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Cross Country USA: Lynn Jennings’s Final Dispatch

The Final Dispatch

Now it is winter. From the kitchen table where I am writing, snow covers the perennial and vegetable gardens and the apple tree’s graceful limbs are sketched against the pale gray sky. I see fox tracks wandering down to the horse chestnut tree. Birds are busy at the sunflower feeders and the four-sided suet cage attracts downy woodpeckers and both red-breasted and white-breasted nuthatches. Cavorting chickadees are everywhere. The birds splotches of color are pleasing in the monochromatic wash of our habitat.

The notion of pedaling a bike amidst 97 degrees and punishing headwinds through Badlands NP seems so distantly foreign. But it really did happen!

21 cyclists plus 5 guides, have them move from place to place in concert every day and oh, by the way, ride a bike for 3800+ miles over hill and dale no matter the weather? It’s a social experiment bar none. Better than that it was the human condition showing itself in every kind of encounter. With eyes wide open I observed how my fellow P2P’ers and I handled fatigue, heat, rain, wind, 16 century/century+ days, a different bed every night, bicycle malfunctions, laundry obligations, gut grief, saddle sores, humdrum paltry breakfasts at too many Holiday Inn Express lodgings and muling luggage to a room every night only to lug it back to the luggage trailer every morning.

Some days smiles were harder to come by. Did we pedal anyway? Yup.

The collective nature of our task over-rode the daily setbacks or frustrations that stymied all of us at one point or another. Extending grace to another who was having a frustrating or tough day helped smoothed their road. I can remember Guide Blake matter of factly saying somewhere in the middle of Wyoming to someone who was complaining about the blasting heat and wind, “We signed up to ride across the country which means we are going to encounter all kinds of weather.”

It all worked out due to having 5 superlative humans as our guides and because 21 out of 21 of us were determined to rely on our persistence no matter what. The unsung virtue.The quiet ability to keep going when all around you events seem to conspire to create hardship just for you. The pressing daunting heat, the head winds, the hills, the hill that always came when I was sure I had no more to give. Somehow I always had something more to pull out of myself. Persistence. Belief.

To a cyclist we knew the ineluctable truth: we had to pedal those bikes for so many many miles to get where we wanted to go. The endlessness of South Dakota and her ferocious unrelenting heat sucked some joy out of each of us at some point. It became a game for Sandy and me to wonder how long it would be until we’d see a sliver of shade. Oh, there it was at lunch one day. Each day we woke up and oriented ourselves eastward. Each day Sandy would say to me as we rode along, “I could do this all day!” To which I would respond, “Lucky for you, let’s keep going!”

There’s an unexplainable thing inside me that is wired to find joy in the doing of a venture like this one. Each day I was eager to ride. Each day I was engaged. Each day was it’s own distinct experience with a new route to explore and to know that at the end of my effort a warm meal and a bed were waiting. Whether cycling alone or with others, I liked taking big gulps of what was all around me absorbing it all for more energy. I noted every grasshopper that leaped up and brushed my shins, each crumpled on the road butterfly, the creases in the rock formations, the osprey and eagles, the roadside chicory that I spied all the way in every state all the way until Vermont. I could never look away from the disfigured remnants of so many alluring creatures and my heart cracked each time. It still does as I remember the stilled wildlife.

To know that these strengths are still part of me is a pleasing comfort. For years and years I found joy in the training necessary to be an elite middle distance runner. I was able to conjure that same joy for the 8.5 months I trained for P2P and then, most importantly, find it again for the journeying days across the country.

My will? Iron strong. My heart? Powerful and honed. My mind? Always engaged in the doing in front of me.

Energy begets energy. Being around people who are faucets and not drains makes an endeavor sing. I gravitated towards those who were buoyant and could see the shade when there was none, who could bend into the biting winds and not say a word and see the sun when it rained (only 3 days of that, we were so very lucky). One of my favorite memories was seeing Ian one late afternoon as he barged into our hotel lobby in the middle of nowhere. He looked at me since I was the first person he encountered upon getting off his bike and he thundered, “Those last 20 miles were HORRIBLE.” I couldn’t help laughing.

Completing P2P has left me with a cornucopia of memories and experiences that will remain rich and real. So what’s ahead? The roads will find me in Solvang, Greenville and Mallorca on TT Ride Camp weeks. Vermont’s gravel roads will be on my docket in July. Autumn beckons with TT Ride Across Italy and the stunning Ride the Ridges 100K in Cabot, VT. Looking further ahead has me eyeing the TT Pyrenees Sea to Sea trip for 2024.

