Months ago I met my good friend Jim at Avoca, my favorite coffee shop in Fort Worth, and we chatted about that time he road across America. (Jim’s answers have been paraphrased because Lewis lost the recording of the conversation and Clark is lousy at taking notes)
Jim retired in 2008 and decided the best way to celebrate would be to cycle cross-country. He went with a group from Adventure Cycling Association from San Diego to St. Augustine, Florida. The group did a self contained trip, hauling all of their camping equipment, clothes, gear, etc. There was one leader that handed out maps and organized the groups accommodations, but other than that, the riders did all of the work themselves. There were 15 riders ages 20-71. At the end of each day’s ride two people had dinner duty which involved cycling to the store to buy food for the group and then preparing dinner and breakfast. Jim said he wanted to do the southern-tier of the states because of the varied terrain. They cycled through mountains, deserts, forests, swamps and everything in-between. The trip was 65 days. 56 days were spent riding and the others were rest/exploration days. It was common for Jim to be one of the first riders to complete each day’s ride. He said it wasn’t because he was the fastest, but because he left so early in the morning. ( I bet it’s also because he’s a pretty fit dude ) At one point the riders experienced ten 100 degree days in a row! He mentioned hardly seeing one cloud in the sky during that period. It was also during that heat wave they lost one of the riders. I believe it was a gal from northern Europe that had a really hard time dealing with the heat and decided to fly home. I asked Jim if there were any dangerous parts of the trip and he told me about the group attempting to out run a hurricane in Alabama. The storm was heading from the gulf to the shores of Alabama, but due to the way the hurricane winds rotate, the riders were forced to ride into a strong headwind. Jim was run off the road twice by angry drivers. People yelled out of cars at the cyclists to get off the road, not realizing they had no choice. I’d like to remind everyone when things get bad, we need to be at our best. If you ever see a cyclist out in the elements, it’s probably because they have to be there. ( or not. Either way. Be nice) Jim recommended a headlamp for camping, when I asked what piece of equipment he couldn’t do without. (I guess others were using bike lights or flashlights. Not so hands free) Jim also recommended Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. He went from coast to coast with no flats!!!
Jim worked for the Associated Press for may years. Check out a few shots of him in action.
Last week I cycled through Jim’s hometown of Alton, Illinois. He put me in contact with his sister and she graciously hosted me. I was treated to two feasts during my stay. Dinner had gooey butter cake for dessert. It’s a super tasty St. Louis treat! Jim called to give me directions from Alton to St. Louis and he also gave me a list of things to go see and do. I can’t wait to cycle through Fort Worth and meet Jim for a beer so we can about bike touring and Alton.