As any average Merikan kid growing up, I had lots of bicycles. Tim Blevins sold me my first “real” bicycle when I lived in Clovis, California. Cost me five dollars for a fixie. If you attempted to pop a wheelie the handlebars would come right out of the stem. That’s when you’d get this look on your face
In 2007 on a trip to New York City my hybrid bicycle was stolen. We were staying in an apartment with a four story walk-up. After the fifth or sixth night I got tried of lugging that heavy ass thing up the stairs. I made the fateful — ok, downright stupid — decision to lock it up outside. I should have used a bigger chain.
I replaced the stolen bicycle with the one I still ride to this very day. A Specialized “Sequoia” model road bike.
I was hooked. Bicycling was what I was put on earth to do. (I actually have that very thought when I ride for the first time each season.)
After RAGBAI I couldn’t stay off a bicycle. I followed up the RAGBRAI ride with a ride from Manhattan to Montauk. Then a week long ride across Ohio in 2009. Trips from Columbus to Richmond, IN and one to Lake Erie (that I still tell stories about.)
A one way trip to Chicago was an interesting contrast to another one way trip to Knoxville. The contrast was the terrain difference. There was an 80 mile day through Indiana where the elevation changed just 2 feet from start to finish. Enroute to Knoxville, I ran into this monster:
2418 feet of pure climb through the Cumberland Mountains. This summit at this particular one was the border between Kentucky and Virginia. I had to hire a Sherpa and start oxygen therapy about 6 months into the hike. Helicopters were standing by for excavation.
I know, I know. Nothing compared to the 7000 and 8000 feet climbs I’m going to have to make through the Rocky Mountains. But the Rocky Mountains are a little different. The roads through them are built with a gentler grade. That sumbitch above had about a 180 degree grade to it.
I had ridden down US 23 to Knoxville. Not long after crossing the TN state border, US 23 merges with Interstate 26. No bikes allowed. I know 23 runs into Florida. Some day I’m going to have to finish the southern leg of it.
Since I had ridden US 23 as far south as I could, I turned my attention to riding it as far north as it would go. In 2014, I started outside of Detroit and rode all the way to the top of the lower Michigan peninsula along 23. To its very end.
After the Michigan ride I realized I wanted to ride in all the states. All 57 of them. I had to come up with some sort of dividing line, though. Do I count all the bicycling I did as kid in Alabama, Tennessee, and California?
What would be a fair rule? How about: To claim an entire state, I have to have ridden at least 20 miles in it since 2007.
Tennessee became moot when I rode to Knoxville. Alabama got knocked out when I was made a trip to Dauphin Island a few years back. Since I’d be starting my trans-US ride from California, it was no longer an issue, either.
Then I realized The Rules had invalidated my 2001 Haleakala ride. But I’m going to solve that one this year.
Under The Rules these the only states I can currently claim:
Florida I got while visiting my oldest daughter in 2008.
With the upcoming trip to Alaska / back & forth from Seattle, weather depending (it will be February for God’s sake), I’m hoping to knock out AK, WA, OR, ID, MT, WY, ND, SD, MN, and WI. As many states in 10 days as I have done in the last 8 years.
If I successfully get across the United States this coming fall, 2015 will truly be the year of the bicycle. The modified southern route will get me through CA, NV, AZ, NM, TX, OK, AR, LA, MS, GA, and SC.
Eight years to get 11 states. 10 months to knock off 22 more.
There’s two states not on the “Completed” list that I just shake my head about. During the 2009 ride across Ohio, I actually rode 14.56 miles in Pennsylvania. When I rode to Tennessee, I was right across the river from West Virginia. Less than a mile away . . . and I didn’t cross over and get my 20. Dammit!