Training is my daily truth. It’s powered all the more by knowing I’ve got P2P quietly riding in my back pocket. A touchstone that abides. A reminder that I’ve got plenty to give. A reminder to say, “Why not?”

You’ve heard plenty from me by now. If you are considering joining this marvelously challenging and beautiful trip I’ll leave you with this: Believe, believe, believe.

Finally, I asked a few of my fellow P2P adventurers to share why they joined this audacious idea of a trip. If you find yourself nodding your head and thinking “I could do this” while reading their comments then you know what to do. Sign up!

Thanks for reading.

Lynn Jennings

Why did you decide to ride Cross Country USA?

Pat: “Why Not?!!!”
Having completed 25 marathons, 40 plus ½ marathons, 15 Half and 2 full Ironman, and canoed in the Boundary Waters, this was the next big adventure on my laundry list (aka Bucket List) of things I really wanted (and needed) to do… and what better time than now.
So, when I knew could wrangle 50 days away in the summer/fall of 2022 from work; and my hubby who was very willing to hold down the fort and take care of our 2 dogs and who was extremely supportive and encouraging me to go for it…
“Why Not!!!” I never looked back and I am so very glad I embraced my “Why Not” along with my 20 other P2P riders. And the best part of it all for me is that WE ALL MADE IT.

Mike: At my retirement party I announced to my colleagues that I would be riding across the country with Trek Travel. I joked that this trip was the most difficult physical challenge I could think of that didn’t involve a death zone and bottled oxygen. I was excited to place a capstone on my athletic career and as a non-directed kidney donor, I wanted to inspire potential donors and allay their concerns. But those weren’t the only reasons. Over the course of my career, I’ve flown millions of miles, crisscrossing the county, peering out the window and wondering what it’s like down there. I’ve been especially intrigued by the west – looking down at the irrigated crop circles, like emerald islands in a sea of brown connected by two lane roads leading from one grain silo to the next. I wanted to ride those roads, cruise through those small towns and do it in the most visceral way possible, from the seat of a bike.

Jacque: As I neared my 60th birthday I was feeling inspired to do something big and adventurous. The beauty of life is its fragility, so while I have it I want to use it. I had an idea that I wanted to stretch my boundaries and engage in a process that pushed beyond what I thought was possible. When I first started dreaming of cycling across the country I wasn’t even a serious rider, however an encouraging voice from a fellow female rider and Trek Travel guide was the inspiration I needed to take the leap and start training. The flow we can all experience when we dig into the well of power within us to keep pushing through long rides is the biggest reason why I stayed the course. I rode across the southern route of the US and was hooked on the feeling of fortitude and resilience to get up and go every morning again and again and again. This second ride across the northern US I was seeking a sense of solidarity with my fellow riders through the demanding terrain. My passion to keep pedaling was fueled by a belief in myself, appreciation for my body and its capacity to carry me, and connection with the riders around me.

Sandy: I was fascinated with the idea of powering myself across this continent on my own two wheels. I am always amazed by the beautiful diversity in our land, and seeing it from a bike is different than from a car. It is a totally different experience! The changes in the topography of the land each day, like from the Columbia River Gorge to the wheat fields of Oregon. From the plains of South Dakota to the lush cool cliffs of Deadwood South Dakota. On a bike, there is more interaction with the locals as you ride by, both are more likely to greet each other and have a brief conversation. Or as in Wisconsin the shy wave of the Amish children walking on the side of the road as we rode next to them. There is also the sound of water as you ride next to a stream, lake or river. I will never forget the smell of pine in the air as we rode along the Clearwater river all day, the wheat blowing in the air with fine bits of it all over the road in eastern Oregon and the constant chirping of the prairie dogs in the Badlands.

There is also the challenge mentally, not just physically to be able to face every daily challenge. I knew this would be part of the trip and the challenge, but I didn’t appreciate the full extent of it until it was over. It is one of the things I look back on and feel a sense of accomplishment. The constant heat in South Dakota, the threat of headwinds, rain, bad breakfasts, detours on the route, a bike malfunction, a lumpy bed or noisy room air conditioner. I’ll always remember knowing that we faced every challenge with a happy spirit with guides who helped us solve the daily puzzle.

