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.