Will There Be A Part III In This Series? - Seeking A Bicycle Warrior's Death, Part II: The Great Rivers South - CycleBlaze

Will There Be A Part III In This Series?

Are There More Battles Ahead For This Bicycle Warrior?

Routes Of Interest.  There are many routes I'd love to ride someday, so if I never tour again, it won't be because of a lack of interesting routes.  There are several ACA-mapped routes on my wish list of routes I'd like to ride someday.  And someday, when I'm old, I'd also like to ride the Transam again.  BTW, I'll be "officially" old in less than 3 weeks on my 70th birthday.  And maybe someday I might ride across Canada (Cross-Canada Route) - so there's a lot of future possibilities.  

The ConnecTour 2021 Cross-Canada Route
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The link in the paragraph above includes point-to-point listings of each day's ride on that cross-Canada route.  The folks that rode this route did so in 4.5 months, so this would certainly be an epic adventure. 

I thought a map of ACA routes that interest me might help my planning process and that one would jump out and say "me next!"  so I used the ACA interactive overview map to plot these out. 

Various ACA Routes That Interest Me
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The map above does sort of help my planning, but it's cluttered and I need to group the routes of interest by category and then weed out the less-desirable ones.  For instance, I like the idea of riding border-to-border in a south-to-north direction.  Having just finished the Great Rivers South route, I'm not interested in the Underground Railroad route at this time, so that leaves these possibilities;

South-to-North Border-to-Border Routes of Interest
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The Atlantic Coast doesn't quite go border-to-border, but it could be extended to reach the Canadian border in Maine.  Of these 3 routes, I think I'd like the Sierra Cascades best because it avoids the more populated east and west coasts.  And then there's this route developed by Cycle Blazer Kelly Iniguez;

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I like Kelly's route and I like the Sierra Cascades route. The Sierra Cascades route is 2,441 miles with about 195,000 feet of climbing while Kelly's route is 2,243 miles with about 101,000 feet of climbing.   Journals exist for both routes so that's always helpful.  Kelly's route has the advantage of requiring less climbing and it can be ridden with inside lodging every day - it may be possible to stay inside every day on the Sierra Cascades route as well, I'll have to investigate.   The Siera Cascades route averages 80 feet of climbing per mile; that's a lot.  Kelly's route averages 45 feet of climbing per mile, and that's still enough to be strenuous.  Anyway, as far as the north-south border-to-border choices go, I like those 2 options.  The Sierra Cascades route overlaps with the Northern Tier in Washington and includes the 3 mountain passes that I had to miss because of fire road closures last year, so that's an added attraction. 

Regarding east-to-west and/or coast-to-coast routes, I have ridden the Transam and the Northern Tier, so that leaves the Southern Tier.  Also, one could combine the Lewis and Clark route with the Chicago to New York City route and almost have a coast-to-coast route. 

Coast-to-Coast Possibilities
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I am intrigued somewhat by the Southern Tier route for 2 reasons; 1.) riding it would mean that I have crossed the U.S. on the 3 ACA coast-to-coast routes, and 2.) because it's so far south it needs to be ridden very early in the spring or late in the fall to avoid the summertime heat in the desert, and that may be beneficial to my schedule for other (medical) reasons.    The route goes along some long causeways along the Gulf of Mexico, and that would certainly be interesting.  It goes through the heart of New Orleans and for 2.5 days it overlaps with the Great Rivers South route - while that's not really an attraction for me, I think I now know how to best ride that part.   To be honest, from what I have read and gathered from others, I suspect the Southern Tier is probably the least desirable of the 3 ACA coast-to-coast routes.  But it may still have qualities that make it worth pursuing; it's the unknown aspects that make an adventure worthwhile. 

I have been interested in riding the Lewis and Clark route ever since I came upon their path on the Transam route in Idaho.  I'm amazed that anyone could have traveled across that rugged country before there were roads and bridges, and I'd be thrilled to follow their path from St. Louis west.   The thought of combining it with the Chicago to New York City route to make a coast-to-coast route is a real win in my mind.  This would be a truly epic tour on the order of 4,500 miles or so.  How to combine the 2 routes? ACA routes offer 2 possibilities; 1.) complete the New York City to Chicago route and then ride from Chicago to St. Louis on the Bicycle Route 66 route, or 2.) ride to Indianapolis on the New York City to Chicago route and then use the Eastern Connector route to ride to St. Louis and hook up with the Lewis and Clark route.   There are 2 options to ride the Lewis and Clark in Montana; I would choose the southern route because the northern overlaps the Northern Tier route I rode last year.  Even so, there would be some overlap with the Northern Tier in North Dakota, and there's some overlap with the Transam route in Idaho.  So regardless of whether I rode the combined Chicago to New York City and Lewis and Clark routes or the Southern Tier route, there would be some overlap with routes I have previously ridden.  

