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Excerpt three

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?


The White Line to Denver, excerpt 2

While attending Bowling Green State University I majored in physics, and my favorite topic was astrophysics. The enormity of the Universe is a concept that is difficult for almost anyone to grasp. Realizing that a million earths can fit inside the sun makes one begin to grasp the smallness of the planet we live on. Further, to think on the billions of stars in our Milky Way Galaxy alone is even more staggering, not to mention what might be beyond our galaxy, and the vast empty regions between galaxies. When I think about these things, I am even clearer in my thinking about how tiny we as humans are in the scheme of all of these planets, stars, and galaxies. No more significant than a grain of sand on a beach really.   And I’m talking about a really big beach.

But wait, back to bicycles.

I mention all this universe thinking because it makes me understand how truly lucky I am to be alive, lucky to have been born in the United States, and lucky to have a job that allows me to ride when and wherever I want to go. Ride bicycles that is.

It didn’t take me long to scout out the best places to ride in BG (this is what the locals call Bowling Green). One of my favorite places to ride were the back roads that crossed Route 6, a west to east road that is a corridor from the west coast in Bishop, California to Provincetown, Massachusetts on the east coast. The stretch of Route 6 in Bowling Green is mostly a trucking route. One of my favorite games, albeit dangerous, was racing trucks coming down Route 6. I’d ride from my apartment on West Wooster to Liberty Hi Road. Liberty Hi crossed Route 6. I could see this intersection from quite far back on Liberty Hi, maybe from 1,500 feet or more because of how flat the land is. The traffic on Liberty Hi had a stop sign; traffic on Route 6 did not. Yeah, I’d stop. In your dreams.

What I took great delight in was racing trucks to the intersection. You’re right if you are thinking this was dangerous. But there it is. This is the kind of thing that got my blood racing when I was in college. I’d cruise down Liberty Hi and scan ahead for trucks coming down Route 6. When I saw one that looked like it might reach the intersection at the same time as me, the race was on!  I would stand up and start cranking, throwing the bike back and forth.  I’d tightly hold the handlebars, pulling on them as I cranked down. Even my chest muscles came into play, tightening as I gave the bike my all. At the same time, I’d closely monitor intersection because even though most of the trucks were east bound, occasionally there would be a west bound one as well. I sure didn’t want to get blindsided by a truck traveling in the opposite direction.

If a trucker gave me a warning blast with his horn that was a good thing because it told me he was watching me. While there were more than a few times I pissed off a trucker, I’d almost always win. Of course, if I didn’t think I was going to beat them, I’d slam on the brakes! While I was into the danger element of this game, I wanted to live to play again the next time.

Book Excerpts from “The White Line to Denver”

I’ve mentioned I wrote a book.  I’m trying to self publish it, but that’s a lot easier said than done.  So periodically I’ll show you some excerpts .   Your feedback is appreciated.  Here’s the first.

One of the best things bicycles have given me is freedom, and the ability to go just about anywhere I could point to on the map. I could just pick two cities on a map, follow the white line on the road’s right edge between the two, and I’d reach the second city. Certainly it would be faster in a car, but for me cars lack the magic of reaching a destination on a bicycle.  You expect a car to be able to travel a long distance.  Bicycles, not so much. I believed and still do believe that the simplicity, durability and versatility of bicycles endow them with a power unmatched by automobiles.   Whenever I look at a bicycle I think “I could ride that thing across the United States.”

I know, because I’ve done it.

A similar thought never enters my mind when looking at a car.  Cars need gas, oil and money.  Bicycles just need less.  When I was very young, my bike gave me the freedom to ride to the park and hang out with my friends. Now, as a mature adult, they give me the ability to dream of new adventures. This is their magic.


Boom! Down he goes!

Have you ever imagined being a hero? You know, one of those fantasies where against all odds, you beat the bad guy?  Like in the movie “Rocky” or perhaps you are on an airplane and something happens to the pilots, and you safely land the airplane?

Well today I stood toe to toe with Joe Frazier in the boxing ring  and he kicked my ass.   I didn’t do any better as a pilot.  The plane crashed.

Of course it wasn’t really Joe F.  Or an airplane. It was Parkinson’s.  Old Mr. Parky.

Breakfast time in the Bahniuk household, I was fixing my daughter a glass of Chocolate milk, and my cell phone rang. I’d just finished mixing the milk and syrup.

Brrring!  Brrrring!  The glass of milk was in my right hand, so I answered the phone with my left, flipping it open with my mouth.  (I do not, nor will I ever, have a smart phone.)  It was my wife.    I was standing facing the kitchen sink, and i turned to walk to the kitchen table.

