I’ve been dreaming about bicycling across the U.S. for eight or nine years. So when my daughter asked last summer, “Do you want to do the Trans-America bike ride next year?” it was easy to answer, “Yes!”
I’ve traveled a bit for work, mostly to larger cities, but there’s a lot of America I haven’t seen. I’ve hiked part of the Appalachian Trail, and loved the wildness and remoteness of the crest of the Smokies. So the countryside and wilderness attract me more than Yet Another Mall (with the same stores) or 10 lane parking lots at rush hour. I was past 45 before I saw Yosemite! Still haven’t seen much of the Rockies, or Yellowstone; I guess I’ll have to wait for Badlands and Mt. Rushmore, and Utah, and the Grand Canyon. Oh, well.
As it turns out, this is a good time for us to go. Virginia is graduating from college this spring, and will be able to get started at graduate school in the fall. The two main work projects I worried about, that were scheduled for this summer, have slid into the fall. My bosses (how many can I deal with?) are encouraging, or at least accepting, of this crazy trip.
The Adventure Cycling Association’s TransAm route is a natural choice for us. First, it passes within four miles of Virginia’s college (and mine too, back when it was Bikecentennial). Second, it’s close enough to let us head out right after graduation. And third, if we have trouble in the first month or so, our family is scattered along the eastern part of the route, for the most part within a few hours’ drive. Safety net, anyone?
I thought about taking the Lewis and Clark west from the Mississippi, but there were a couple downers there. we’d miss Colorado (where Virginia’s aunt lives, and Rockies!). Also, one of the journals I looked at noted the L&C was much hillier than you might expect, and was often hidden from the Missouri River. So, TransAm across Kansas!
Well, the Northern Tier route is enticing, too, with the Going to the Sun road in Glacier National Park, and the Canadian border is soo close! Maybe we’ll just head north from Yellowstone, and pick up the NT for the last couple of states.
Being the Dad, I’ve got maps for both alternatives, although since we’re heading west, we may pick our way up through west-central Montana. Looks like it’s about the same distance as following TransAm, about 4300 miles total. We hope to average about 60 miles a day, although we’ll likely start a bit slower than that.
I’ve got a bit over three months off from work. How long will this trip take us? I hope it’s three months or a bit less! As for conditioning, I’ve been commuting by bike, with longer rides most weekends. Virginia was on her varsity swim team, and has been getting a few rides in around classes and whitewater. I figure I’ve got the better legs to start with, while she has youth and probably better overall aerobic conditioning on her side. I may pull her across Virginia, but she’ll probably beat me climbing the Appalachians, and hopefully she’ll be in good form to pull me through the headwinds across Kansas.