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Excerpt three

April 6, 2017

But mostly, I’m in it for the speed. I love speed. I live for it.

On one of my many bicycling trips, as I was pushing the pedals down one more time, with my mind somewhere between God and the road, I asked myself: “Why not ride all the way across the United States?”

The first time I rode out to Oregon was in 1975, and I had done it almost on a whim. I had been accepted at Case Western Reserve University, but before I went I started thinking about a bike road trip. At first this trip was supposed to be from Bowling Green to Texas to visit my roommate’s (also named Doug) sister. When that didn’t pan out, another friend, living in Portland Maine seemed like a likely recipient of a visit from me via a long bike road trip. But as was the case in those days, this trip did not happen either. The trip that did happen is probably responsible for the long-distance riding I’m still doing today.

My dad, a professor at Case Western Reserve University, had a student, John, who needed someone to drive his car out to Oregon while he finished some business in Cleveland. John said he’d give me $200 to drive his car to Portland, Oregon. He then said he’d give me an extra $50, if I’d stop in Boulder, Colorado on my way to Oregon, and pick up some of his stuff that was being stored in a garage. Always the opportunist, I remembered a buddy of mine who had moved to Boulder, and I thought this was a great time to pay him a visit. Who knows, I thought, maybe Bryan might want to join me on my bicycle adventure. I said to John, “make it $100 and it’s a deal.” He acquiesced.

This became the reason for the first trip from Oregon. My original plan was to take the car to John, and then ride all the way back to Cleveland. But I simply did not fathom the enormity of that ambition. I made up the route as I rode along.  No one knew where I was or where I was going. If I had been injured no one would have ever known. And I failed to realize that I could get tired, that I would want to bathe or eat a home cooked meal. I certainly did not realize the effect on my body of climbing mountains, lugging 40 pounds of gear, day after day.  After two weeks of riding, Boise, Idaho began to seem like a more practical goal.

That was how far I made it in 1975 before calling it quits and catching a plane back to my uncle’s house in St. Louis, Missouri. From St. Louis, after a few days rest and my aunt’s home cooking, I rode back to Ohio.

In 2005 I made the ride across Oregon a second time. I took the same route as I had taken in 1975, but this time I told everyone about my route, so they’d be able to find my body if I never came back. Older and wiser.

Those two rides, across Oregon and then from St. Louis to Cleveland, had a big impact on my life at the time, and many times throughout my life my thoughts have turned towards those adventures, and the thought of repeating the rides always haunted me. Those rides gave me the confidence to believe I could do anything I really wanted to do.

I’ve also ridden to Boise, Idaho three times, but always stopped there; why not go on? I started to think of a long ride that could be done in five stages: Portland, Oregon to Boise, Idaho (stage one); Boise to Denver, Colorado (stage two); Denver to St. Louis, Missouri (stage three); St. Louis to Cleveland, Ohio (stage four); and finally, Cleveland to the east coast (stage five).

Stages one and four were complete, and so I reasoned there were only three stages to go, so why not try it again.

Why not indeed?

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One Comment
  1. Ed Bahniuk permalink

    After reading your excerpts, I am ready to buy the book. When will it be available? Ed

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10

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