Carlin: Riding my bike across the country was a notion that stemmed from a conversation with a young man in a Friday morning boot camp at the Gym. He is/was a member of the royal family of the UAE – they figured out that he was gay and was sent to Switzerland for high school and to the US for college with gentle hints not to return. He is now a successful business man and is married to a physician. In our conversation he told me that his husband rode cross country in his college-med school “gap year”. He did it the hard way with paniers and camping but I resolved that I too would do the crossing. I trained hard and attempted to sign up in 2021 to find out that the trip was full. Thus I signed up for 2022, trained like hell, and had the absolute time of my life.

I expected a major physical challenge and was hoping at 64 years of age that I could rise to the challenge. It turned out that I was rewarded with new friendships that have continued after the conclusion of the ride and I got a chance to see the country and the beauty that can never be understood by driving or a fly over with a plane.

At the completion of the ride – I wished that I could continue to ride a century daily but life – being what it is – has had other plans. That said – I was able to bring joy to others by sharing my trip with hundreds of followers and have memories that I will treasure for the rest of my life. It is said that when life ends – you regret the things that you DON’T do not the things you do. I am 100% sure that this axiom is correct.

Thank you for reading

See the trip

Cross Country USA: New York to Maine

Days 42-46: Cazenovia, NY -> Portland, ME. 3,368 total miles and 134,138 ft of total elevation.

Day 42: Cazenovia, New York Five days left in this “Crazy 47 day ‘see the country weight loss program’ trip” as one of my fellow cyclists dubbed our endeavor.

A day off the bike is a treat in that one re-discovers the joys of walking. How refreshing to stroll the one main street in Cazenovia, find a coffee shop, sit on the porch, enjoy late September warmth while sipping an artisanal hot chocolate. realize one’s weary cycling fanny does not like the hard metal chair, chat up Rae and Brent as they showed up for coffee and then perambulate with Silk back to the Brewster Inn. A triumph all the way round. I’ve missed walking.

Silk was a lawyer for a few hours, I re-organized my kit so that I could more easily find what would be needed for a few more rainy days, followed that up with a 90 minute nap and before we knew it we were walking to dinner to the Brae Loch Inn with Pat and Sandy where live Celtic music was on offer.

The mac and cheese, salmon, burgers and salads were fine enough and Sandy, Pat, Ian, Silk and I made our way back to the deserted Brewster Inn’s gift shop with its magnificently stocked ice cream freezer loaded with pints of various flavors from a local concern. We chose a few pints to share, scored some spoons and bowls from the kitchen and had the Inn’s big pub room to ourselves as we dug in.

Today’s themes:

The prospect of rain.
The prospect of serious hills post-lunch.
Riding the day after a rest day isn’t some grand reprieve from fatigue.
When will the rain hit?

Doubt I was the only one with these four themes running through my head. Oh yeah, I’ll add a fifth to make it an even quintet: what combinations of kit should I wear if the rain doesn’t hit until the afternoon?

This morning at breakfast it was all about, “What are you wearing?” The avid meteorologists-in-training were consistently saying the same things to whomever would listen, “It will rain but not until after lunch.” The glowering skies in Cazenovia were giving way to blue and rosy hues so our morning groups launched under promising conditions.

Final consensus: rain pants over tights or go without rain pants.

There’s no denying rain pants on a bike are amateur hour looking and yet considerably helpful when one is talking about endless miles with soaking wet tights. Cold weather means tights are de rigueur and a cold rain means rain pants are a smart choice over those tights.

So Silk, Sandy and I started out with rain pants wondering if they were the right thing. After our brief lunch stop at mile 55 with Sandy checking the hourly forecast, we realized we were sitting in the cat bird seat. We’d be encountering rain within just a few miles after lunch. No need to scurry around to a van, find one’s bag, pull out rain pants and don while hopping around hoping one’s bike shoes and booties would make it through the lower leg opening of the rain pants.

First pro tip: buy rain pants with a very long lower leg zipper.

Second pro tip: put a ziplock baggie around one’s cycling shoes using knife or manicure scissors (Sandy!) to cut holes for cleats to fit through.Don booties. Shoes stay dry!

After a brief and happy meet-up with sculling training partner Ken at the lunch stop, we three set out to conquer the soon to come hills and cope with the rain. Happily the brilliant orange and red leaves, bronzed ferns, and shining in autumn garb cat tails were striking with the pigeon gray skies all around. The rain came down, we powered up the hills and flew on the descents getting wetter by the minute but with dry feet and legs. Silk and I had a couple of fun push me/pull you uphill duels. Sandy enjoys the way the hill melts away as she watches us tussle.

