This is a strictly bicycle trip. We will be carrying all our gear to tent and cook across the US. I’ll be traveling with a group of people that have signed up with the Adventure Cycling Association. There are folks from around the USA, and a fellow from Australia and Germany. I’ll introduce them as we go along.
The group will gather in Virginia’s Historic Triangle, the “birthplace of America.” From there, we’ll ride through the gentle terrain of the Tidewater region, a rolling plain that rises gradually to meet the Virginia Piedmont and its somewhat steeper hills. A layover day in Charlottesville will allow us to tour the picturesque campus of the University of Virginia and, outside of town, Thomas Jefferson’s beautiful Monticello, with its resplendent gardens and hilltop location providing long-range vistas of the surrounding countryside.
In Afton , we’ll pay a visit to the home of June Curry ( who past away this past year), the world-famous “Cookie Lady” who has hosted more than 14,000 touring cyclists since 1976. From there, we’ll inch our way up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and bicycle along that legendary roadway until beginning the four-mile “dive” into the town of Vesuvius. From here to outside of Christiansburg, the route closely parallels the Indian Trace, an ancient Native American trail at the base of the Blue Ridge that Stonewall Jackson marched troops along during the Civil War.
Vesuvius, va… Buchanan Blacksburg Wytheville. Damascus
Before crossing into Kentucky at Breaks Interstate Park, we’ll swing in and sign the “Across State Ride” book, which Virginia officials are keeping to compile statistics that one day, they hope, will result in improvements to U.S. Bike Route 76 (as the TransAm Trail is known here). Ahead: the roads of the Appalachians in eastern Kentucky, which are extremely hilly and, in some places, winding, with dense vegetation. We’ll ride just south of the McCoy-Hatfield Feud territory on the Kentucky-West Virginia border before laying over for a day in Berea, where we can learn about mountain culture at the Appalachian Museum and at Berea College, which specializes in the teaching of mountain youth.
Breaks, va. Hindman, ky. Booneville, Ky. Berea. Bardstown, ky . Springfield
The Bluegrass region of central Kentucky will greet us like a breath of fresh air, with its green pastures, sprawling farms, and neat equestrian operations. After continuing through western Kentucky and towns like Bardstown, Utica, and Marion, we’ll cross the Ohio River into southern Illinois, where we’ll camp at Dixon Springs State Park. The ridges and valleys of the small mountain range knows as the Little Ozarks will show us the way to Carbondale, home to Southern Illinois University and a perfect place for a layover day.
Utica Ky.. Morganfield.
In Chester, Illinois, we’ll cross the mighty Mississippi on the Chester Bridge, a truss bridge that made an appearance in the opening scene of the 1967 movie In the Heat of the Night. Almost immediately we’ll start encountering the steep and seemingly never-ending series of hills for which the Missouri Ozarks are known. In Lesterville we’ll stay at the Park Bluffs Campground on the Black River, a sleepy waterway embraced by the Ozarks’ characteristic forests of both deciduous and coniferous trees. In Eminence, we might set our bikes aside for a morning and take a mellow canoe float down the crystal waters of the spring-fed Current River, a component of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.
Chester, Ill.Farmington, Mo. Eminence, Mo. Hartville, Ash grove, Mo.
We’ll spend our first overnight in Kansas (aka the “Jayhawk State”), in Pittsburg, a community that in 1876 was named — minus the “h” — after the far better known Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. Depending on which direction the wind is blowing — at our backs or in our faces, that is — we’ll either praise it or curse it as we pedal amidst endless fields of grain and sunflowers. When we’re still miles from Eureka, Newton, and a host of smaller towns, we’ll be able to spot the communities’ tall grain elevators standing like sentinels of the plains.
Pittsburg, Ks. Fredonia, Wichita. Nickerson. Rush Center Dighton.
As we make our way through central and western Kansas, you’ll become aware that you’re gradually leaving the humid Midwest behind and getting into the arid West, symbolized by the famous 100th Meridian. We’ll cross paths with history in Larned, with its many streets of hand-laid brick and its museum dedicated to the Santa Fe Trail. On entering Colorado, you may be surprised to find that the mountains don’t immediately jut into the sky — in fact, there’s quite a stretch of Kansas-like terrain separating the interstate border and the Rockies.
