A ride nine years in the making - Chris Cross America - CycleBlaze

April 18, 2022

A ride nine years in the making

My plan and what led to it

T-5 or 6 days to launch:

I'm just a few days away from kicking off a four-month cross-country journey from my home in Washington, D.C., to Astoria, Oregon, primarily following the Adventure Cycling Association's TransAmerica Bicycle Trail. (Overview image of the TransAmerica Bicycle TrailMore details on the trail) I hope to set off April 23 or 24 and reach the Pacific Coast by mid- to late August, returning to D.C. in time to return to work on Aug. 29. Planned stops include St. Louis, Denver, Yellowstone National Park and, if time allows, a detour (most likely with a rental car) to Glacier National Park. The plan is to be fully self-supported (I'll carry all my gear myself) and to camp most nights, relying on Warmshowers hosts occasionally and, very rarely, motels.

Dani and I ride along the Great Allegheny Passage during our a 2018 tour from Washington, D.C., to Toronto, via Pittsburgh. That's me in blue, Dani in orange.
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I got hooked on bike touring in 2013 after joining my wife, Dani, for the first week of her cross-country trip from Phoenix, Ariz., to Washington, D.C. This was also Dani's way of moving from Phoenix to D.C., where I had recently moved and started a new job. Because I was still fairly new to the job, I could take only about a week off to ride with her, and I have been itching to do a longer ride ever since.

Almost every year since then, I've gone on one or two bike tours of about 1-2 weeks each, and when I add up those trips, I've now ridden a continuous line covering the East Coast of the United States — from Portland, Maine, to New Orleans. 

This screenshot from Google Maps shows yellow stars at places I've stayed during my tours along the East Coast of the United States. They roughly form a lowercase "y," with the longer line from Portland, Maine, to New Orleans, and the shorter line from D.C. to Toronto.
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Somewhere in the course of these trips, I realized that it was on a bike tour that I felt most satisfied and most like myself. There is something so beautifully simple and simultaneously challenging and reassuring when your plan for the day is to try to get about 50 miles down the road, overcoming whatever obstacles you encounter, while feeling confident that you are capable of doing it and that you have everything you need with you in case your plans fall apart. It's truly freeing.

Using a timer while propped up on the ground, my phone captured this shot looking up at me holding my bike, with orange and yellow leaves above and behind me, along a trail during a ride from Vermont to New Jersey in October 2019.
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On my ride from Atlanta to New Orleans in 2016, I met another guy on tour who told me he was hoping to flip his lifestyle and work in a fixed place for just a few months each year and go on tour the rest of each year, which he thought was a possibility if he budgeted well. (For any readers of this journal who aren't too familiar with bike touring: Some folks manage to do it on a real shoestring budget.) I've met others who have been on tour for years at a time, and it opened my eyes to another kind of lifestyle. I know this lifestyle is not for me — I like the comforts of home too much to give them up for years — but I have always wondered what it would feel like to be on tour, which I have loved so much, for months at a time. 

I have also wanted to see more of this big country, to get a better appreciation of the places my fellow countrymen and -women call home. On my first solo trip, from D.C. to Charleston, W.Va., a Warmshowers host took me to see the hollers where he had lived in past decades and fought for workers' rights. He showed me the lingering effects of mountaintop removal mining. Another host told me about the struggles of the school system and the decision to put her son in a Montessori school. And of course, every Warmshowers host I've stayed with has had enthusiastic recommendations for a place to grab a bite or a drink and soak up a bit of life in their town. Someday I'd ride through more of it, I would think to myself. Someday, I'd just keep riding till I reach the ocean.

I had always thought that a cross-country trip would need to wait until I was ready to retire or at least quit my job, which I was not ready to do. But then the past two years (2020-2022) showed me how unpredictable life is and how quickly your body can fall apart if you let it, so I decided I had to do it as soon as I could. I asked for and was granted a leave of absence from work, and I feel very privileged to be able to afford to take four months off and to have a job that I really like waiting for me when I return. 

On my most recent tour, in October 2021, I dipped the rear wheel of Blue, my trusty Surly Disc Trucker, in the Atlantic on a beach south of Portland.

Here I pose for a photo after ceremoniously dipping my rear wheel into the Atlantic. And I soaked my shoes. It was worth it.
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Spring is here. I'm fully vaccinated. The big barriers are gone. It's time to head west!

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Comment on this entry Comment 8
Keith AdamsI've added you to my "Follow" list so that I can track your progress. We may cross paths somewhere out west in July; I'll be eastbound starting from Bend OR on 2 July. The first couple weeks of my trip are on the TransAm so I'll be on the lookout for you.

You can find my projected itinerary in my journal, if you want to see where I'll be and approximately when.

Also, I'm just up the road a piece from you, in Rockville. Might be enjoyable to compare notes once we're all back home. (I expect to arrive back here ~ late September/ early October assuming I stay anything like close to the plan I've worked out.)
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3 months ago
Chris GeorgeTo Keith AdamsThanks, Keith! I'll be following your journal as well. Good luck with your preparations!
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3 months ago
David HendersonChris
I am starting on the Transamerica from VA on May 5th, I hope our paths cross
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3 months ago
Chris GeorgeCool, I'll follow your progress too. Best of luck with your preparations and launch!
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3 months ago
Scott ClementGood luck Chris! Alisa shared your blog with the Bike Commuting slack channel at work, and I'm looking forward to following your trip! Wishing you pleasant and safe rides! (I'm Scott Clement from the polling team, just to know)
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3 months ago
Chris GeorgeTo Scott ClementThanks, Scott!
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3 months ago
Jeff LeeI look forward to following your journal. I did the TransAm (East to West) back in 2006, and now, coincidentally, live fairly close to the route in Henderson, Kentucky

In case you haven't already heard, the Baptist Church in Sebree, Kentucky is a great free place to stay, with nice indoor accommodations, including a shower.

If you have questions or need anything as you approach my area, let me know!

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3 months ago
Chris GeorgeTo Jeff LeeThanks so much, Jeff!
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3 months ago