Abducted by aliens?

alien-clipart-editedI considered doing this journey alone, but my wife and sons persuaded me otherwise. What if you’re hit by a truck? What if you get sick and can’t ride? What if you break down and are stranded in the Mojave Desert? What if you’re beaten and robbed? What if you’re abducted by aliens in New Mexico? All but the last, I guess, is a valid concern.
So I decided to sign up for a tour with Adventure Cycling Association, an organization founded in 1973 as Bike Centennial to organize a cross-country bicycle tour as a way to celebrate America’s bicentennial in 1976. For more than three decades, ACA has been mapping, organizing and leading rides across the country for touring cyclists, and they have a reputation for knowing what they’re doing. I’ve been a member for 15 years.
Once it was determined that I’d ride in company with others rather than go solo, I had to select a route and decide whether to go with a supported group (meaning that a vehicle accompanies the riders and hauls their gear) or to go self-contained (meaning that each rider carries his or her own gear on the bike).
Most of the guided tours offered by Adventure Cycling Association are self-contained. But the organization does offer a supported, 93-day tour along the classic TransAmerica Trail between Astoria, Ore., and Yorktown, Va., the route blazed in 1976 for the bicentennial. As I wrestled with justifying the added expense of a supported tour and dithered about signing up, the tour quickly filled its spaces for a May 16 start date from Virginia. So, on the Friday after last Thanksgiving, I signed up for ACA’s southern tier route this fall.
Riding alone, nevertheless, has a certain appeal. I rode solo and self-contained from Fort Worth to San Antonio – in 1998 and 1999 – with no problems other than a couple flats. I liked the freedom of having no fixed daily destination, and the people I met proved to be curious and friendly.
David Lamb, a longtime foreign correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, made a solo, self-contained journey in 1994 from Alexandria, Va., to Santa Monica, Calif. In his book, Over the Hills: A Midlife Escape Across America By Bicycle, he wrote of the many folks he met along the way:
“What seemed to intrigue them most was that I was making the journey alone. Didn’t I know the highways weren’t safe anymore? When I’d ask, ‘Well, is it safe around here?’ and they’d say, ‘Oh, sure, you won’t have any problems here,’ I would reply, ‘That’s what they say everywhere I’ve been. So I figure my odds are pretty good of not running into trouble.’ Rather than being reassured, people often seemed disappointed that I didn’t have a prime-time horror story to share.”



Filed under Cycling across America

4 responses to “Abducted by aliens?

  1. zack

    Hey Jim, nice blog!

    How much will your gear (tent, sleeping bag, maintenance kit, clothes [though I’ve heard there are naked bike rides], etc. – everything you’re gonna pack on there) weigh?

    Biking doesn’t factor into it, but you oughta read Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey if you haven’t already. I think from the title’s two words alone you can surmise why I’m recommending it – and it’s just a well written, wry but very likable environmental classic.

    • Zack,
      I don’t know yet exactly how much all my gear will weigh. I rode self-contained on a bike ride in southern Illinois last September, but didn’t weigh my gear beforehand. I was pretty close to the bare minimum, but still found that I could do without some things. I’ve refined my gear over the years, trying to find the lightest and most compact stuff — for example, a 2.2-pound sleeping bag that compresses to the size of a canteloupe and a solo tent of similar weight. Before I set out on the cross-country trip, I plan to lay out all of my gear, weigh it, photograph it and post it as a blog item. Thanks for looking at the blog.

  2. I suppose that part of the description of being “retired”… and of becoming a blogger is having the time to search the web for oddities like alien highway signs .
    …. what personal nutrient stuff are you taking (energy bars/sports drinks) have you researched that? … maybe you could have “care packages” waiting for you at postoffices along the way…….like a case of cabernet????

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