All in all the 92 miles slid by and we were triumphant upon our near to 2pm arrival to the Irondequoit Inn in Piseco. We were the 3rd, 4th and 5th to arrive and it was quite something watching sodden, cold and tired cyclists come stumbling in over the next hour. Persistence personified.

Poor Ian was underdressed and his bright pink hands were curled into claws when he staggered in. Hot showers and a cozy wood stove soon put everything to rights. As Ron noted in his journal, “This was a nice ride until it wasn’t.” Cold rain enveloped him the last 25 miles to the Inn. He said the rain served to highlight his one poor choice in clothing; he didn’t bring gloves for cold, wet weather.

More rain tomorrow as we migrate to Ticonderoga. After that we will have sun and autumn colors in VT and NH. Four days of cycling remain.

Day 43: Piseco, New York Morning at the Irondequoit Inn dawned still, freshly washed and with pink promising skies. My frequent checks of the hourly conditions in Piseco and Ticonderoga meant it was a bifurcated day in terms of clothing. With temps in high 50’s and pink skies at 7:30 am then showers and dropping temps showing throughout the day. The perennial question, “what to wear?” predominated. Wearing the yellow Showers Pass jacket meant hotting up and sweating. No rain jacket at all would be ill considered.

I bent to the task of assembling two day bags: one for rest stop 1 and one for lunch. That way I could strip down to a dry base layer and don or doff the appropriate jacket, rain pants along with helmet cover and beanie as rain became imminent. I started with light Rapha rain topper and tights. No rain pants. No beanie.

The morning was an autumn aficionado’s delight: brightening skies, damp roads, leaves on fire, no wind, sparkling rivers and brooks, glistening grasses. Sandy and I rode as a duo today and as we swung along we both felt the power of the day. Not a day to be gotten through. An 85 mile, 4000 foot day to savor. So it might rain? We were ready.

Highway 8 took us a long way today and it was a winding, low traffic, excellent tar colorful flyway. The roads pulled us onward. We climbed and dropped, we went around corners with maple and sumac reds popping. The oranges and yellows layered evenly all around. We were riding through a silent watercolor. When the sun came out spraying her light through the trees our small slice of the world shone. Photos can’t capture what we were riding through. Taking it all in every mile of the day proved to be the only way.

We crossed the Sacandaga and Hudson rivers today. Guide Brian was staged on the former to snap our pics as we rolled through.

Lunch was a brief affair punctuated by pulling on rain pants, helmet cover and exchanging my brick colored Rapha jacket for the blazing yellow Showers Pass topper. After checking the hourly weather again it was obvious we’d be riding right into the rain. Took us but a few miles and then we were pelted. Sandy called to me, “I’m fine with this! I love it!” That set our tone and we buoyantly powered our way for the next few hours before crossing into Ticonderoga.

With 2.85 miles to go we came across the Wind Chill Factory. Sandy was alerted by Pat that as we approached Ticonderoga there would be a noted ice cream joint. We were wet and cold. Did we stop? Yup! Was it good? Absolutely! Another organizing principle on P2P was the pursuit and chase for ice cream in whatever towns we found ourselves in. The usual suspects of Pat, Sandy, Silk and me plus easy recruits Ian and Jacque and a few stray others meant we had some seriously memorable treats as we progressed across the US of A.

Sandy and I shoved off with a sugar buzz, descended into town, looped around the small roundabout entering town while admiring the stunning Liberty monument and found our way to the Best Western. As we closed in I realized anew that VT would be just minutes away tomorrow and the end of the trip was happening right now.

The day ended on a wonderful high. My long time PDX bestie Heather grew up 20 miles north of Ticonderoga. She left Hartford where she is now living and drove up to surprise me at the Best Western. Thanks to TT’s exhaustive P2P website, she knew what hotel I’d be at. Given all the P2P reports I’d been sending out along the way she had a pretty good idea of how long I’d be out on the road and about when I’d be pulling into the Best Western.

Wow. Big sign. With me thinking, “What? Heather?!” A kismet surprise that had me grinning. Heather housesat for my sweet Portland, OR house and wonderful kitty Petey one summer and autumn when I was in VT. She made a paper “Good luck Mom” sign and Petey sat near it to send me good tidings for my Head of the Charles race. A memory that always makes me happy.

