Northern Idaho is another beautiful part of the Northern Tier. The route takes riders out of the way to the north but it beats the option of traveling the major interstate to the south. It also takes cyclists through Missoula, Montana—home of Adventure Cyclist Magazine—where our travelers visited the headquarters, rewarded with a free yearly subscription just for stopping by.
The route then took them through northern Wyoming, via Yellowstone National Park. There they were greeted by curious tourists, many of whom wondered where the cyclists came from and where they were going. For the most part, people chat with cyclists more than with other automobile drivers. Cyclists must seem less intimidating as I’ve noticed it on every tour I have been on. Many times complete strangers will offer water, food and even a ride to your next destination—of course you must refuse the ride unless it’s an emergency.
From Wyoming the trio traveled south into Colorado, and over the giant, legendary, passes of the Rocky Mountains. Bob noted that the Rockies were tough, but not as tough as the Appalachian Mountains still looming hundreds of miles away. In fact, he’d been warned about the Appalachians almost as often as he had been warned about the vicious dogs of the Southern states.
On long bike tours it’s crucial to watch what you eat. A single undercooked meal can wreak havoc on stomachs, altering plans dramatically. Bob discovered this the hard way when he consumed a spoiled tamale in a Fairplay, Colorado. Apparently they had been warned about the restaurant, but feeling quite confident, Bob decided instead to give it a go. The following day Don had to drive the truck while Bob spent the day in the passengers seat, white-faced and violently ill with food poisoning. Mack rode the entire 62 miles to Canon City solo. Lesson learned, but an entertaining story nonetheless. Unless of course it happened to you.
By far the least diverting region through which the trio traveled had to be Kansas. Driven by car the state’s incredibly flat terrain seems never-ending. Imagine it by bike, day after day after day. The only thing breaking up the monotony of it all was the enormous thunderstorms. Near Dodge City, there was a sign touting “Scenic overlook.” Bob and Don decided to take the road’s exit and check it out. The “Kansas Overlook” consisted of a feedlot—nothing but cows and cow shit—beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I guess.
Traveling through Illinois they encountered Hurricane Ike’s remnants. Opting not to ride one of the days they bowed to the fierce winds and torrential rains. Anyone who rides knows, those two elements make for extremely difficult riding, especially when the wind meets you head on.
Well in advance of their journey, people repeatedly warned Bob of the greatest danger facing them on the TransAm ride, dogs. In Kentucky, the route travels through many rural, off-the-beaten-path, towns, their houses sitting directly off the side of the roads, their many stray dogs seeing cyclists as a food group. On more than one occasion they deterred pursuing dogs, spraying them with water from their bottles. One particular dog gained rapidly on Bob, sporting a truly menacing look in its eyes. Bob, unable to get out of his pedals smoothly, due to his understandable fear, fell as the dog closed in. Bob, stuck in his pedals, cringed as his attacker stopped visually inspecting the tangle of defenseless man and bicycle lying in the middle of the road. Seeing how vulnerable Bob and the bicycle were, the thrill of the chase gone, the grizzled Kentucky mutt lost interest. Turning, the canine simply strolled away insouciantly, leaving Bob with a good scare, and a good laugh. Both of which he will never forget.
Making it through Kentucky relatively unscathed, without tooth marks, the three “hardened” TransAm cyclists, rode the final state of their adventure, Virginia. The tail end of their ride took them through the historic towns of Charlottesville, Petersburg, Williamsburg and eventually to Yorktown, where they decided to end the ride due to time constraints. They chose to park the truck a few miles before Norfolk so they could finish together. They were elated and happily celebrated their accomplishment.
What all three men took fondly took away from the TransAm is the friendships they created in the 3 months it took them to do it. They also became better friends with each other in addition to the interesting people they met along the way. Everyone they met along the way was helpful and gladly offered their services. Many of the route’s businesses make a living from TransAm riders and welcomed them with open arms. Bob was amazed at the generosity and camaraderie among cyclists as well.