The prospect of doing a big summer tour is a daunting and exciting one. As is almost always the case, the winter has brought a struggle with physical challenges. My stenosis and arthritis problems continue. Add to these woes, the fact that my engine is two years older and about 20 pounds heavier. I don’t have nearly the strength and stamina that I had in 2018 when I rode 4,300 miles in two months. I have to remind myself that I did that tour on the heels of a four-month recovery from pulmonary embolisms. The thing is, stenosis and arthritis don’t bother me on the bike. Can’t help it if I’m lucky.
During my 2019 tour, I met up with Corey and Mark and rode across Kansas and eastern Colorado with them. We made for a compatible trio despite the fact that they were quite a bit faster than me. Had it not been for Mark’s saddle miseries and Corey’s picture taking, I don’t think I’d have been able to keep up.
At the Rocky Mountains, I headed west on the Western Express route and they headed north, continuing on the fabled TransAmerica route. After beating my body up pretty badly, I abandoned my plan to ride north from South Lake Tahoe through the Sierras and Cascades to Portland, opting instead to finish in San Francisco. Likewise, they abandoned their tour near Silverthorne, Colorado in the high mountains west of Denver.
A few weeks ago, Corey texted me with the news that Mark and he are going back to Colorado to finish their tour this summer. They have asked me to tag along, starting in Colorado Springs in mid-June.
In a bit of good fortune, I am attending a wedding near St. Louis in late May. That would make for a convenient starting point. I can take the Katy Trail across Missouri, but after that my route is uncertain. The thought of riding across Kansas again really doesn’t float my boat. So I’d like to ride north into Nebraska for the thrill of corn and to check my 35th state off my 50state list.
In any case, the ride to Colorado Springs is about 1,000 miles. I should be able to do it easily in 20 days. This will give me plenty of time to acclimate to Colorado Springs’ 7,000 foot elevation. (One big mistake I made in 2019 was not acclimating properly. I rode from 4,500 feet to over 9,000 feet in one day. It was a miserable experience that I don’t want to repeat.)
There are several ways to get back on the TransAm route from Colorado Springs. We could ride through the mountains to the north of Pikes Peak or to the south.
The rest of the tour from Colorado Rockies through Yellowstone to Missoula and onward to the Oregon coast would be another 1,800 miles. (In the map below, its the section from, roughly Pueblo to Oregon coast.) This section of the TransAm is going to be amazing. And really hard. I’m going to need my A game.
The Yellowstone Park portion of the proceedings has me worried a bit. When my family went there in 2000, we had close encounters with bison and elk. Since Corey and Mark are much faster than me, perhaps the bison will chase them while I cower behind a tourist bus. In any case, if we camp in Yellowstone on this tour, I will need to bring some Depends. There is also the problem of finding camping. Yellowstone will be mobbed at peak season.
There is an interesting alternative, ride through the Tetons to southern Idaho. There are gravel farms roads and a pretty cool rail trail that locals use. Of course, this is bear and wolf country so we will be picking our poison.
We managed to circumvent tornados and historic floods in Missouri and Kansas in 2019. And I managed to cross hundreds of miles of desert and climb over 100,000 feet on the Western Express on one hip and one knee. (The remaning TransAm is slightly less climbing spread over 300 more miles.)
Bison, Elk, Bears? Hell, the wolves will kill, you.
We got this. Lord willin’ and the Covid don’t rise.
Now all I have to do is get The Mule ready, re-stock my gear, and, most importantly, figure out how to carry my bike on Mrs. Rootchopper’s SUV to Missouri without damaging the paint job. Oh, I forgot. It probably wouldn’t hurt if I lost 25 pounds before we head west.