Monthly Archives: May 2012

Why, Why Now, Why this Route

When I’ve told people I am riding my bike across the country, I get many reactions that range from “That sounds really cool” to “Are you crazy or just plain stupid?”  Ultimately, the question is why do this?  Certainly you can fly from San Francisco to Boston, drive a car, ride a motorcycle, take a train, or even ride a donkey.  There are simply a lot easier ways to see the country.  For me, the “why” do this is driven by a few key things:
1) I think it’s in my blood.  My grandfather, Carl Pritchett, was an avid bike rider.  He got into cycling when he was an adult and I remember visiting him as a kid and seeing his beautiful Gitane racing bike with italian sew up tires and Campagnolo components and for some reason being simply in awe.  We went for rides on the C&O canal when we visited my grandparents at their home in Bethesda Maryland.  I was hooked and so was my Dad.  My dad got into cycling and I distinctly remember being 13 years old and seeing how excited he was when we found out we were moving from Virginia to Northern California and he  discovered there were bike lanes all over the bay area.  As I grew up in the Bay Area, cycling became a regular part of my life.  It was my transportation to school and work, it was a way to connect with my dad when we would  get together with friends for a Sunday morning breakfast ride, ride a 100 mile century or ocassionally commute together to his work.  When my dad retired from work, he and 2 of his riding buddies, Kirby and Roger, decided to ride across the country from Astoria Oregon to Boston, MA and my mom, MaryAnna, drove the car with their gear as their support wagon.  Yes, she is truly a saint.  My wife, Cindy and I got to join them for a leg of their trip in Wisconsin and I was hooked.  After  being on his trip, reading about it in the book he subsequently wrote about his adventure and hearing his stories, I knew it was something I had to do as well at some point in my life.   In the end, cycling has always given me a sense of adventure, accomplishment connection and freedom.  Riding across America is a way to experience all of those things
2) Because I expect it to be hard.  I don’t know why, and I can’t explain it but I am drawn to things that I think will be hard to do.  Particularly when it comes to riding a bike.  Weather it’s riding a double century (200 miles in a day), racing in a 100 mile mountain bike race or doing the Markleeville Death Ride (130 miles and 14,000 feet of climbing in the Sierras), there is nothing quite like the feeling of accomplishment I get from doing something that truly stretches my limits.  Cylcing across the country will be 3900 miles,  112,000 feet of climing in about 60 days and we will face, rain, relentless wind, heat, dehydration and pure exhaustion.  It will be my version of completing the Tour de France.
3) Because I get to do it with a great friend.  I’ve been riding bikes with Chris Dittmore for about 17 years.  We met when our boys were both in Kindegarten and joined Indian Guides.  We discovered a mutual love of cycling and have been riding together and talking about riding across the country for years.  Now we get to share the adventure.
4) Because I hope it will inspire others to pursue and make their dreams happen.  We all have our bucket lists and things we wish we could do but life oftern gets in the way because of work, family obligations, financial constraints etc.  Life is short and unpredictiable and I want to live it without regret and with a sense of direction, power and purpose.
Why Now:
Because life is short and you never know what it brings.  My dad’s ride across the country was one of the key things that inspired me to do this myself.  I always hoped when I decided to do this that he would be able to participate in some way with me.  He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s a few years ago and while he is doing well, it was a stark reminder that things can change in a moment.  Over the last few years, I have also had several people close to me have to battle significant illness, injury or loss in their life.  The opportunity to do this with a great friend was here, my health is good, my youngest is now in college and my dad will be able to be at the start and finish with me, what better time than now!
Why this route?
There are certainly shorter routes with less hills/mountains than the one we have chosen.  Organizations like Adventure Cycling even have tried and true routes that have been scouted and mapped so you can be assured of good roads, lodging and amenities.  But that would be easy.  And remember, easy is not really part of the equation.   Chris and I decided to construct a route that incorporated places and friends we wanted to see and things we wanted to experience.  It’s not just about the goal of crossing the country, it’s about a great journey  and a way to experience some great parts of our country.  We had to start in San Francisco and ride over the golden gate bridge because it’s where we are from and it’s one of the iconic cities of the west.  Lake Tahoe had to be included because it’s spectacular and one of Chris’s favorite places on earth.  Jackson Hole, The Tetons and Yellowstone are simply magnificent and  I’ve always wanted to see the famous carvings at Mount Rushmore.  Chris and our friend Ken Mozek had done RAGBRAI (Registers Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) previously and always had a desire to do it again.  It’s also the largest cycling event in America with 10,000 crazy cyclists riding across Iowa for a week so it had to be included in the itinerary.  Our friends the Blackwells offered to host us at their lake house in Indiana so that was a must.  Then on to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland,  along Lake Eerie to experience Niagra Falls and then finishing up at Revere Beach in Boston where we have family, friends and it also happens to be the place my dad finished his trip.  In the end, the route just emerged from the people and places we wanted to see along with experiences we wanted to have.  It’s going to be quite a ride!
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Loops vs. Lines


While riding one of my favorite rides the other day a realization hit me.  I’ve probably ridden this loop over a hundred times in the past few years.  I know where every bump in the road is, how far the climbs are and at what % grade, what stop lights are triggered by a bike, etc.  In fact it got me thinking that 99.9% of the rides I do are loops.  As Matt and I train for our ride almost all of our training rides have been loops on roads we’ve ridden many times before.  That’s when I started thinking about cycling across America.  We’ll be cycling lines not loops, starting and ending in towns we’ve never been to before and riding roads we’ve never ridden before.  While the loops are trusted routes that have prepared us well, we’re ready to abandon them for the adventure of riding lines!  So while we all need the stability of loops in our lives it’s fun to change things and see where the lines take us.



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A Little Help From my Friends…

As the Beatles sang 45 years ago (can you believe it’s been that long) “I get by with a little help from my friends…” While Matt and I prepare for our ride one thing that we’re both in awe of is all the support and encouragement we’ve received. Family, friends and work colleagues have been incredibly supportive. While many think us a little nuts and wonder how we’ll be able to sit on a bike seat that long, everyone has been very encouraging. Last week I was fortunate to have three co-workers from Goodway come to Tahoe for a 3 day team meeting. While I’m off riding my bike this summer, Maureen, Lori and Sarah will be keeping all of my projects running smoothly (of course they do already, so with me gone to not pester them it may actually go more smoothly). The three of them were 100% supportive of me living out my dream of cycling across America and simply asked what can we do to help. From Brenda to my family and friends everyone wants to know if there’s anything they can do to help or simply tell us how great it is that we’re attempting this. I can’t tell you how nice it is to have to be so focused on all the preparation for what we’re doing and have all this support. So a big THANKS for all of the encouragement!

Sarah, Lori & Maureen

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It’s the Little Things

We’re now inside of 50 days before we leave on or trip.  We have all of the big things nailed down like the dates, route, SAG drivers, training, etc.  It’s the little things that are driving us nuts.  If someone were to ride with Matt & I during our training rides they would think we were going to be nowhere near civilization during our ride (of course some points of South Dakota may be considered nowhere near civilization).  We keep discussing what we need to bring and what are we going to do in certain situations.   We have talked through the gear, nutrition, clothing, accommodations, weather, traffic, injury, etc.  You name it and we’ve talked through it dozens of times.  Now we’re onto “what are we forgetting?”.  Just about the time we have each other completely stressed we remind ourselves that when Matt’s Dad cycled across America 20 years ago, they had no GPS or cell phones.  They figured it out and had a great trip across America.  While it’s important for us to be well planned out and organized we also have to keep it all in perspective.  Basically, as long as we can ride our bikes we’ll make it… 

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