There are all sorts of riders on this trip. There are those who look like they can barely walk when they get up in the morning, yet they mount their bikes and ride 60+ miles. Some are riding EFI (“every fucking inch”). Others ride part of each day and take the sag wagon for the other part. Still others pick and choose their days to ride. There are those riding on one or two artificial knees, and one riding on his second heart. There are the “big kids” who ride at breakneck speed and are the first ones in every day, and the one who looks like the little brother yelling, “Hey, wait up!”
There are those who leave at the crack of dawn (skipping breakfast) and those who get in at sunset (barely in time for dinner, much less changing and showering).
There are those who ride as though oblivious to the traffic around them, roaming across the lanes while shooting video, and those who ride in rigid pacelines. There are those who stop to take pictures of everything. There are those who ride with the same person every day, never leaving each other’s side, those who ride alone, and those who wander among groups.
Some sleep in their tents no matter what. Others stay in a hotel every chance they get. Some sleep on elaborate beds (one inflatable bed is about 2 feet thick) while others sleep on the thinnest of pads.
A group joined late and ride together every day in matching clothes. Multiple pairs and small groups have formed and become inseparable.
There are couples, a father and son, mother and daughter, mother and son, pairs or groups of friends, people who met on prior cross-country rides and wanted to meet up again, people who knew no one when we started. Some are probably already plotting when they will see each other again, seeming to be lifelong friends by the end of the ride despite never having met before.
There are those who ride all over the world, spending more time on their bikes than at home; those who have done this multiple times; those who completed their crossing in smaller chunks over a series of years; those who returned to repeat a favorite week; those who came just for the last week to say goodbye to the Trail Boss upon his retirement.
We ranged in age from early 20s to late 70s. There were a couple of bike racers, a couple who lead tours of their own, some using up all of their vacation time, some enjoying one last fling before embarking on a new career.
Who rides a bike across the continent? Years ago, it was mostly young people who were “between jobs” or taking a break between school and work, before entering the “real world”. Now it is often retirees and school teachers. The ones who worked in high tech jobs tend to be younger. They could afford to retire years before those of us in service jobs.
Cycle America has a weekly awards night, in which riders give each other awards. They used to be light-hearted and mostly inside jokes. This year they were almost entirely heartfelt thank yous for services provided, like helping to fix a flat tire.
As a result, most of my awards were not given out, but will be today.
- The Dread Pirate Roberts Award: given to a rider who could do it all – ride fast up hills, on flats, through headwinds, and shoot video while riding. He was also an all-around good guy, helping others under tough conditions. [The award was a black mask.]
- The Beast Mode Award: given to a rider who, after an electronic shifter failure, rode through the Black Hills on a single speed bike. Folks rode high-end racing bikes, touring bikes, e-bikes, gravel bikes, cross bikes, mountain bikes, commuter bikes – but she was the only one to ride a single speed through mountains for a day. [The award was a hat in the form of a bison head.]
- The Hammerhead Award: given to a rider who rode hard. At the beginning she followed a stronger rider. By the end she was among the strongest in the group. At first she just rode as fast as possible. Later she was stopping to see the sights. Rumor has it she was the fastest up Whiteface Mountain, leaving her former mentor in the dust. On a windy day, she rode back several miles in order to help several other riders cut through a nasty headwind. [The award was to be a child’s toy hammer.]
- The Eeyore Award: given to a rider who has crossed North America multiple times but still finds something to complain about almost daily – the course was too hilly, too boring, too long; there was too much lasagne. He took shortcuts, often deleting the most scenic part of a ride in order to reduce the mileage. Yet he was lovable in his own way and frequently stopped to help others. [The award was to be a stuffed donkey.]
- The Nancy Sinatra Award: given to a rider who made it up every hill, but often by walking. I was worried about the state of her cleats so wanted to give her some boots that are made for walking. [The award was to be a pair of white go-go boots.]
- The “Yes I Do Own the Whole Damn Road” award: given to a rider who tended to be oblivious to his surroundings. He often wandered into the other lane, or stayed out in the traffic lane when cars approached from behind. [The award was to be a title deed to “The Whole Damn Road”.]
- The Stop and Smell the Roses Award: given to a pair of riders who were among the first out in the morning, always the first in at the end of the day (which was often before noon for them). I wanted to remind them that the east coast would still be there even if they didn’t get there first, and that there was scenery worth looking at, rather than just looking at each other’s back for 4000+ miles. [The award was to be a plastic flower for each – I carried them for a couple thousand miles but never actually presented them.]
Parts of this post were written while on the road but never published. Other parts were written after getting home from the trip. Last week I went to get a post-ride massage. Waiting at the clinic entrance were a pair of sandhill cranes. I rode a few laps around the parking lot to give them time to move, time for me to cool down, and to wait for the clinic to open. After parking my bike, the cranes wandered back to check it out. While I was sitting on a bench reading email, I heard a sound close by and looked up to see one of the cranes (last picture) about three feet away from me.
Back from the trip, I am often sleeping in until sunrise. Hanging laundry this morning, there is a distinct feel of fall in the air.