Monday, January 6, 2014

Need Advice for a Bicycle Ride across the USA?

If you stumble upon this blog you may be thinking about bicycling across the United States. You may also be thinking about raising money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

I've done the ride twice. Both times I rode solo and carried all my own gear. (I’d do it again if I thought my wife wouldn’t freak out.)

I was 58 the first time I pedaled from New Jersey to Oregon. I was 62 when I pedaled from Maine to California. Two of my friends did it at an even more advanced age not long ago. Joe Ossman turned 64 during the ride. Rich Fowler was 67.

I think plenty of people could do this. I don’t think it’s that hard. So, I offer anyone advice if they would like.

You can contact me via email:

You can check out my Facebook page and see plenty of pictures from my rides. Or:  give me a call if you prefer: 513-479-4988.

Or you can read the previous post on the subject. I recommend plenty of patches for tires, for example, since I had four flats in one day. I also recommend stealth camping. Anyway, tha post is:

I thought biking across America was one of the great adventures of my life and I raised money for a great cause. My daughter Emily is a type-1 diabetic, by the way, so I pedaled for her, too.

Recently, a young lady I had given a few tips sent me this kind email:

Dear John,

My most sincere apologies—I completely forgot to follow up with you after my bike trip and thank you for all your advice. Things got hectic right after our correspondence—my summer job as a conservation corps member began. I forwarded your email with all of your advice to my fellow traveling companions, and we all really appreciated the insights you had to offer.

The trip was a success! Our itinerary pretty much consisted of one long-distance leg from Burlington, Vermont to Buffalo, New York (mostly following Bike Route 5 and occasionally the Erie Canalway Heritage Corridor bike path), with Amtrak stops in Chicago, Glacier National Park, Montana, and finally to Seattle. While biking through Vermont, we just picked a random Google maps route that would take us through all the scenic and pastoral valleys. Within three hours of setting out, we came upon a bridge that was currently under construction—so we forded the small river, panniers and all! A great story for our first day. Traveling through the Erie Canalway area of New York was quite interesting and rather maddening at times. The canal bike path was in poor condition and very spotty (would disappear/reappear randomly). It was fascinating to be able to contemplate the question—what does it mean to be human in New York? As an aspiring urban planner, nothing was more exciting to me than exploring a new place and observing how its inhabitants relate to their surroundings. Aaargh, post-industrial cities of upstate NY.

Perhaps the scariest thing about safety was knowing that we were not 100% in control. We took every available measure (helmets, reflective gear, knowing and following traffic rules, lights, etc.) but there is always that element of chance if someone in a car just isn't paying attention. My two friends each had 4 panniers, and I only had two. In the future I would also have four in order to balance the weight better and make the physics of movement a bit easier. We were able to weigh all our equipment on a large scale in the basement of Chicago's Amtrak station and we each carried 35 to 50 pounds. I did have one of those hilarious helmet-mirrors, which was indeed quite helpful.

I am very much in "pay it forward" mode, thanks to the overwhelming kindness bestowed upon us by random folks at all points in our journey. We met so many wonderful, interesting, and unforgettable people. We stealth camped only a few times—mostly stayed with Warmshowers folks and our friends. I respect systems like Warmshowers that are grounded in reciprocity and trust, and exchanging stories. We all can't wait to have our own places in the future and be Warmshowers hosts! In places that we judged unsafe for stealth camping but had no lodging plans, we would typically find a nice-looking dwelling with plenty of potted plants and politely ask if we could set up camp in their backyard. This always worked out and once we stayed in a family's RV (they even let us use their bathroom and swimming pool!) and an attic (in Niagara).

Somehow, we had the crazy luck of never getting a flat tire over the entire 500-600 miles. I believe that was due to us carrying tons of repair tools and materials. The second we stopped carrying two spare tubes, I'm sure we would have gotten a ton of flats! Ha, ha.

A bad/good luck story—my cable was cut in Portland, Oregon by a thief in broad daylight. Kept checking Craigslist relentlessly and calling/emailing local bike shops for the next 6 weeks…finally, I spot its posting on Craigslist and am able to buy it back with the assistance of a friend. My beloved travel companion is now safely in my friend's garage in Portland just waiting for me to come fetch her! Obviously, from now on, ALWAYS using a Kryptonite lock and recording the serial #.

Hope all is well with you, and you had a great holiday.


(If she gives me permission, I will add a few pictures from her trip.)


Parts of Wyoming are kind of dry and barren to pedal across.
North of Rawlins.

You have to figure a history teacher will stop to see battlefields: Chancellorsville, Virginia.

Tenting beside the Missouri River. You sleep well when you bike.

