Germination - Two Old Guys Take On A Continent - CycleBlaze

March 1, 2023


How to Get From Here to There

OK, so I want to ride my bike across the country self-supported.  My brother Ed had ridden a couple of 1-2 week self-supported tours. We talked.  Turns out the same thought had been bouncing around in his mind for a few years.  His wife told him (and mine told me),  "Thou shalt not ride solo."  Here we came together, potential partners in crime. Sure, said the wives, I guess I trust your brother enough to let you go with him.  So it began.

I had everything I needed except for a few crucial things: a bike, a route and some experience touring self-supported. Starting not quite from ground zero I thought.

The Bike

I spent months trying to decide on a bike.  I didn't want to spend a fortune, but I wanted a trusty conveyance.  I had pretty much decided on a Surly Long Haul Trucker, when I read that Surly had discontinued the old Trucker several months before, and was only producing the Disc Trucker, something I didn't want.  So, panic! I crawled the web and called every bike store in Oklahoma and surrounding states looking for a new one.  No luck.  

Craigslist came to the rescue. In January 2021 I found a gently used V-brake Long Haul Trucker not 10 miles away in Yukon, Oklahoma. I thought as I drove over to take a look that maybe "gently used" meant the seller wasn't much of a biker. I was disabused of that notion when his garage door went up and I found a veritable showroom of great bikes of every description.  Turns out he is a biking fanatic who has so many bikes he can't possibly use any one too heavily if he wants to spread himself around.

Grandpa's Thermos green, Tubus racks, Orange Velo hammered silver fenders, Brooks saddle. Very much a classic. Love at first sight.  I changed out the stem for a better fit, double-wrapped the handlebars and added a PedalCell Dynamo USB charger, front and rear Ortlieb panniers and handlebar bag, and a Wahoo Elemnt Roam.

A year later when Ed went looking for a long-wheelbase recumbent for the tour his search brought him to the same guy. And Ed lives in Ohio.  Small world.

The Route

My first inclination was to design a west to east route that I would call the Friends and Family Tour, allowing as many opportunities as possible to spend a few days with friends and family (who else?) along the way.  That would have taken us from southern California on Bike Route 66 to Chicago, then east on the Chicago to New York City Route and the Northern Tier all the way to the coast of Maine.

A dose of reality set in when my wife and I roadtripped to my sister's in California for Thanksgiving. I took the opportunity on the way home to check out parts of Bike Route 66 from the perspective of a cyclist instead of a motorist. I've driven long stretches of  I-10, I-40, I-44, I-55 many times over the past 45 years. I was reminded first of all how much of my conceptual route would parallel interstate highways, and the thought of seeing all that same country again in slow motion was not appealing.

So I cast my eyes elsewhere. Leave the west coast on the Northern Tier, or the Southern Tier, or the Transamerica, or the Lewis and Clark Trail.  Arrive on the east coast in Florida, or Virginia, or Massachusetts. I spent hundreds of dollars buying maps from Adventure Cycling and poring over them.  I was close to landing on a traditional TransAmerica route when serendipity took me to a website describing in minute detail a new route called the TransAmerica Eastern Express

The TransAmerica Eastern Express route was developed by a group of bikers over the past 5 or 6 years as a less mountainous alternative to the traditional TransAmerica route.  It diverges from the original Transamerica at Walden, Colorado, and lands in Washington, D.C instead of Yorktown, Virginia.  I laid out both of them in Ride With GPS and determined that the Eastern Express cuts out about 40,000' of climbing! Music to the ears of someone who will be riding with 70-year old legs. Sold!

After some meteorological research and further futzing about with the layout of the route, I decided to reverse the direction of the tour by starting in Washington, D.C.  We will head west on the Eastern Express to Walden, join the original Transam to Missoula, Montana, then head for the Pacific on the Lewis and Clark Trail.  I'll fly to Washington on May 2 to meet my brother, spend a day being monument tourists in D.C., and start the tour in earnest on May 4.

The Experience

All of these decisions without ever having ridden a tour self-supported. So it was time for some shakedown cruises.

In late September, early October 2021 Ed and I rode a 340-mile 6-day self-supported tour counterclockwise around southern Lake Michigan from my son's house in Chicago to Muskegon, Michigan, across the lake by ferry to Milwaukee, and back to Chicago.  Things went, as an office-mate of mine from years ago used to say, slick as deer guts on a doorknob. Not much climbing. Averaged about 12 mph on the road. It only rained once, and that was at night. Riding into downtown Chicago at the start during morning rush hour to get to the lake wasn't as horrific as it might sound.  Good experience, I thought.

In August 2022 we upped the game with a two-week 840-mile tour around the rest of Lake Michigan, from Muskegon north to Mackinaw City, across the Straits to the U.P., up to Munising on Lake Superior, down the west side of Lake Michigan to Milwaukee, and back to Muskegon on the ferry. Again not a lot of climbing, but roads over sand dune ridges can be steep! 11 mph average. There was the thrill of riding in the rain on two-lane  shoulderless highways in the U.P. with heavy logging truck and RV traffic blazing by at 70 mph.  We were never run off the road, but the traffic passing us ran the oncoming traffic off the road occasionally. There is a short gap in our circle caused by Ed's rear tire blowing out.  A road angel (another biker and his wife) hauled us and our gear in a pickup truck 17 miles south to Green Bay, where miraculously there was a bike store open on a Sunday afternoon. More good experience, I thought!


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Comment on this entry Comment 3
Moe NagatyGood luck buddy. I always known you were crazy but had no idea you are that crazy. Be safe my friend we'll be praying for you and Ed.
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11 months ago
Kelly IniguezYou mentioned three nights about 10,000 feet in Colorado. Where are your scheduled overnights?
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10 months ago
John ChimahuskyTo Kelly IniguezTentatively Mountain Park and Chambers Lake Campgrounds. Or as high as we can get on those days. Then over Cameron Pass.
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10 months ago