1992 Across the USA

In the summer of 1988, Dave and I rode the Oregon Coast on bicycles.  We were not experienced bicycle tourists by any stretch of the imagination.  We used road bikes equipped with handlebar bags and large seat bags, doing what they call credit card touring – rather than carrying your own camping gear, you carry a credit card and stay in motels.  On the third day of riding, we pulled off to one of the many scenic overviews and ran into a westbound Bikecentennial (now Adventure Cycling) tour group.  They were a couple days from the end of a Virginia to Oregon cross-country trip.  They had just crossed the coast range and were looking at the Pacific Ocean for the first time after 3 months of only dreaming of what it might look like.  They carried their own gear and camped most nights.  Compared to us, they seemed like real pros.

At the time neither of us was brave enough to say it out loud but we were both thinking what a great adventure that would be – we’d both been bitten by the touring bug.  We knew a bicycle trip across America was in the cards somewhere down the road.

Four years later, as I was finishing law school, it seemed like the perfect time to try such a trip ourselves.  I would have to take the bar exam in the first few months after completing school and would not be able to do much training in advance but once I started working, it was hard to see how we could both get a big block of time for such a trip.

Once we seriously started considering the trip, we thought quite a bit about which bikes we should use.  We had ridden a tandem once in 1989 and absolutely hated it.  It was hard to shift, I hated being on the back and the uphills were a killer.  Still, as the spring of 1992 came around, we toyed with making a tandem the bike of choice.  People say that you get used to tandems – we’d never really given it a chance.  With my studies, single bikes would have created a big fitness difference and I didn’t relish the thought of struggling while Dave waited for me.  We decided to take the plunge and ordered a new tandem.

We picked up our beautiful Lippy tandem in May, and it seemed to fit us to a ‘T’ from the first ride.  As anyone who has ridden a tandem will know, subtle differences in riding style become much more significant when they occur on the same bike. However, we seemed to settle into the bike quite well and learned how to communicate to avoid most of the pitfalls of riding tandem.

Initially, the trip was not intended to be our honeymoon.  In fact, we had a secret plan to get married in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, about two weeks into the trip.  We had the judge all lined up and, provided we kept to the anticipated schedule, a rest day booked for the ceremony.  Unfortunately, 6 weeks before the trip, Dave was hit by a car riding his bike home from work.  Because we weren’t married, the hospital wasn’t very cooperative with me about his condition.  The thought of something happening before we got to Jackson Hole and not being able to help each other was quite unsettling.  So, two weeks before we left, we got married by a judge in Portland, with our good friend Jean McNamara acting as bridesmaid, best man and flowergirl.  Now the trip became an official honeymoon.

I finished the bar exam on Thursday, last day of July.  Somehow, Dave got everything ready while I was studying and with only one day to catch my breath, on Saturday, August 2nd, we rode away from the Oregon coast.  Below is the state-by-state log of our journey.

Numbers and statistics

For those interested in numbers, here’s what we came up with from our notes:

Total miles 3878
Average miles per day (excluding rest days) 73.2
Total feet climbing 132,340
Average feet per day (excluding rest days) 2497
Longest day 118 miles
Most climbing in one day 5480 feet
Cost on road / Average cost per day $3,415 / $64.45
Number of flat tires: 10
Pounds lost Dave / Pounds lost Nancy 2 / 3
Total days 58
Accommodation:Hotel:    26 nightsCamping:   23 nights

Hostel:   6 nights

Private home:   3 nights

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