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Bike Tour 1984: Postscript – TransAmerica tour comes full circle

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 06:23

I can't close off this cross-country bicycle trip without a postscript, because the tour really didn't end for me when we arrived in Oceanside. Still suffering from wanderlust, the trip ended for me up the Pacific coast with a chance meeting with another cyclist who had ridden ahead of us on our bike tour.

.... It made me realize that while we cross-country bicycle tourists are pedaling throughout the world, we're also cycling in our own world...

1984 Bike Tour: Day 68 – End of the road

Thu, 07/19/2018 - 07:08

OCEANSIDE, CALIFORNIA -- Bruce and I achieved the goal -- to ride from coast to coast -- that we'd made up our minds to accomplish two years ago. It seems like the end arrived too soon.

Fittingly, this was one of the easiest days of the trip. From 2,727 feet, we were coasting down to sea level. Soon after leaving our pace quickened and we had to slow for switchbacks and suddenly we began passing orange groves. It was all so California. We passed a mission, but we didn't stop to investigate. As Lazy Louie would say, all the hills went down and we had the wind to our backs.

Traffic increased as we hit residential areas, and James nearly had a head-on as he sped around us in the van. We were all riding together, and each tried to be the first to spot the ocean. ...

1984 Bike Tour: Day 67 – Final toasts in the glow of a Coleman lantern

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 07:28

The last full day on the road ended in warm camaraderie making toasts around a picnic table. But it began much chillier than that for me.

I was slow waking up as I felt totally exhausted from the day before, when I had left everyone else at a cramped motel room in Ocotillo and headed up here on my own. I was finally breaking camp when I heard the crunch of tires on the road leading to the campsite. It was James in the blue van. Everyone was worried about me. They got an early start and would be passing by soon. He offered to carry my gear. No, I brought it this far, I'll take it the rest of the way....

1984 Bike Tour: Day 66 – Strange lights in the desert

Tue, 07/17/2018 - 06:37

ANZA-BORREGO STATE PARK, CALIFORNIA -- Too much heat? Not enough water? Too much pedaling through the desert? Too close to the end of the trip? I can't explain it, but I isolated myself from the group today and rode up to a solitary campground in the desert.
Expecting another hot day, we set the alarm for 4:30 but didn't really get going for hours. We all stopped for pictures at the Arizona-California border then cycled on Interstate 8 near the Mexican border through an area aptly named the Imperial Sand Dunes...

1984 Bicycle Tour: Day 65 – We find an oasis in the desert

Mon, 07/16/2018 - 06:16


YUMA, ARIZONA -- There are days on this cross-country trip that I anticipated from the first time I spread out the maps on the table in my apartment in Annapolis.

One was the climb up to the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia; another was going up and over Monarch Pass in Colorado. Today was another -- 80 miles across the desert of southwestern Arizona where nothing was marked on the map except a thin line for Hwy. 95. ...

1984 Bike Tour: Day 64 – I can feel the heat on my eyelids

Sun, 07/15/2018 - 07:22


Looks like most of the residents of Hope, Arizona,
have given up all hope...

I awoke about sunup this morning and ... no Bruce.

It had been so hot and dry, we didn't see the need to pitch the tent last night. We threw the tarp down and just slept on that, until, at some point in the night, I realized all kinds of insects were walking around on me. I took my mat and put it on a picnic table and went back to sleep. Jim had already booked the other table.

 Bruce woke up later, about 2 a.m., for the same reason I had, discovered the picnic tables already taken, and took off for a ride. He ended up at an all-night cafe where a group of 20 Native American runners showed up. ...

1984 Bike Tour: Day 63 – The toad in the desert puddle in Aguila

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 07:22

AGUILA, ARIZONA -- We're camping at the City Park here tonight. We've left all the cool, shady mountains behind us, and we're out where it's dry, sunny and hot. The park doesn't have much; just a picnic shelter and a small building for restrooms.
At the back of his building is a water spigot that drips. In the puddle underneath there sits a toad. I noticed him ...

1984 Bike Tour: Day 62 – Ghostly visions pedaling uphill

Fri, 07/13/2018 - 07:14

PRESCOTT, Ariz. -- We spent much of today in the small gears, the stump-pullers, the grannies.

We started our climb almost immediately after leaving Dead Horse campground. Jim had already left -- we told him we always got a late start -- and we gingerly picked our way across that slippery low-water bridge.

The old ghost town of Jerome was only about 4 miles away, but 2,000 feet above us. From the brush along Route 89, we could see the town sitting on the edge of a mountain, with a big white letter "J" adorning a slope above it

Bike Tour 1984: Day 61 – We find a leech after crossing Verde River

Thu, 07/12/2018 - 05:55

Cottonwood, Ariz. -- We've liked everyone who has crossed our path as we cycle cross-country. Today is the exception. The scenery here has been beautiful, though, and the terrain has been in our favor.

We faced a major chore breaking camp at the Motel 6 -- our laundering and bike cleaning resulted in our crap strewn from one of the room to the other.

It was sprinkling when we left (isn't this Arizona, why so wet?) and we headed south on Route 89A....

1984 Bike Tour: Day 60 — Marking time in Flagstaff

Wed, 07/11/2018 - 07:12

FLAGSTAFF -- We stayed here in Flagstaff another day to parcel out our time. We want to meet up with our friends from the UK in a couple of days further down the road.

It's hard to do nothing. We cleaned our bikes, did laundry, sat out by the pool, drank a couple of beers and it started raining. Back inside, the housekeeper slipped us a key to operate the TV -- this was a Motel 6 and we hadn't paid the extra few bucks for the feature. ...