I offered a few travel and fund-raising tips to Navid Attayan.
He rode coast to coast in 2013.
Did a fantastic job raising money for kids with cancer, too!

A trip that didn't work for some. Chuck Boehm, left pedaled from San Francisco to Yellowstone at age 65.
Red poncho, me.
Middle:  Joe Ossman went all the way to the Atlantic and turned 64 during the ride.
Yellow:  Rich Fowler made it all the way at 67 (and lost 85 pounds to get ready for the trip).
Right:  my brother Tim crashed the third day; so he and I had to withdraw from the ride.

I visit Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home.

I'm cheating a little here:  this is a picture I took on a car trip in 1978.
But you can pedal through sequioya forests if you want.
P. S. That's a tree branch.

Cheating a little here, too. I have pedaled across Nevada.
This shoe tree I photographed on a drive.
Some vandal cut it down a few years ago, though.

I've seen the Badlands on my bicycle.

Stealth camping in Indiana.
No joke:  I was temporarily handcuffed here as a bank robbery suspect.

Met David Rothschild in Yellowstone Park.
He was pedaling for the Atlantic and I was going the other way.
The National Park Service holds spots for bicycle riders in the park.

Well, riding across Indiana is easy. It's kind of flat.

Riding down the Gallatin River Valley near Yellowstone Park.

Lupine flowers in Maine.

Mt. Rushmore, of course, The climb up to the monument out of Rapid City is pretty steep.

I met Rick Arnett on the Loneliest Highway in Nevada. He was in his 50s and riding from Virginia to parts unknown.

Stealth camping behind a row of heavy bushes. Home away from home. Nevada.

I always meet nice people when I'm pedaling. O-H-I-O.

I took a break in Salt Lake City to see the Mormon Tabernacle.

Somewhere in South Dakota.
This guy was working on his seventeenth cross-country trip.

My older brother Tim often rides with me part of the way and helps me reach my destination in one piece.

This is Tioga Pass, leading up into Yosemite National Park.
Heck of a climb. There's a white speck on the road just above my handlebars.
That's a big RV camper to give you some scale.

Lake near the top of Tioga Pass.

When I pedal all day I can eat all I want and still lose weight.
Raspberry shake in Utah.

Okay, not all of America is pretty.
Sevier Desert in Utah.

One mile of elevation gained! Thirty-miles uphill to reach the top.
Outside of Buffalo, Wyoming.

On both trips across the U. S. I pedaled through Yellowstone.
I highly recommend that.

I don't recommend crashing in the dark, though.
(I got messed up looking for a campground that didn't exist and had to keep pedaling to find a motel where I could stay.)

Gliding alone the Yellowstone River on a bicycle. Not a bad way to spend a day.

Camping in Yosemite Park.

Yosemite Valley. A great place to pedal; but the climb out is rough.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Get Out There and Pedal

IF YOU HAPPEN TO STUMBLE across this blog or the story of my earlier trip in 2007:

let me say that I absolutely recommend a bicycle ride across America. It was an adventure of a lifetime, I thought in 2007; and the second ride in 2011 was in some respects better.

I'm not exactly a youth either. I was 58 the first time and you can do the math on the second ride. There is a world of beauty out there to discover and I found people to be universally friendly. If you carry a load of gear, as I do, you pedal into any town and you're like a visitor from another planet. People want to know what you're doing.


If you pedal in Zion National Park you can get off your bicycle and go hiking.
I took this picture on a driving trip; but this is what's out there to see.

Take a camera along on your trip.
You never know what you might see.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pedaling for JDRF: The Big Payoff

Now that I've pedaled across the the United States twice, raising money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation both times, I thought it might be cool to post a few of my favorite pictures.  There's plenty out there to see.

And seeing it from the seat of your bicycle while raising money for a great cause is doubly satisfying.  My apologies:  the pictures are in pretty random order.

You have to do some serious pedaling to get up to Mt. Rushmore.
It's absolutely worth the ride.
I won't say I camped in the woods for free a mile from Mt. Rushmore.
It just appears that way.  And the four deer that watched aren't talking.
Bicycle through the Badlands and you can really appreciate the views.

Resting your tired feet by a New Hampshire river
can be a great pleasure.

I'm not going to lie:  getting rained on for four days in a row, while crossing New York:
that was NO fun.
To go up and over the Powder River Pass from Buffalo, Wyoming
you have to rise more than 5,000 feet in elevation, pedaling uphill for 33 miles.
The views make it all worthwhile--and you get to coast thirty miles down to Ten Sleep.
Powder River Pass, looking back the way I came; about the 22-mile mark pedaling uphill.
George checks out America.

