I’ve been told I should add a “Frequently Asked Questions” page. So here goes:
1) Are you going to do this again?
A: What, do you think I’m crazy? I always considered this a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Several people I traveled with have done it more than once and some are planning to do it again, so I guess it’s a reasonable question – just not of me. I’d consider a trip down the Mississippi, or in the mountains of Spain, France, or Italy; or maybe parts of this one (like Needles Highway). I don’t expect to cross the entire continent again.
Then again, I thought the Death Ride was crazy when I first heard about it. I still think Double Centuries are crazy.
Addendum April 12, 2022: Yes, I am going to do this again. On Father’s Day I will once again leave Seattle on my bike, planning to arrive in Gloucester, MA on Saturday August 20. Notice that, while I pooh-poohed the idea, I left myself an out. I guess I know myself after all these years of hanging out with me.
2) Are you nuts?
3) When are you going to retire?
A: I can’t answer that.
Addendum April 12, 2022: I will be retiring on Saturday, June 4. I’ll spend the next week riding every day, then a week winding down and packing up before flying to Seattle.
4) How many bikes should a person have?
A: Just enough.
5) How many bikes do you have?
A: Just enough.
6) What was your favorite part of the trip?
A: Needles Highway
7) What was your favorite week of the trip?
A: The Wisconsin week (From Northfield, MN to Ludington, MI – July 23-28 posts) – a great bike path to the Mississippi River, riding down the river, the Baraboo Hills/Devil’s Lake, the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive; not to mention riding with my son and two of my best friends for a day. Also not to mention spending my daughter’s birthday with daughter and mom.
A close second: The New York week (Niagara Falls, Ontario to Lake Placid, NY – August 6-12 posts) – the falls, the Finger Lakes, the Adirondacks. Take away the first 50 miles of New York and add in the last day from Lake Placid to Vermont border, and WI has a run for its money.
2022 – I might call it a tie between those two weeks.
8) Worst part?
A: The afternoon of Friday, July 6. What was planned as a recovery day (after 93 miles, climbing through Ten Sleep Canyon, and crossing the Powder River Pass at 9666 feet) turned into 103 miles in 95 degree heat with a 30 mph headwind the last 30 miles; not to mention crashing after 90 miles – hard enough to break my helmet but not hard enough to break me. As Mike said, “You bounce well.” Even that day was pretty fun until the three flat tires and the crash.
2022– Saturday July 24. We had been warned about the potential for severe thunderstorms. For those not from thunderstorm country, there was a briefing about what to do and the instruction that it was okay to go to a house and ask for help. I spent the morning running ahead of the storm. Twenty miles from the end it caught me on an isolated ridge. There was no shelter. There were no houses. The wind was maybe 80-100 mph – strong enough that I could not stand and that I feared being blown into the highway while crouching at the roadside. The bike was airborne as I held on for dear life. Once it died down enough to scuttle across the road, I accepted a ride into town from a stranger. Once I arrived in town, I found that the wind was only that bad in that one isolated spot. I had to tell the story many times that night.
9) Could I do this ride?
A: My answer: Probably
Terry’s answer: Probably not.
Half-fast: If you’re in reasonably good shape, have a decent, well-maintained bike, and embark on an appropriate training program, you can probably do this. As I’ve said, we are a bunch of ordinary people doing an extraordinary thing. Most of us are not elite athletes. I certainly am not. We are students, working people, and retirees. We range in age from 22 to 73 years. If in doubt, you should be checked by your primary care practitioner and your bike should be checked by your local mechanic.
It will not be easy. There will be great days and there will be days when you’d rather curl up on the side of the road and cry. There will be days when you’d rather not ride. Think about what level of comfort and support is important to you. Do you want to sleep in a tent? On the gym floor of the local high school? In a four star hotel? Do you want to prepare your own food? Eat in local diners? Fancy restaurants?
Carrying your own gear and planning your own route adds several layers of complexity and difficulty. Riding a fully-loaded touring bike is a very different experience from riding a lightweight bike, carrying very little gear. Can you do your own roadside repairs?
I recommend a supported tour with a competent organization. That does mean that the group will stick to a schedule and those days when you’d rather not ride you don’t get to stay in your tent. I was very impressed by Cycle America. They will be repeating the coast-to-coast ride in 2022, the 2020 edition having fallen victim to COVID-19. 2022 could be the last roundup.
Terry: (paraphrasing from a prior conversation) We are probably the top 1% in our age groups. Most people probably couldn’t do this. You have to be in really good shape to do this. If you have to ask, you probably can’t.
If you have specific questions you want answered, contact us via the contact page.
Editor’s note: Half-fast has done this trip once [now twice]. Terry has done it three [now four] times as well as other cross-country tours.
10) Is it cheating to ride an e-bike?
A: It depends on the game you’re playing. If an e-bike gets someone riding who would otherwise not be riding, I’m all for it. If I had claimed to have ridden across the country without mentioning that it was an e-bike, I would have considered that cheating. Plus I would have had to carry a lot of batteries, as I haven’t seen an e-bike with a 100 mile range. Maybe carrying all that extra weight, or pedaling an e-bike without motor support, for hours every day after the battery dies, would mean even that wasn’t cheating. (No, I didn’t have a hidden motor or battery.)
11) Why are you doing this again? Wasn’t once enough?
A: Because I can. In 2018, as I prepared to ride across North America, my doctor told me I had a >60% chance of having cancer. The definitive test would have derailed a trip nearly 50 years in the making. I delayed that test until after the trip, waking up in my tent every morning not knowing if I had cancer. Truth be told, we all wake up with that not-knowing, unless we know we have cancer. I just had worse odds than most; so it only occupied a few seconds as I woke up. I got home, had the biopsy, didn’t have cancer, went on with my life. Then I got hurt at work. Walking was painful. Riding a bike was relief. When the interference with walking began to interfere too much with living and working, I had surgery. Five weeks off the bike. A return to riding with pain that hadn’t been there before. Post-op pain morphed into chronic pain. I couldn’t ride far without hurting. I wasn’t willing to take drugs every day. Another procedure relieved the pain. It’s not gone, but manageable. I could ride >100 miles in a day again. I realized I could ride across the country again, and that it was not something to take for granted. So no, once wasn’t enough. Besides, it’s not the same country it was 4 years ago. Plus, if I look the other way at any given moment, it will be a totally different experience from the first one.
12) Any words of wisdom?
A: Ask a wise person. I’m only a wise guy, and half-fast at that.