The siren’s lure of crossing the U.S. by bicycle is enticing for most anyone who spends a lot of time in the saddle. And although many cyclists consider it, most will not attempt it, fewer still actually do it. Making the journey requires serious dedication, conditioning, and most of all, loads of time – something most of us simply don’t have enough of. The physical challenge is daunting for athletes in their prime and many people wouldn’t consider attempting it well after their “prime” years. Or would they? After all, once a person retires, they have plenty of time to do whatever they want. Right?
On the last day of July 2008, three men, all in their sixties, set out to cross the continent by bike following the Northern Tier Route of the famed Trans America ride, the TransAm. Three Northern Californians, Bob Frassinello, Mack Ford and Don Stipp, set their sites on completing the TransAm and aimed to accomplish the ride “Allure Libre,” or at their own pace. The plan was initiated the previous year by a friend of Bob’s who ironically had to back out at the last minute.
Bob, Mack and Don (all in their sixties) are not diehard cyclists who train regularly, or even ride year-round. They are, for the most part, recreational riders proving that one doesn’t have to be a competitive or even an extremely accomplished cyclist to do the TransAm.
The plan was to divide the cycling time into thirds by having one person drive the SAG wagon, a truck pulling an RV-style camper, while the other two rode. This approach gave each man one rest day out of three. It wasn’t so much about “doing the TransAm” as it was about spending time on the country’s less traveled roads together, meeting other cyclists and fellow Americans along the way.
Starting in Florence, Oregon and finishing in Yorktown, Virginia on July 31, 2008, the journey took just over two months to complete. They crossed Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and Virginia, ten states in all, encountered scores of interesting people of different ages, from numerous countries, some traveling with companions, and others who had chosen to ride the TransAm alone.
“We met a lot of people from Europe. They all had the same carefree and positive attitude, like ‘the worst day is still a good day,’” Bob explained from his home in Ukiah, California. Ukiah is a beautiful area, full of rolling hills, farms and fruit orchards – a great place to stay in shape and train for the TransAm.
Beginning the adventure soon after dipping their back tires in the Pacific Ocean, they set out across Oregon. The terrain in Oregon varies considerably, giving riders a taste of what’s to come in the following states. There are several high mountain passes, rolling meadows, forests, bone-dry desert and of course, welcoming people.
“Everywhere along the Northern Tier there are signs welcoming TransAm riders,” Bob explained.