Bike Tour 1984: Day 59 – Through hail and back to Flagstaff

Tue, 07/10/2018 - 06:30

FLAGSTAFF, ARIZ. - We rode through hail and back to get to Flagstaff today. Why we left the Grand Canyon, I have no idea. I guess we're just too accustomed to hitting the road  everyday.

We awoke at dawn this morning, and took all the gear off our bikes for a ride out to the South Rim for more sunrise pictures. We flew along without the panniers,and I found it difficult to steer the bike straight. Returning to camp, we loaded up to our old sluggish selves and left by 9, stopping at the camp store. ...

Day 58 – On wheel and foot in the Grand Canyon to Dripping Springs

Mon, 07/09/2018 - 06:27

It's nearly two months into our cross-country bicycle tour, and I finally get off the bicycle for a hike. There's just no way to get into the Grand Canyon on a bike.

Before dawn Bruce and I broke camp and started our ride along the South Rim road to Grand Canyon Village. It was a short ride but it took forever -- just too many picture possibilities. Dawn and dusk are the best times to shoot the canyon because the low sun adds shadows that gives depth to the formations.

We reached the campground at 9 a.m. and there already was a line for camping spots. We didn't that to wait, though ...

1984 Bike Tour: Day 57 – Camping on the edge at the Grand Canyon

Sun, 07/08/2018 - 07:30

Although I had visited the Grand Canyon a couple of times before, I never really appreciated in a personal way how it was formed until I rode there on my bicycle.

All the books (well, the scientific ones) say that eons ago, a plateau rose up in this area while a river cut through the rock. I always understood the erosion part, but I didn't get the rising plateau part until I realized I was climbing a big hill to get to the canyon.

After leaving Tuba City this morning, we passed the edge of the Painted Desert (above), an area whose colors change through the day. Because of the clear air and lack of reference points such as buildings, it's impossible to guess at the distances to the hills and ridges...

1984 Bike Tour Day 56 – Ritual and conflict in Hopi and Navajo lands

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 07:21

TUBA CITY, ARIZ. - We passed through the Hopi Reservation today, in an area where age-old conflicts and rituals still exist.

The Hopi generally live in settlements on three mesas, that look like three fingers jutting from a high plateau in the north. The road passes south of the First, but climbs over the Second (above) and Third. The Hopi have lived on these mesas for centuries...

1984 Bike Tour: Day 55 – Our cross-country tribe grows

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 07:00

KEAMS CANYON, ARIZ. - We started riding across the wide expanse of the Navajo Reservation this morning and added to our tribe.

Just a few miles outside of Window Rock, we overtook bicyclist Geraldine Onslow, a spunky Brit from south of London. Her's is a tale of tragedy and determination....

1984 Bike Tour: Day 54 – We learn about Navajo code talkers

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 06:12

WINDOW ROCK, ARIZ. - Travelling cross-country by bicycle has put us in contact with many interesting folks we wouldn't have met ordinarily. Tonight we staying at the home of a World War II veteran; a member of a group of unsung heroes whose stories couldn't be told until recently.

Roy Hawthorne was a member of the cadre of Navajos who joined the Marines and became "codetalkers."

They fashioned a code based on Navajo words that represented military information. The Japanese never broke the code, and the codetalkers couldn't talk about their exploits until the government declassified the code in the late 1960s. ....

Day 53 – Celebrating the Fourth in Navajo Nation

Wed, 07/04/2018 - 06:13

GALLUP, NM - I've seen fireworks shows at golf courses, football stadiums and along lakefronts. Never have I seen one at a rodeo grounds, where the announcer translated everything into English from Navajo, and where an errant flare set off a series of explosions that lit the scrubby undergrowth on a hillside.

We had read about the fireworks display at Gallup, so we got an early start at El Morro. We passed by the huge Inscription Rock and headed downhill into the Zuni Pueblo Reservation. A sign posted the rules: No pictures. No alcohol. We turned onto Route 32 and missed the Zuni Pueblo itself, one of the 7 Cities of Cibola sought by gold hungry Spanish conquistadors. ...

Day 52 – Bicycling through reservation lands

Tue, 07/03/2018 - 05:50

EL MORRO NATIONAL MONUMENT, N.M. - We passed through several nations today; those of the Isleta, Laguna, Acoma, and Canoncita. They're all pueblo tribes that thrived here before the Spanish Conquistadors and missionaries enslaved them. English is spoken here, but it's not the native tongue.

None of that mattered to us this morning. We awoke out in the desert while there were still a couple of stars in the sky and the sun was brightening the East. We walked back to our bicycles hidden under the railroad trestle ...

Day 51 – We run out of options and camp in the desert

Mon, 07/02/2018 - 06:30

SOMEWHERE IN ISLETA INDIAN RESERVATION, N.M. - When things are going well, I tend to leave things too much to chance ... at least until I'm brought up short by lack of planning and bad decisions.

That's why Bruce and I spent the night in our sleeping bags on a dry wash under the stars next to a railroad trestle. Except for the occasional freight train, the only sound was a soft breeze and the startling yelps of coyotes. ...

Day 50 – Bicycling the Turquoise highway

Sun, 07/01/2018 - 07:46

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - We spent much of today riding on the Turquoise Highway. It looked like plain old blacktop to me.

We left Santa Fe in a light drizzle, which quickly burned off. It was such a mellow Sunday morning that Bruce wore his headphones as he pedalled along. He was spacing out near the center of the road when a car came up from behind and couldn't pass. I expect the driver was afraid of honking and scaring Bruce to death. ...