Migration of the ‘transcons’


space alien tire repair kitRiders who travel the Adventure Cycling Association’s Southern Tier Route along the lower edge of the United States pass through dozens of tiny towns between San Diego, Calif., and St. Augustine, Fla. — towns with names like Seeley and Blythe, Hope and Salome, Globe and Geronimo, Leakey and LaGrange, Mittie and Lebeau, Fairhope and DeFuniak Springs.
Some of these towns are picturesque, others nondescript. All of them, I’m sure, have their own history, lore, character and characters.
Twice a year, in the spring and the fall, Adventure Cycling Association organizes guided, “self-contained” tours along this route. At 3,160 miles, it’s the shortest of the association’s routes across the United States. Scores of other cyclists, riding solo or in groups, travel the route independently, using the detailed maps published by Adventure Cycling Association.
monarch butterfliesLike Monarch butterflies in North America or wildebeests in the Serengeti, touring cyclists follow patterns of seasonal movement, using the Southern Tier Route in the spring and summer to avoid the blast-furnace heat of summer in the desert Southwest.
One wonders what the people in these small towns make of this annual migration of transcontinental bicycle riders, sometimes called “transcons,” or perhaps more colorfully described by the townsfolk.
Who are these bedraggled, Spandex-clad creatures? Who in their right minds would want to ride bicycles all the way across the United States, schlepping gear and camping along the way? Does this gypsying band of eccentrics pose a threat to our children? Do they carry swine flu?
I’ve read that many people who live along Adventure Cycling Association’s 38,158 miles of mapped routes criss-crossing the United States extend a warm welcome to cyclists — offering snacks and liquid refreshment, perhaps indoor lodging, or a yard as a campsite. A few might be hostile.
But judging from the online journal of a “transcon” who recently completed his journey, the predominant attitude is indifference, or a simple lack of awareness that there are such things national bicycle routes.
Brian Barnhart, 26, of Pittsburgh, started his trip on March 16 in San Diego and finished April 26 in Charleston, S.C. He used the Adventure Cycling Association’s maps of the southern tier of states until he veered to the northeast through Georgia and South Carolina.
“I have been thinking for some time that the Southern Tier Route and the Adventure Cycling Association really needs to improve its marketing,” Brian wrote April 20, as he “stealth-camped” on a timber farm between Caryville and Bonifay, Fla.
“I cannot count the number of cashiers whose stores are on the route, who are surprised when I tell them what I am doing. I usually get a response like, ‘There was another guy biking across the country last week.’ Somehow, no one ever communicated to the people in many of the communities that I pass through or stop in that there are three ‘official’ routes across the country for cyclists, and one passes by their front door.
“These individuals must assume,” Brian wrote, “that every one-horse town in the country is getting a steady stream of cyclists who are crossing the country. A few people seemed to put together that there is a pattern of sweaty people with helmet head coming into their restaurants and stores and will ask me which way I am going.”
Brian suggested that Adventure Cycling Association make communities more aware of its routes and perhaps put up signs “indicating to riders and locals that they are on the Southern Tier.”
“None of the communities embrace the route in the same way that communities on the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest (hiking) trail have done with signs, festivals and establishments seeking to cater to these travelers’ needs,” Brian wrote. “I was surprised that I could not even find a sign at the beach in San Diego indicating the start of the route. … A little marketing could go a long way.”
I like this idea. But I wonder whether, in these times of economic distress, communities are preoccupied with more pressing concerns than catering to itinerant cyclists.

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1 Comment

Filed under Americana, Cycling across America

One response to “Migration of the ‘transcons’

  1. Ben P.

    All Transcons return to the Mother Ship immediately and commence personal wi-fi bubble initiation.

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