Heather hung out and kept Sandy and me company as we monitored laundry and stretched on the upstairs hall carpet plus she stayed for dinner. After dinner Sandy, Pat and I piled into her Mini Cooper and she drove us to the Wind Chill (Heather knew all about the Wind Chill from her nearby growing up years) so Pat and she could get some ice cream. Pat had a tough day. Her iPhone came off her handlebars and she didn’t realize it until some miles later. Guide Brian who was at rest stop 1 circled back in the minivan and spent 90 minutes driving the first 17 miles of our route looking for it and coming up empty. Gallant effort. Ice cream helped soothe Pat’s tension and left us all smiling.

Day 44: Ticonderoga, New York The chilly seven minute Lake Champlain ferry crossing from Ticonderoga over to VT got our day started. With a quick stop at the Welcome to Vermont sign we lit out for Hanover. Silk stopped for some photos early on and I just kept going and going.

I rode solo all day, bypassed lunch and the rest stops other than to refill water at rest stop 2 and was in a happy groove, I was appreciating the silence and my ability to look around and see everything without having to engage with anyone else all day long. I felt fantastic powering up Brandon Gap and let it all unspool from there. The 88 miles flashed by and with 5600 feet of climbing I was bent to the task with concentration and effort.

Lovely Hanover with its inviting Hanover Inn was our night’s lodging. Once arrived I went for a long walk over to the Connecticut River to see the gorgeous Dartmouth boathouse, across campus down to the familiar track and then back to the Green enjoying a hot chocolate while watching the students traipse past. With two days remaining I felt the push and pull of knowing the finish was so near.

Tomorrow our penultimate ride will take us up and over the Kancamagus Highway and also Bear Notch. Lots of miles, lots of elevation.

Day 45: Hanover, New Hampshire The Hanover Inn was a sumptuous and elegant overnight respite and we woke to river valley ground fog, thick and cold as thieves. Happily our fore and aft blinking lights can cut through the densest fog so we felt safe heading out. It was also 34 degrees.

Our day ahead? 7500 feet of elevation as we cut through the White Mountains via the Kanc. It was destined to be a century day because Silk and I decided to add on the extra 3 miles. The sun was going to be shining. We were willing. Why not?

Kit choice today: purple Rapha winter jacket, arm warmers underneath, leg warmers, shoe booties, beanie under helmet and winter technical lobster claw cycling gloves (so shifting could happen). Plus a buff around my neck. Brrrrrrrrr.

Sooner or later once the real climbing started it became a sweat management morning: Unzipping my jacket on the climbs, zipping back up on the rip roaring descents. Soon enough the sun burnt off the fog and I doffed the beanie, the arm warmers and the winter riding jacket. Went with the brick colored topper coat and soon that was also bundled into my jersey pocket.

We flew in and out of lunch in less than ten minutes and were the first to start tackling the climb up the Kanc. Silk and I know every wrinkle of that climb having trained on it too many times to remember and it’s a long slog. 10 miles, I think. Then the zippity 6 mile descent before the up and over of sinuous and alluring Bear Notch with its delicious I never want it to end descent. Combined with the earlier up and over Route 18 in the Moosilauke area meant we really earned it today. There are some diabolical minds in the trip planning department at TT. Amy Davison I’m looking at you! Big time elevation today. A fitting earn the stripes wind down effort near the end.

Silk and I arrived in North Conway and the Comfort Inn with plenty of daylight to spare. A treat!

Agog at the concept: tomorrow is our last route to tackle. Unbeknownst to Ron, the idea was floated by Mike and we all agreed: Ron will be the one to lead us into Crescent Beach. Gobs of friends and family are sure to be there to ring cowbells and cheer us in.

Day 46: North Conway, New Hampshire -> Portland, Maine Today was a whirlwind of color, excitement and flurries of activity.

I had two technical issues with my bike at the start in North Conway which needed Guide Brian’s mechanical skills. I had to hold off while our group went on ahead. Guide Brian bent to the task of sorting out my gearing and the electronics and he got me on the road in record time.

I was so looking forward to riding with Sandy, Ian and Pat but time was precious today and off they went. Silk and I rode with Guides Brent and Rae and we reveled in the 68 mile jaunt absorbing the dazzling colors in Baldwin particularly as we approached Portland. By the time the four of us whirred into Scarborough there was just enough time for Silk to grab a few slices of pizza lunch while I changed into dry kit. Now near the coast the slightly warmer temps meant shedding leg warmers and heavier jackets.

With Ron leading our razzle dazzle group we formed a serpentine line behind him as we rolled the final few miles from Scarborough to Crescent Beach State Park. Bruce came by with his GoPro and we all one by one saluted, waved, smiled and fist pumped our moods.

