“One morning you awake and realize you’re not going to be Hemingway or the president of the company, that the torch has been passed to a new generation that works cheaper and maybe smarter. These people travel the fast track you once moved on, and to prove — to yourself or others? — that you’re still capable of extraordinary deeds, you do something your friends consider foolhardy, like riding your bicycle across America.”
— David Lamb, Over the Hills: A Midlife Escape Across America by Bicycle, 1996
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Riding a bicycle across the United States, through deserts, mountains and swamps, and camping out most nights, might strike some as a perverse form of recreation. But such a trip has probably crossed the minds, at least briefly, of many of those who call themselves touring cyclists.
The seed was planted in my brain in 1994 during my first bicycle tour, a 482-mile trip from Missoula, Mont., to Jackson Hole, Wyo., by way of Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. Our route tracked a long segment of the classic TransAmerica Trail mapped by the Adventure Cycling Association from Astoria, Ore., to Yorktown, Va. And we used the excellent maps published by the Adventure Cycling Association.
Although I’ve done a long bike tour every year since 1994, such obligations as paying a mortgage and helping put three sons through college kept me from getting the several months’ leave required for a cross-country journey. The challenge was to stay in good enough shape to be up to task once the opportunity presented itself. Now, in my first full year of retirement, I have a chance to do something I’ve long wanted to do — perhaps foolhardy to some, extraordinary to others, but certainly interesting — between the end of a full and satisfying career and the inevitable onset of decrepitude.