Ways to Join the Lewis and Clark Route With The Chicago to New York City Route
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There is another coast-to-coast possibility that I have purposely omitted.  One could combine the Chicago to New York City route with the Bicycle Route 66 route.  The reason I omitted it is that I am familiar with some of the Route 66 path through Oklahoma, and I would not recommend it for cycle tourists.  Unfortunately, there have been recent comments on various Oklahoma bicycle forums regarding the issues that cycle tourists have faced while traversing the state on the Bicycle Route 66 roads; it isn't good, folks have been purposefully menaced and "coal rolled" by redneck Oklahoma drivers.   Oklahoma is another bottom 10 state that fits in well culturally with many of the states I just rode across on the Great Rivers South route - I don't want to have to deal with a significant number of aggressive drivers again, so at least for the time being I'm not interested in this route.   FWIW, I live in Oklahoma and I regularly ride on parts of the Bicycle Route 66 that are good for cycling, and there are good roads for cycling here.  However, the state is similar to Mississippi in that you can't just ride anywhere and assume that drivers will respect your rights. 

Another east-west coast-to-coast route I omitted consists of riding either the Transam or the Chicago to New York City route combined with the Eastern Connector and hooking up with the Western Express.  Since I have already ridden the Western Express, I'd rather take some other route. 

So there you have it; I'm interested in a diverse set of potential tours including south-north border-to-border tours, east-west coast-to-coast tours, and even a cross-Canada tour.  And I'm interested in a lot of shorter options as well.  It seems that there are a lot of roads I've yet to travel.  That's a good thing, but I need to work on whittling this list down to the one I want to do next - assuming I do another tour, and that's something that none of us knows. 

Health Status.  It's taken me several days to get around to writing this last part of the epilogue because I just didn't want to write this section.  It's good to have bicycle touring dreams and challenges, but unless you have the health to equal them it's a bit of a fruitless exercise.   The experts say I will ultimately lose this battle against cancer, but I've maybe got some time left during which my health and physical ability will still be "normal" (whatever that is).  The rest of this section concerns the details and minutiae of my health; you could skip this and save yourself from the boring details, and you should probably do just that. 

The PET scan with a radioactive tracer that I had the day before I commenced this tour showed 2 areas that are likely the beginnings of tumors.  They are located in an area where tumors are likely to occur with my cancer, and they reacted with the radioactive tracer as would be expected for cancerous cells.  But at the moment they are tiny, too small to physically be sampled with a fine needle biopsy, so they can't be positively confirmed yet.   Until they can be confirmed, the procedure is to continue with regular blood tests for PSA and use the expected increase in PSA as a proxy to monitor the cancer's growth.  There's a lot of estimation in this next statement; I've probably got a year or so before any therapies would commence.  The therapy that's expected to be used consists of hormone treatments, and my oncologist has informed me that I will likely not have much energy while being treated.  So then, maybe I have another year of normal health and that means I could do another tour. 

But - there's always a "but" or 2 when discussing complex medical situations - it may be that therapy of some sort starts much sooner.  I am to consult with a Radiation Oncologist later this week - this doctor has already done radiation on me after my prostate was removed in 2018 - but my Medical Oncologist at MD Anderson asked me to hand-carry a disc with the PET scans and copies of the radiology report to this Radiation Oncologist in Tulsa.  I will have a MRI soon that targets the likely tumor areas, and the 2 experts (MD Anderson Medical Oncologist and Tulsa Radiation Oncologist) will confer on the possibility that maybe I could be treated with more radiation focused on those likely tumor areas.   Under usual circumstances I would not be able to safely tolerate additional radiation - there are guidelines regarding how much radiation you can have, because radiation can actually cause cancer (see, I told you this gets complicated).   But, after examining the PET scan and the soon-to-happen MRI, should the Radiation Oncologist feel that I could tolerate a bit more radiation in the particular area of these likely tumors, then that may happen.  And, if so, there's a possibility that I would be subjected to a therapy of hormone treatments beforehand to attack the cancer cells and make them more susceptible to the radiation.   