As I turned, he (Mr. Parky.) sucker punched me.  Now He’s tried that a hundred times before, But I’ve always had a free hand to catch myself.

Not this time.  Phone in one hand, glass in the other, I fell into the refrigerator.  The glass of milk shattered.  The phone went dead.  I cleaned up the mess, thankful that I never said any bad words in front of my daughter.

I’ll be ready for the SOB the next time.  I probably can’t beat him, but I won’t have something in  each hand.  No more Mr. Nice guy.

I’m back

After 3 years I’ m back.  Since that time, I’ve had two brain operations,  had my left shoulder replaced 3, count them, three times, and written a book.   I’m hoping to have the book, titled “The White Line to Denver” published by November.

In June, Alissa and I are participating in Ride the Rockies.  We each pledged $2,500 to the event, so if any of you is feeling particularly generous at the moment, please let me know.

That’s all for now, but more to come soon.





Serial Killer

When I ride cross-country, I am painfully conscious of how vulnerable I am.  The most obvious; cars and trucks scare me.  But there are plenty more subtle threats. For example, consider the road’s berm, which I consider to be anything to the right of the painted line defining the roadway.  Sometimes, that’s a two or three-foot drop, straight down. Lose concentration, ride off the road and it’s going to be a bad news day. And then there is the problem of what to do when two semi’s approach each other, and you are right next to the trailer of one.  When that happens I just pray “Please, don’t hit me, please don’t hit me.”

To combat all these bad things, I wave to all the cars and trucks that give me wide berth. (I strongly believe in positive reinforcement.)  The waving to cars and trucks soon morphed waving to every Joe, Phil, and Denny I see.  Some guy would be walking or standing by the road and I’d shout out  “Good morning!”  or “Good afternoon!” and give them a hearty wave.  Riding down highway 101 and approaching Lincoln City, Oregon, I’m thinking to myself, “Why am I waving to everyone?  For all I know, one of these guys could be a serial killer!”   And I resolved to stop waving.  The wisdom of my choice soon became apparent with the next guy I saw: a fisherman walking up a creek embankment.  Dirty, with a scowl sharper than a knife. Even from this distance I can see the scars on his face.   Obviously a serial killer.  I ignored him and pedaled on, looking for a place to camp and pitch my tent.  After a few  miles, I came across a place that seemed like a good possibility; a mobile home park.  I stopped and walked up to a door.

Knock, knock, knock.  No answer.  Went to the next place.  Same thing.  Went to a third place.  Again, no answer.  Went to a fourth place.   Knock, knock, knock.  No one home.  Just as I was walking down the home’s steps,  a car pulls into the drive, and a guy gets out.

It was serial killer man.

Serial killer man gets out of his car, looks at me and says:” What’d you want?”

“I’m looking for a place to camp tonight.”

“You can camp here on my front lawn.”

I think “Oh yeah, I’ll bet that’s what you say to all of your victims.”  But my lips say “Gee, thanks!”

So as SKM climbs the porch steps,  we introduce ourselves.  His name is Bob, and last year he was in a serious car accident that almost killed him, hence the face scars.  He also suffered some brain damage and has had a hard time finding a job.  So he fishes a lot for his meals.  After some chit-chat I unpack my sleeping bag and make myself dinner.   I decide the weather is warm enough to forego putting up my tent.  Bob comes out and starts to chat.  His wife left him and he misses his son.

Bob offers me some salmon and I accept.  It’s delicious.  Bob figures he needs $60,000 a year to pay his debts.    I offer the best advice I can think of: Learn how to operate heavy equipment.  At dusk we bid each other good night, and I crawl into my sleeping bag.  Not putting up the tent was a mistake; in the morning I am soaked by the evening dew.  I pack up and continue my journey to Boise, Idaho.

When I see the next pedestrian, I give him a hearty wave and wish him good morning.

2,000 and 1 riders

I don’t like where this is going.

No, it’s not the miles.  Not the mountains.

Not the long passes or falls off my bike.

Not the blisters on my butt.

None of that bothers me.

What bothers me are the other riders.  2,000 of the little suckers.   I rode across the U.S. solo.  Good Lord,  I rode almost 900 miles from Prudhoe Bay to Anchorage.


In the rain.

Against the wind.

So  when I see/hear all the other riders

“Passing on your left. ”  “Passing on your Left.”  I get bummed out.  And if I was not shackled by

the camp grounds, by the rules, I know I could blow all those suckers away.

Because they would all give in and give up before me.

If I was still 21.