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A Bicycle built for seeing America.
A Bicycle built for seeing America.
Writer takes cross-country trip on two wheels
By Calvin Woodward
BITS FROM THE ROAD
Logistics, equipment and random judgments from 88 days of bicycling to Los Angeles from Washington, D.C.:
Bike: 2005 Trek 520
Mechanical problems: None
Tires changed: one (rear)
Flats: three on one tire, from spiky weeds in Kansas
Maintenance: Tuneup in Garden City, Kansas
Distance: 3,500 miles, approximate
Drivers most likely to wave: Kansas
Most dangerous traffic: Northern Virginia and Cotopaxi, Colorado, to Salida, Colorado
Major annoyance: Kentucky dogs
Unexpected courtesies: Kentucky coal truck drivers
Most miles in one day: 95, eastern Colorado
Typical daily mileage: 50-65
Lodging: Two nights motel for every night camping
Campground tip: Free camping in some town parks in Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado. Check with police first.
Trip cost: $4,500 plus $1,200 bicycle
Best ways to cut that cost: Rough it by camping off the road. Bring cooking gear.
Most overpriced town: Telluride, Colorado
Best riding: central Virginia west of the Blue Ridge; Union County, Kentucky; Katy Trail, Missouri; Westcliffe to Cotopaxi, Colorado
Rural surprises: Free wireless Internet in many small towns
Largest city on route: Flagstaff, Arizona
The don't-leave-home item I left home without: Adventure Cycling route maps
Best recovery: Having Adventure Cycling send the maps later
Luggage: Rear panniers and rack, handlebar bag
Heaviest cargo: Four-pound laptop, three-pound tent
Notable weight savings: Synthetic clothes that can be washed and dried nightly
Unexpected hazard: Laundromat dryers melting synthetic clothes even on low setting
Best convenience store pick-me-up: Sports drink and salted peanuts YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS
or Create Your Own
Manage Alerts | What Is This? NEWPORT BEACH, California (AP) -- When you bicycle across the country, people tell you their dreams, because they see you are living yours.
"I've always wanted to ..." they say. "Someday, I'll ..."
They speak of physical challenges to conquer or exercises of the mind. Of going places or doing more at home. Some dreams already are in motion; others may never fly.
People are surprised to find themselves talking about whatever mountain it is they want to climb. Something about someone inching from one side of the country to the next brings it out of them.
Craig Pattison, for example.
He clears trees for a living. Last year, he had a little music festival on his western Missouri hilltop. The rains washed the festival out and he took a financial bath. This year he almost broke even.
His words escape from a bushy beard as he speaks of his dream. "I've always wanted to have Willie Nelson play in my backyard."
Waitresses talk about not being waitresses someday. A teenage girl in small-town Kansas, minding her little brother in a park, notices the bicycle with all the bags and offers with curious eyes and a voice as even as the prairie, "I've never been anywhere."
Crossing the country at 12 mph to 15 mph, loaded down, takes about three months. It's hard. This is an enormous country. Who knew?
One astonishing thing about this trip is that it can be done at all in this day and age.
In this land of congested suburbs, clogged highways and city clatter, it's possible to go from Washington, D.C., to the Pacific on roads less traveled.
The route is stitched together from lonely backroads and byways, bordered by farms and meadows. The silence is often vast, broken only by the wail and thunder of the freight train, still the signature sound of America.
You study every house, examine individual weeds for longer than they are worth.
In the rain or under a blistering sun, you think of this equation too often -- one hour in a car would take you as far as one whole day on a bicycle -- 60 to 70 miles. One day in a car covers as much ground as a week on a bike. It can all seem so absurd.
But then there are places like Union County, Kentucky, endless fields of rich-green soybeans.
And the canopy of leaves over the Katy Trail, an off-road path meandering hundreds of miles along the Missouri River and west, in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark.
And the payoff vista after 2,000 miles of traversing east to west -- the opening act of the Rockies rising in the distance from the Colorado flat country.
The journey reveals a country in subtle transition. Combines still reap the harvest but GPS systems now guide some of them, satellites steering them precisely down rows.
Little towns are starting to live on the flush side of the digital divide, installing wireless antennas atop grain elevators and using high-speed Internet to snag business and connect citizens to the outside world.
Trade as well as technology reshapes the heartland. Trains still snake across the landscape but many of the freight cars carry the names of Chinese companies sending goods from across the Pacific.
And waves of Hispanic or Asian immigration reach deep into places where neighbors have known neighbors for generations, except when they left for a better life.
More than the beauty of the land, the openness of strangers impresses the transcontinental bicyclist. Police officers escort you to the town park for a free night of camping. People take you in, feed you and give you water. They save you from heat stroke and worry that the headless horsemen of Appalachian lore and the Skin Walkers, evil spirits of the southwestern desert, will get you.
"Take my truck," Carla Weatherly pleads, serving coffee at the Main Book Co. bookstore and coffeehouse in Cortez, Colo. "Drive to Flagstaff and leave it there somewhere safe. I'll come get it."
She had just told a stranger to drive her pickup five hours into Arizona and somehow she would retrieve it someday. She did not want to see me going through the heat, isolation and ghostly dangers of the Indian lands.
Her offer was so generous it had to be refused. But America is full of people like Carla.
It's full of dreamers, too.