Backstory - Two Old Guys Take On A Continent - CycleBlaze

March 1, 2023

Backstory

How I Got From There to Here - Please Indulge a Short Bicycle History

OK, the journal title.  Two Old Guys Take on a Continent.  My brother and I plan to ride self-supported from Washington, D.C. to Seaside, Oregon, this summer. I'll turn 70 a week after the ride starts.  My brother and tour companion is 18 months younger. I'm John. He's Ed. Ed will co-author this journal. Somehow we'll keep straight who is writing what. For now it's me.  John. The older, wiser, stronger, faster, better looking one. Don't listen to anything Ed says to the contrary. Just because he has more hair....

Wonder Bread Years

I've always had a bicycle.  Even before I had one of my own at age 4 or 5,  before I could reach the pedals, I'd coast down the hill in front of our home in Middletown, Pennsylvania, on my sister's bike.  Walk it back up the hill and coast back down.  Skipped the whole training wheel thing.

The only bike I've ever had stolen was in the Philippine Islands when I was 12 years old in 1965.  We were living on Clark Air Force Base, and a typhoon had just blown through.  The bike I guess ended up on a truck buried under a pile of downed tree branches during the cleanup.

College

Until college the bike was always a Murray or a Huffy, single speed with coaster brakes. I bought a used Schwinn Continental 10-speed. I only rode it a few times.  The last time I rode it was to a friend's house 17 miles away on a sweltering summer day in Mississippi in 1974.   I had no knowledge of nutrition or hydration.  I drank no water. My friend wasn't there.  Her father mercifully loaded the bike and a semi-delirious me into the back of his station wagon and drove me home. That bike leaned against a wall for years after that.

Early Work

I eventually sold it in Stavanger, Norway, in 1984 just as I was  transferred back to the States  (I spent most of my career as a geologist working for Phillips Petroleum). Bike paths everywhere there, but I was not about to ride in the almost perpetual cold rain.

Driving home from work one day in 1985 in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, my car turned of its own volition into the parking lot of the local bike shop.  I bought a chromoly Bridgestone 10-speed (darned if I can remember the model), left the car and briefcase and rode the 3 miles home.  My legs ached for a week. But this bike I actually started riding regularly, even if at first I was in blue jeans and a flannel shirt. I discovered the character building that comes of riding into a stiff Oklahoma headwind, and how to fall over gracefully when I forgot to take my feet out of the toe clips.

I found when I moved to Houston that tighty whities and cutoff jeans were a foolproof recipe for serial diaper rash.  I discovered Lycra bike shorts, or as my sister dubbed them, bungee-shorts ("How embarrassing for you," she commented when first she saw them).

Mid Career

My first organized ride (and I guess my first "tour", since we camped overnight in Lagrange) was the 1990 Houston to Austin MS150.  It was very nearly my first century ride also, since this "150" meant riding 98 miles on day 1 and 74 miles on day 2.  I rode this and other MS150 tours about a dozen times over the following years.  In 1994 I discovered the Hotter'n'Hell Hundred in Wichita Falls, Texas, the last weekend of August, which I've ridden about 10 times, the latest being the year I turned 65.   Having that ride on my calendar was motivation to keep riding through the heat of the summer in order to stay ready.  Although occasionally only warmer'n'heck, it often lived up to its name. Several years ago it was 106 when I finished about 2:30 p.m., and 109 an hour later as I sat under a tent drinking beer, wondering how the band managed to keep playing without passing out. The ride website later said it was 111 at midday. I really miss the 98th-mile Outlaw Beer Stop.

Alas, the trusty Bridgestone was damaged beyond repair in 1997 when a Jeep rear-ended my van with the bike on the rack.  I graduated to a Trek 1220.  Triple chainring! 7-cog cassette! Heaven! The Trek was supplanted 16 years later (yeah, I put lots of mileage on my cars, too, before I move on) when I finally broke down to buy a carbon fiber Masi Evoluzione.  

Later Years

My first week-long tour was GOBA in June, 2004, and looking back I can see I was approaching a milestone that would lead me to today. It put behind me the worry that I couldn't ride a significant distance every day for a week. The month following that first weeklong ride I departed on the annual summer road trip with the family, that year to drive the Lewis and Clark Trail as closely as possible from Kansas City to Oregon, then down the coast to California to visit my sister, and back to Oklahoma. Somewhere along the way I picked up Adventure Cycling's recently published "Bicycling the Lewis and Clark Trail", which, after I thumbed through it a couple times, sat on a bookshelf for over 15 years.

There followed over the years dozens of supported weeklong tours, some multiple times, many with acronyms like XOBA, BRAN, BRAT, RAGBRAI, RASDAK, GRABAWR, SAGBRAW, BigBAM, and RTFL, and most of them ridden with my brother Ed.

Pandemic

In the quiet seclusion of  COVID lockdown the thought of a self-supported tour (something I'd never done) germinated, a tour from coast to coast no less.  I think the seed was planted when I bought that Adventure Cycling book in 2004; and it lay dormant for those many years .  So, what to do about it? Late 2020 and the clock is ticking.

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Comment on this entry Comment 6
Steve Miller/GrampiesOh goody, new riders to follow. Have a great time you two!
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11 months ago
George HallA fellow Geologist! And within 6 months of my age. I'll be following along.
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11 months ago
Mary Diane SteltenkampHey guy! I’m in and watching every move! Behave
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9 months ago
Arthur BrownI can’t wait to live vicariously through your adventures! Keep on keeping on…
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9 months ago
Don ShepherdJohn/Ed, it was great to meet you guys today in western Pa on the Panhandle Trail. And I am glad that we got to celebrate John's 70th birthday tonight, a few hours early.

Safe travels. I hope that out paths cross again soon.
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9 months ago
Mary Beth GoldbergerI have been told that it is healthy, very healthy to journal about your life as it brings great calmness and peace, I’m following you and Ed. Also, thinking of Carol who has supported you through everything. PS. I have as yet to do my journal. Safe travels.
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9 months ago