The Back Story

This is us

We had long dreamed about traveling around the world on our bicycles, and planned to use the eventual sale of our condo in Idaho to finance a retirement that would allow us to do just that. When the new economy dealt us a bunch of lemons, we decided to make lemonade out of them and reinvent our lives. On the plus side, we were both of retirement age and enjoyed good health, and we loved to bicycle tour and travel.

On the minus side, like countless others of retirement age, the tanking real estate market and the lack of jobs for “older” Americans forced us to reinvent ourselves sooner than we’d planned.

So, in January of 2010, we decided to commit ourselves to planning an extended bicycle tour of the United States, and maybe even beyond. We would sell everything, including our condo in Idaho, and ride away on our bicycles on the Fourth of July.

We read other people’s experiences as bicycle tourists, especially their advice on equipment, routes and budgets. Since we were both admitted bike sluts and like nothing better than camping, we were confident about the equipment part of the plan. Judging by the budgets of other cycling pairs, we felt that while our Social Security income would be limiting, we would be able to live on it as we cycled across America. We joined Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) and bought their excellent maps of the route we planned, and took heart reading the experiences of those who had gone before us.

As planned, we left Idaho on Independence Day and drove to Colorado where we left the car with our son, said goodbye to friends and relatives in the Front Range, and pedaled south out of Denver.

Our initial route was to ride from Denver to Fairplay then to Buena Vista. From Buena Vista we’d ride over Monarch Pass to Gunnison. We would take the route through southern Colorado to New Mexico then turn left in Las Cruces where we would ride the Southern Tier bike route across Texas and Louisiana into Florida. We would figure the rest out when we got there.

We had pretty high expectations of riding through the national parks and recreation areas, stopping to observe and catalog the birds, beasts and plant life we encountered along the way. I would do my watercolors and blog and Jim would entertain his love of camp chores.

As soon as we started our ride on highway 285 out of Denver, we recognized our mistake. Highway 285 is now a major route for commercial truck traffic, as well as a main route to Colorado’s recreation areas. With semis and panel trucks, RVs and pickup trucks trailering ocean liners, and a nearly non-existent shoulder, the route was anything but a bicyclists dream. We made it to FairPlay, but holed up in the Fairplay-Veliton Hotel for a few days while we reconsidered our route. There we met other cyclists coming from the east on the Trans-America Bike Route. Their stories of great riding, excellent camping and good food made us decide to change plans completely and ride the Transamerica to the east coast.

This turned out to be the right decision. We made several route changes on our way to the east coast, rerouting ourselves in a northeastern direction and enjoying the splendid riding on Missouri’s Katy Trail, Ohio’s Little Miami Bicycle Route, ACA’s Underground Railroad Route, and finally the Erie Canal Trail across New York State.

We spent the winter of 2010/2011 enjoying time with family and in the spring of 2011, we headed south, riding the Outer Banks from New Jersey through North Carolina. Defeated by the heat, we decided to establish a home base in Denver, Colorado. You can learn more by reading the Urban Update, and following our blog.

Happy Riding!!

15 responses to “The Back Story

  1. Stumbled across your blog by accident during a search when I was trying to put two-&-two together on something. Glad I did. Amazing journey…and fun to read the back story, as well as hear about the 500-sq-foot apt and carfree lifestyle in Denver now…plus see Jim’s business as touring consultant. I’m in a similar situation on all those accounts down here in Santa Fe. Would love to swap more info…and if you ever decide to take a tour of your southern neighbor state, I’m happy to give you routes/tips. My touring passion is spilling over into: Happy spring…looks like a great stretch of warmer weather ahead for us both. Cheers, Nicole

  2. hola amigos…..well seems like you are the ones the god’s choose for that kinda of life….
    keep riding …and if you dare to go someday to Baja,Mexico,there is a LA CASA EL CICLISTA,a host house just and only for ciclists around the world,you can come any time and stay as long as you neeeded.
    To get a better info about it,pleae get to WSL.ORG
    good trip
    Gerardo Medina

  3. Jim and Sharon,

    What a grand adventure! I first saw your link in the Bike Bits online newsletter of Adventure Cycling just today, and had to look you up. My husband and I (also in our 60s) planned a somewhat smaller adventure for this past fall–cycling the entire length of the Mississippi River. We accomplished about 850 miles of it before health trouble and a car/bike accident sidelined the cycling. However, we can completely identify with your desire for adventure and sense of accomplishment. Are not the people of this country just awesome? So much better than news reports lead us all to believe! There is something to be said for being mostly out of touch with newspapers, TV and radio for long stretches. It lets you gain perspective on how wonderful the people, businesses and land we live in are.

    We hope to complete our riverside ramblings in the future. In the meantime, back home in Alaska it is cold, dark and unfit for cycling–though incredibly beautiful, with lots of snow.

    My husband has a niece/nephew right there in Denver, and though I know you have family there, they would be delighted to hear of your adventure. Kelly works for REI, Paul works in the sports medicine field and all 3 family members, including 11 yr. old Drake, are outdoor enthusiasts, especially for cycling. I would be happy to supply their contact information if you wish–perhaps another contact will help in the employment arena. You can reach me at or through my blog at Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  4. I just found your post of travel! where about are you now at the Christmas time? I live on the westcoast of Fla.south of tampa in Sarasota, if you are traveling this area, I be glad to help you get a place to stay! Your story has inspired me to want to do the travel style now. c.boggs

  5. Sharon and Jim,

    What intrepid spirits the two of you have. Meeting you was the joy of my day, and I wish you the best (I’m Robin, and I met you at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort).

    May you have fair winds and following seas for your journey…not only the big adventure bicycle journey, but also the big adventure life journey, too.

    Best regards,

  6. HI Jim and Sharon what a pleasure it was to meet you in Ocracoke and spend time watching the boats on the harbor… We hope you have a wonderful adventure and look forward to the updates… Jim and Barb Green your Harborside Hotel Neighbors from Pennsylvania.

  7. Jim and Sharon, it was a pleasure to meet you at the gas station in Surry, VA yesterday. I was overwhelmed with how happy you are. In society today we limit ourselves so much by what everyone else does. Thanks for the inspiration.

  8. Jim/Sharon,

    Great meeting you both. Glad the shoes got back to their owner.I’m following your adventures with much interest and a little envy. Terribly hot here today which made me wonder where you are on your travels and how bad the weather is affecting time on the bikes. It’s much cooler in Italy !! Ride save.

  9. Hi again Jim and Sharon it was a real pleasure meeting you two. It takes great bravery and hard work to enjoy life like y’all do but as we know the pay off is wondrous. Glad you liked the beach last night hope the your feet stayed dry.

    We look forward to seeing y’all again maybe gunkholing around the Bahamas.

  10. Hi Sharon, Jim. I’m so pleased to have finally reached this blog, but I am also having “Reply” failures, which is very frustrating. I think I am going to sign up for E-Mail Subscription to your blog and see how that goes. I do so love hearing from you and reading about your adventures! I edited your e-mail address the gmail account. Let’s see if that works. xox-g

  11. Hi, Jim and Sharon. Kellie and I met you at the Higbee’s Beach birdwalk on 5/27. It was a pleasure (and inspiration) to hear your story. We’ll be following your adventures.

    Best wishes!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s