I’ve been wanting to do long distance bike tours for as long as I can remember. The idea really took hold of my imagination when I met a young woman named Anne back when I was in grad school. Anne had ridden across the country on the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail as part of Bikecentennial. Bikecentennial was an event involving several small groups of riders going east and west who used the TransAm crossing as a way to celebrate the U. S. Bicentennial. Anne told me all kinds of tales of her trip. It was profoundly life altering for her.
It took me nearly forty years but I finally made the crossing myself. It was every bit as life altering for me as it was for Anne. Frankly, I don’t know how she and the many others who rode Bikecentennial did the ride with the equipment back then, The thought of riding a loaded-down ten-speed bike over all those mountain passes out west then up and down the Ozarks and Appalachian Mountains in the east blows me away. The bike I rode had 24 gears in a drivetrain that had been modified with lower, easier to spin chainrings. The highest mountain pass I climbed was Sherman Pass in Washington State. At 5,574 feet it was about 10,000 feet less than Hoosier Pass in Colorado on the TransAm.
Sometime around 1990, I became a member of Bikecentennial, the organization that developed the TransAm Trail and the 1976 event. I figured for a few dollars a year I could dream about following in Anne’s tracks while I rode my bike to and from work here in DC.
Bikecentennial the organization became the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) and developed many more routes across the US (and a bit of western Canada). After a few self-designed bike tours in 2000, 2003, 2004 and 2005, I used Adventure Cycling route maps to ride solo around the top of Lake Michigan in 2016. The next year I used the ACA Atlantic Coast Route to ride to Key West and the ACA Florida Connector Route to cross Florida from Fort Myers to Fort Lauderdale. In 2018 I rode solo from my home near DC to Portland Oregon using maps from four different Adventure Cycling routes. I used three different ACA routes to go from Northern Indiana to San Francisco in 2019. Last year I used two of the ACA routes to go from Saint Louis to Portland, covering the western two-thirds of the TransAmerica Trail in the process.
Last year I noticed that my friend Jeff had become a lifetime member of Adventure Cycling. To my knowledge he’s never done a tour. He just thinks it’s a cool organization worthy of support. A few years ago a couple of BikeDC expats, Emma and Katie, became Adventure Cycling employees. And last fall, my Friday Coffee Club friend Ricky became an ACA board member.
It seemed like Adventure Cycling was closing in on me.
Had I known I was going to be doing this bike touring thing into my late 60s I could have saved a bundle of cash in annual dues by becoming a lifetime member of Adventure Cycling way back in the 1980s. Instead, I paid my dues annually for 32 years, all the while reading about bike touring in Adventure Cyclist magazine, the best bicycling magazine around. I suppose it’s all proof that imposter syndrome is a powerful force. I could at least take comfort in the fact that I was supporting an organization that was doing great things for bicycling and bicycle tourists.
I doubt I have more than a handful of long distance bike trips left in my tank. It makes not a lick of financial sense to do it (heck, I don’t even itemize anymore), but last month I decided to become a lifetime member of Adventure Cycling. I figure I’ll make back the cost in terms of annual dues savings in about 25 years.
So who wants to go for a ride in 2048?