade. He got in when it was pitch black out. The
"LODGE" sign was much more inviting than a campsite for the night. The next day
was the start of some very nice weather and he decided to lay over for another day. He
enjoyed the company of the people staying in the lodge for the day.
The 25th Bill headed into NH aiming for a hostel in Peterborough, NH. The
day started with a downhill and continued with very scenic rolling hills. He passed
through several typical New England towns. He met up with his friend Charley from Prospect
Mt. and they enjoyed a nice supper in the Peterborough Diner. Again this place was too
nice to buzz through so he planned his third layover day since leaving Fairport. He
thoroughly enjoyed exploring Peterborough the next day. Tuesday, 8/27, was his last long
day - 90+ miles. He rode through Concord, NH and crossed into Maine late in the afternoon
staying at a motel in Sanford for the night.
Bill ended his trip with a relatively short 40 mile day but it was cool and overcast
with a headwind blowing. But the sun eventually came out and his spirits picked up. He
checked into his motel and handled some logistics for the end of the trip. The final day
"official" day of his trip was Thursday 8/29. He cheated a bit and rode an unloaded
bike to the ocean to dip the wheels. Bill's final tally was 73 days 4187 miles. He filled
the rest of the day with sightseeing around the Portland area and had a TWO lobster dinner
that night. He too had an uneventful trip back home to Berea, OH.
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