Photos & Story by Dave Warner
A group of about 35 cyclists spent the night at the Travel Lodge last night in their 3,700 mile trip across the US and parts of Canada.
It’s a supported ride run by America by Bicycle, that includes six staffers and two mechanics who follow the riders and keep track of them and their gear.
The trip began in Astoria, Oregon on June 17th and will finish August 6th in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Why are they doing this? Well, according to one of the riders, Jeff Blye, “we’re all a little kind of crazy.”
There are six or seven women and most of the riders are retirees, school teachers with the summer off, or unemployed college graduates. Their ages range from 28-78. “We have the one guy who’s 78 and he’s strong as an ox and an inspiration for everybody,” stated Blye.
“I thought of doing this ten years ago when I was 55, but when I learned what was involved, I said I’d called them back in 10 years,” said Blye. “I’m most proud of actually making that call.”
They ride 8-9 days and then have a rest day. It’s a 50 day trip, with a total of 5 rest days. The last rest day until they reach Portsmouth was in Niagara Falls.
Blye said “The first two or three days were brutally hard. Oregon was really hard. We were all exhausted at the end of each day and we would eat anything they put in front of us for dinner. We looked at the map, and it was all red, except for two or three green dots.”
Now they’re in Little Falls and they only have four days of riding left and a tapering of the mileage required each day. “We had our last 100+ mile daily ride a few days ago, then yesterday 92 and today (Thursday) 80.”
“Now we have nothing over 80 miles per day for the rest of the trip,” Blye commented. “We have two tough days of climbing in Vermont and New Hampshire – that’s about the only big challenge that’s left.”
Blye said “some of the vistas that we saw were just magnificent – Oregon and Mount Hood, Idaho was potato farms, Wyoming was desolate. At times we felt we were in covered wagon territory with nothing for miles and miles and miles. Then you hit the midwest and it’s 1,000 miles of corn and soybeans.”
Now that they are in Little Falls, Blye thinks it is “quaint, beautiful and vertical. We took a walk up to Lock 17 and we met Paul the lock operator, who was very nice and he lowered the big downstream gate and we watched him work the controls.”
“I started laughing hysterically because there is this label on his monster control panel that says ‘look under gate before lowering’. I’m looking at it and thinking – does it really say that before lowering this 40 or 100 whatever ton gate? But he couldn’t have been nicer.”
“The America by Bicycle staff has been fantastic. They have really made the ride everything I hoped it would be and probably more. Everybody raves about the work the staff does,” said Blye.
A lot of the riders have become close and they are already talking about when they are going to have a reunion ride, even though this one is not even finished.
Blye said “It’s been a fantastic experience.”