I recently completed a coast-to-coast bicycle trip with Adventure Cycling Association from Virginia to Oregon. There were nine riders and two ACA leaders. We did it the easy way by having ACA provide a van and trailer to haul our stuff.
When people ask me about the trip, I begin my response by saying that it was an overwhelmingly positive experience, and that we were meeting the real America, not the one you see in the news. And I have to say that the riding was incidental to the trip. Then it’s hard to get me to shut up.
An example of the real America would be the hot and humid day two of us stopped in the shade of a tree for a lunch break. It was in front of a rural house in Kansas. While we were having sandwiches, I noticed a dog heading our way and told Jim, “I think we have a visitor.” That dog was smiling. Jim, a dog person, gave her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which she loved. While we were getting to know the canine, we were approached by a young woman with two glasses of ice water. Janet told us her dog is named Maya because she was acquired on the last day of the Mayan calendar. Janet is recently out of high school and is planning on attending nursing school in Iowa and hopes to some day work in an emergency room. We heard later that some of our other riders also stopped under that inviting tree. This time, Janet and her brother brought ice water for the riders.
The group started out with 10 riders but was pared down to eight when two guys had to bail out because of physical problems. They were both 74. Shortly after they left, Norm, a retired Air Force pilot and retired NASA employee, asked if it would be all right if a woman friend of his from Idaho joined us. There was certainly no reason to object, so we said sure. Christine, our only woman, and who wouldn’t give her real age, is supposedly in her mid-60s. (The average age of our group was about 62.) Christine has calves that look like they are made of steel cables. She could leave all of us guys, except for Norm, 63, in her dust. She is the former owner of a whitewater rafting company in Idaho.
One of the three attorneys in our group, Britton, made me think, “Yeah, right,” when I first saw him. He is 6 feet 5 inches tall and weighed about 350 pounds when he started the trip. He probably lost 50 pounds. In addition to having a practice specializing in workmans’ comp law, he teaches constitutional law at a university. I highly value the day the two of us were riding north on a good dirt road with a nice tailwind in Kansas. I got a free lesson in constitutional law from an expert. He finished the ride with ease.
In Ashgrove, Missouri, we ate dinner at Mama Loca’s restaurant, but not until Britton had shown them how to make flan. With a name like Mama Loca’s, they needed to know that. After the meal, Mr. Mama Loca told us the story about a previous ACA group leader who had attempted to prevent a fight in front of the restaurant. He was bitten by one of the combatants before police showed up. Fortunately, neither of our leaders had a similar experience. Oh, yeah. Sixteen turtles. There were three of us who made it our mission to rescue turtles. We would stop when there was a turtle in the road and move it to the shoulder. We could see plenty that hadn’t made it across the road. The other two folks, Norm and Christine, were a lot faster than yours truly, so could start riding later in the morning. As a consequence, I would find more testudines (look it up) than they did. By the time we got to drier Kansas, I had moved 15 turtles. I figured that was the end of my turtle mission, but somewhere in Colorado, I came across number 16 and moved it into the weeds.
In 1976, I rode approximately the same route from West to East before Bikecentennial changed its name to Adventure Cycling Association. That ride is one of the highlights of my life. This year’s trip is on a par with that ride. Maybe better. If you haven’t already, you will fall in love with this country.
Bill Foreman is retired, but keeps busy in his retirement. He lives in Moab.