View flying home from California.
It took four hours on a plane to undo weeks of pedaling.
Hay rolls in South Dakota.
It might not look like much:
but you can pedal along Interstate 90 in Wyoming if you want to.
Still one of my favorite "strange" sightings.

You don't have to be young to pedal across the USA.
Lord:  look at that gray hair.
Filtering water from a cold mountain stream.

I started my 2011 ride from Acadia National Park in Maine.
Scene from Cadillac Mountain.
In 2007, I started from Avalon, New Jersey.
I usually start, looking pretty fat.
Most riders start in the West, by the way, and ride east.

Pedaling a bicycle in Yosemite is an absolute pleasure.
Vernal Falls.

I met David Rothschild, 23, at a campground in Yellowstone.
The park service actually holds sites for hikers and bikers;
so you don't have to worry about where you stay.
David was great company for an evening--but riding east, headed for North Carolina.

One evening, near Richmond, Indiana, I threw up my tent and took cover during a downpour.
When the rain ended, I stepped out to call my wife. Police came flying up in cruisers
and temporarily handcuffed me as a suspect in an armed robbery. 
The getaway vehicle?
Photo taken at crossing of Mississippi River, near Clinton, Iowa.
I had the chance to see a crop dusting plane in action while pedaling in Indiana.
In 2007, I pedaled past the University of Virginia.
It's a beautiful campus.

What's not to like?
I pedaled through Leadville, Colorado in 2007,
and made my own camping spot near this mountain stream.
Elevation 10,000+ feet above sea level.
Look at this scene from the Yellowstone area.
Picture from Chuck Boehme, during his 2010 ride.
A good place to swim, near Togwotee Pass, Wyoming.
Hard going up; but a seventeen mile coast down to Grand Teton National Park.
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon, scene from 2007 ride.
The waterfall is more than 600 feet high.
Every pioneer needs a dependable automobile.
Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
I've stayed in some ratty motels on my rides.
This one was in Fredricksburg, Virginia.
Lovely towel and furniture of about the same quality.
In some places the scenery is better than others:
I met Sarah Brigham pedaling in Wyoming in 2007.
She made the tutu herself.
I met these two young men, heading east in Kansas, in 2007.
They had a nice tail wind; and I didn't.
And I lost their names...
Grand Tetons, Wyoming (2007; 2011).
I rode with Rich Fowler for a couple of days in 2010,
when he pedaled across the USA at age 67.
He had a young guy for company:  Joe Ossman, 64.
Joe rode with me one day in Iowa, during my 2011 trip.
Gallatin River Valley, near Yellowstone.
Rafters on the Gallatin River.
A great place to stop and have lunch.
Bicycling in the Grand Teton area, 2011.
Grand Teton scene.

The famous Oxbow Bend in the Grand Tetons.

We can't seem to help ourselves:
Bicycle riders love to photograph themselves at state borders (2007 trip).
Standing on Royal Gorge Bridge in 2007;
I was tired and tempted to drop my bicycle over the side.
Glad I didn't though, for the next few days I pedaled north,
through the beautiful Arkansas River Valley.

While riding in Idaho, in 2007, I met Gene Meyers, 47, a computer programmer from Pittsburgh.
We headed west together for five days before splitting up.
He was headed for Seattle and I was aiming for Portland.
Gene carried his own cooking gear. 
I'm always too lazy.