Dighton, Ks. Sheridan Lake, Co. Ordway, Co. Pueblo West.
The fun city of Pueblo marks both the approximate halfway point in our tour and the jumping off (climbing up?) point for the Rocky Mountains. Outside Cañon City we’ll take a layover day at Royal Gorge, aka the Grand Canyon of the Arkansas, which is spanned by the world’s highest suspension bridge over water. From there we’ll make our way through the spectacular wide open countryside of South Park, before climbing Hoosier Pass — at 11,542 feet above sea level, the loftiest point on the TransAm Trail — and descending into Summit County, a hotbed of Colorado recreation in both summer and winter.
Pueblo West, Co. Fairplay.. Breckinridge ..Dillon. Hot Sulpur Springs
I will be meeting family at Breckinridge.
Just north of Walden, we’ll ride into wild and often windy Wyoming. In the fine little mountain town of Saratoga we’ll soak our weary bones in the free, community-owned Hobo Hot Pool (and when they say hot, they mean hot). From there, we’ll begin the high and dry ride through the sagebrush- and pronghorn-filled Great Divide Basin. From Lander to Dubois, home to the National Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center, we’ll alternate between high mountains and broad valleys. Then, after climbing up and over Togwotee Pass, we’ll free-fall into Jackson Hole and spectacular Grand Teton National Park.
Waldon, Co Saratoga, Wy. Riverside Wy. Rawlings Jeffery City Lander Wy. Dubois
We’ll mosey around downtown Jackson, with its Town Square elk-antler arches and where it’s almost required that visitors down a beer or soda while sitting aboard a leather saddle stool in the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. From the small community of Wilson, we’ll climb out of Jackson Hole over the exceedingly steep Teton Pass and descend into Idaho. After enjoying the eight-mile-long rail-trail between Victor and Driggs, we’ll proceed north through undulating potato and barley country to Ashton, “Seed Potato Capital of the World.” Before proceeding on to West Yellowstone, Montana, we’ll overnight near Ashton.
Jackson Wilson Wy. Driggs, Id Swan Valley Ashton
I will be meeting Suzie in Yellowstone park. I am splitting from the group on July 8 to take a trip through the park and spending extra time with my wife.
After a layover day in West Yellowstone — and possibly a side trip into wildlife-abundant Yellowstone National Park — we’ll ride alongside the trout-rich waters of the Madison River to Ennis. From there, we’ll climb over the big hill to Virginia City, the well-preserved/renovated Victorian frontier town that was the site of a major 1860s gold strike and, for a short time, the capital of the Montana Territory. From there we’ll push on to the high lonesome of the Big Hole Valley, over Chief Joseph and Lost Trail passes, and into the substantially busier — but no less beautiful — Bitterroot Valley. We’ll enjoy a well-deserved layover in Adventure Cycling’s hometown of Missoula, an oasis of culture and fun things to do.
West Yellowstone Ennis Virginia City Missoula
Following in the tracks of Lewis and Clark, we’ll cross Lolo Pass and re-enter Idaho, riding beside the sparkling waters of the Lochsa River as it cuts through an immense wilderness expanse. At Riggins we’ll have the option of taking a half-day commercial rafting trip through the whitewater rapids of the Salmon River’s main fork. After crossing the Snake River into Oregon near the Hell’s Canyon of the Snake, the deepest river gorge in North America, we’ll climb not halfway, but all the way, to the charming little town of Halfway.
We’ll take a layover day in Baker City, rich with gold-mining lore. The 1969 classic musical comedy Paint Your Wagon (in which, unbelievably, both Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin sang) was filmed in this general area. After riding up and over a series of relatively minor mountain ranges and visiting towns like Prairie City, Prineville, and Sisters, we’ll have the thrill of crossing the Cascade Range amid the volcanic surroundings of McKenzie Pass, giddy with the knowledge that we’re getting close to the Pacific Ocean and the end of our adventure.
The final three days of this grand bicycle tour comprise a beautiful loop from Coburg through the covered-bridge country of the Alsea River Valley to the coast. We’ll dip our wheels in the Pacific at Beachside State Park before heading south to Florence, where we’ll enjoy a bittersweet celebration dinner. The next morning we’ll return to Eugene for a formal wrap-up and final farewells, reflecting no doubt on our unforgettable adventure of a lifetime.