So then, truthfully, at the moment I don't really have a clue when I will start various treatment options, and how much those treatments might affect my ability and/or desire to cycle tour. I may be tilting at windmills a bit here, but it's my life and I intend to concede nothing to this enemy; I'm not going down easy.   

Final Thoughts About The Great Rivers South Route.  There are some good people along this route.  I feel compelled to say that because the few bad ones stand out and can overly influence one's opinion of the region.  When you are being assaulted by folks throwing a soft drink on you while passing, or drivers honk menacingly for no good reason, or drivers yell insults as they pass, or drivers pass too close when the other lane is clear, or you suffer a dog bite because people don't keep their dangerous animals locked up, then you can develop a negative opinion of the entire region based on the actions of a despicable few.  And then there's the folks who fly the Confederate flag even though it has become a symbol of hate and racism.  

I'll go so far as to say that most of the folks in this region are kind-hearted salt-of-the-earth folks.  But there's a smaller, but significant, percentage of the populace who are not, and that percentage is enough to make it unpleasant for cycle tourists.  So with that backdrop, I was pleasantly surprised as I was unpacking the final things from my panniers and I found a newspaper article I had stowed away when I was in Mathiston, Mississippi. 

The September 28, 2022 edition of The Webster Progress-Times newspaper (Web Site) included an article titled "Local Support For C&G Rail Trail Building Steam."  There's a movement to build a recreational bike trail that would span 92 miles and connect several small towns including Mathiston, a town near the Natchez Trace where I found lodging.  Supporters have been advocating for this trail for 14 years, and it appears that some progress is finally happening.   So while progress is glacially slow, there are some folks who at least want to move ahead.  I think that statement can be applied to the culture of the entire region.  

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Kelly IniguezThank you for the mention of our border to border route. When asked independently about our favorite tour ever, Jacinto and I both answer without hesitation that it was our border to border trip. The part that made it the best tour, for me, was the changes in geography - you get red rocks and dirt, Monument Valley (!), grasslands, high desert, alpine, pine forests, etc. The geology never dulls. Lodging was mostly easy to arrange.

We rode the Sierra Cascades route for Jacinto's 50th birthday - all motels. We only made it as far as Reno, because I absolutely couldn't book us through Yosemite - I was too late. It was an enjoyable route. I trained really hard and was happy with my performance - you are correct. It's much more difficult than our border to border.

I've also ridden the Lewis and Clark from Great Falls, MT to Astoria. That was with ACA, one month long, and my first big tour. It's the one that gave me confidence to ride long tours.

I am biased, admittedly, to my most excellent border to border route - I think it stands out for the variety of terrain, and the fact that it can be motel-ed. There's also the swagger factor of going border to border.

I have another idea to toss out at you - it's a trip that's been on my back burner for years - but this fall I did look at lodging, and I'm pretty sure it can be done as a motel trip. Let's see if this one appeals to you - Take the ferry through the Inner Passage from Vancouver to Bella Coola, BC - then ride back to the states. If you look at my name on RWGPS, and put in Bella Coola - the route should come up. https://ridewithgps.com/routes/40765402

There is a monster climb coming out of Bella Coola that has an interesting story behind it, if you google. It has been pointed out to me that perhaps the sane cyclist would ride INTO Bella Coola rather than out, the ride would be much friendlier. I can see the value in that. Most of what is stopping this route from becoming a reality is rain - it rains a lot in Canada. We've gotten spoiled the past few years while touring and haven't been rained on to speak of.

I think having a fun, positive daydream is a good thing. It's much better than worrying about potential health problems. Stewing over them won't help. I'm a great worry wart. I should be taking my own advice! Seriously - here's wishing for the best possible outcome.
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1 year ago
George HallTo Kelly IniguezKelly - I looked at the Bella Coola route - that's an interesting thought. RWGPS says it has 9% unpaved roads, so I'd probably go with a slightly larger tire than my usuals (I usually ride 38mm tires, I'd go with 42mm if I was expecting a lot of gravel). One could combine it with the Chicago to New York City and Eastern Connector routes for a truly epic tour. Wow, so many possibilities - thanks for pointing out this one.
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1 year ago