Gene and I went 93 miles down the gorgeous Lochsa River Valley.
Mt. Hood, Oregon. 
You can actually ride I-84 down the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.
Or you can use the old highway and make the climb to take a picture like this.
Either way, west winds comes howling up the Gorge, making eastward progress difficult.
I did a practice ride through the Gettysburg battlefield.  
This picture, near Little Round Top, a key position during the fight in 1863, I call "Butt Rock."
I thought the stone soldier looked lonely.
On another practice ride along the Blue Ridge Parkway, I rode with a nice couple from Alaska.
It was 2008, but they said they couldn't stand Sarah Palin.
I thought this looked like a dinosaur.
Near Starved Rock State Park, Illinois.
If you missed this story, my GPS device indicated there was a motel nearby.
I was in the middle of nowhere in Indiana and it was 100 degrees.
Unfortunately, the Dog Patch Motel turned out to be a kennel.
The owner was nice and let me sleep in the air-conditioned office.
Not "priceless," but only $20
I met Mike Frizoel and his wife Kathy in Peru, Illinois.
Kathy has been a type-1 diabetic since age 8, but her spirit is indominatable.
I rode with Rick Arnett for a few hours in Nevada.
He was going cross-country, too, but walked up the largest hills.  So away I went.
I do love Lupine; this is in Maine.
View from the motel balcony near Eureka, Nevada.
I call it "stealth camping."
Bar at Middlegate, Nevada.
When I turned south off Route 50 towards Gabbs, I went 36 miles without seeing a single house.
Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone.
The all-wood architecture is always impressive.
By the time I got to Nevada, in 2011, it seemed easy to do three passes of six or seven thousand feet in one day.
Give it up for the Mormons.
They keep Salt Lake City looking beautiful.
Lion on building in Salt Lake City.
Statue of Joseph Smith, kneeling left,
founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints.
I hung out with Sam and Sidney Staebler and their parents after I rode up to Bozeman, Montana.
Sidney is a type-1 diabetic.
And let's face it:  they're both cute.
Coming back from Bozeman, I got caught in the dark north of Yellowstone.
I kept pedaling long after the sun went down and crashed with obvious results.
Sunrise at Acadia National Park, near start of 2011 trip.
Sunrise over Bear Lake, Utah.
I was up early because I slept on a golf course and the sprinklers got me.
Where there's sunrise, there's also sun beating down.
Sunburned hand.
You can go a long way in Nevada and all you see is sagebrush in front of you.
And behind you.
And to the left.
And to the right.
I had a tire come apart unexpectedly in Gabbs, Nevada (pop. 349).
(Ray and Hazel Dummar, and waitress Wendy Traub pictured)
The owners of the R & H Cafe helped me find a ride to the nearest town with a bicycle shop.
In Nevada, it would have been nice to see a stream like this.
The Baker River, New Hampshire.
I love the way water has shaped this huge slab of granite, forming the river bed.
Bear Lake, Utah.
How many M.P.S. do you get?
Miles per shake.
Fueling up near Garden City, Utah.  I think it's the red raspberry capital of the world.
One of my favorite pictures from 2007 trip:  Wyoming, near Jeff City (pop. 50)
I liked the view so much, I camped out atop the hill that night.
I did a few practice rides in the Florida Everglades and Florida Keys
to get ready for my cross-country ride in 2011. 
Sunset near the Everglades.
Sometimes you just have to suck it up and pedal over those mountain passes.
In 2011, I was pedaling in the name of Lauren Lemmon, left, among others.
She's a type-1 diabetic from Columbus, Ohio.
Emily Lemmon, right.
I also rode for Matt Westendorf, who has been type-1 since age three.
He's heading for college soon.  So this isn't a recent picture.
Really:  I'm not being falsely modest.  I think a lot of people could pedal across America.
Half the time, in 2011, I trained by eatihg Macadamia Nut Clusters. 
Thanks, Costco.
What I mean is:  I'm not a training fanatic.
Lance Crowley was out on a pleaure excursion.
He was riding across Nevada for fun.
Colleen Zinn and husband Doug.
I met them crossing the Sevier Desert in southern Utah.
Colleen was finishing a cross-country ride she started 25 years ago.
Doug was supporting her ride.
My older brother, Tim, rode with me for several days in California, at the end of my 2011 trip.
I borrowed this picture from Tim Campbell,
 another serious rider.  Look at what you can see from the seat of a bike.
This is an old picture:  but that's a sequoia tree LIMB.
Why not pedal through the forests?
A tired rider pauses at the top of a long mountain pass,
somewhere in Utah.
Abandoned Mormon church in Ovid, Idaho.
Little patriot.
Catfish Festival Parade, Wilmington, Illinois.
I'm not going to lie:  I was proud of myself when I made it to the top of Tioga Pass,
coming into Yosemite National Park,
The pass requires a climb of 3100 feet in about ten miles.
If you have to pedal uphill to see this view,
then you pedal uphill.
Lake at the top of Tioga Pass.
Red flower in Yellowstone.
Blue pool in Yellowstone.
Orange thermophiles (heat loving algae),
Grand Prismatic Hot Springs, Yellowstone.
Green water:  Brink of Lower Falls of the Yellowstone.
Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River.
Note observation deck to right, top of falls.
Scene by the side of the road, Yellowstone, 2011.
Boys swimming in pool at base of Yosemite Falls,
I had to join them!
Crystal clear mountain stream in Yosemite Park.
Yosemite Falls drops 2,400 feet into the valley.
Picture from an earlier car trip.
Last day's ride in California, heading for San Francisco.
I've said it before:  I tend to start my rides out of shape.
Fat at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in June 2011.
I tend to end up looking thin.
San Francisco, September 7, 2011.
In the end, I always ride for my daughter Emily, now a senior in nursing at Ohio State.
She's been a diabetic since she was 14; and I want her to have a long, happy, healthy life.
If you would like to donate to help find a cure for type-1 diabetes please click HERE!

(This single click takes you to my fund-raising page. There, click again on "donate to this event." Then click "Biking and Painting for Diabetes."