Ron pushed and pulled us and we loved it. Our last ride. 21 of us strong. He had a tear in his eye as we grouped around him and jubilantly rolled into the beach en masse to the clamor of cheering and ringing cowbells. Friends and families holding signs, smiling, waving, hugging. It was a scene.

Bike cleats and socks went flying, champagne and beers were poured, toasts were made, bikes were hoisted and we stood in the ocean with them. Guide Blake was taking photos and all around were families beaming in wonder all thinking the same thing, “They rode all the way across the country!”

The rolling waves hosted us as singly and in groups we lifted our bikes and cheered for ourselves. We finally collected into two groups and stood in the ocean: one group of our ten women (the most ever on a P2P journey) and the other of all of us together.

Portland to Portland 2022. We did it. It’s a puzzler to sort out the truth that by pedaling one day after another we rode across the USA. There’s a lesson in there somewhere and I’m catching glimpses of it.

It feels like a dream. A savage, resilient, deep, tender, beautiful, soaring, gritty, will I turn it into something dream.

Portland to Portland. Trained for, executed and now done.

Imagine that.

Stay tuned for a Final Dispatch from Lynn.

See the trip

Cross Country USA: Wisconsin to New York

Days 31-40: Madison, WI -> Cazenovia, NY. 3,368 total miles and 134,138 ft of total elevation.

Day 31: Milwaukee, Wisconsin Our rest day was blissful and busy. Massages, bike shop strolling and ice cream hunting happened. A sparky social hour and dinner the night before with a number of family members and friends thrown in added to the high spirits. We were sent on our way this morning from Hotel Indigo by an exuberant band of whooping and cheering Trek employees ringing cowbells, holding signs and exhorting us as we lit out to Milwaukee.

Whodathunk storied Milwaukee would have such an extensive cycling network of paths, trails and byways. We arrived via a continuing spiderweb of bike paths: the New Berlin, the Hank Aaron and so on. Make no mistake these were urban trails, some more than others. Still, we enjoyed river crossings on well-constructed wooden bridges, shady leafy sections, turtles and frogs on the paths along with glimpses of sand hill cranes and blue herons. It was a wildlife corridor to be thankful for.

Soon enough we were amidst a whirlwind of an intersection which happily had a bike-activated light to guide us over to the bridge and around the rotary to the Iron Horse, a converted warehouse which is now a boutique hotel. I wish I could remember who it was that confessed they didn’t realize “Iron Horse” referred to motorcycles. With 21 sparky alert cyclists and 5 sharp guides humor abounds.

This was a near to 90 mile day but it sure didn’t feel like it. The elevation was pancake-y, Tania Burke joined us for a bunch of miles and we cycled through Sandy’s small hometown. We were cheered through by her family and friends with signs (GO SANDY!) and cowbells. Her high school principal was there, too!

In the morning we will ride 3 miles to catch the noon ferry to Muskegon, don cycling kit and race the daylight (we will lose an hour) 35 miles to Holland, MI. A logistics day.

I was awake past my bedtime looking at a map of the USA. Absorbing the truth that my heart, lungs, legs, will power and a spritely group of comrades has combined to carry me so fluently and ably. Our dynamic committed group feels invincible. All day long our underlying motivation is “Over, under, through or around.” We roll into small towns and byways, take their measure or stop for lunch leaving nary a trace and we silently inexorably move on pointing east. Silk told me last night he was thinking of Memphis, wanting to see her. His comment was like a dart, reminding me of the sharpness of longing for home.

Day 32: Muskegon, Michigan Today was all about moving 21 cyclists, 21 bikes, and a minivan onto a ferry and over to Muskegon, MI. The two Trek Travel vans pulling the picnic trailer and the luggage trailer had to take the long way around because the vans are too tall for the ferry. We were ushered onto the ferry before the cars and instructed to secure our steeds with long straps. Working together we collected straps and got the bikes secured to each other and to various tie downs on both ferry side walls. We climbed the stairs, staked out our spots and settled in. Brent and Brian came around handing out lunches. The thrumming engines worked their magic and I zonked out for an hour or so.

Our arrival in MI came without a welcome sign so Guide Rae made a sign for us and we all took pics with it prior to setting off.

A clutch of us were prepped and ready to rumble immediately upon landing so off we went and it was a rollicking pace line for 36 miles. Pat, Sandy, Mike, Silk, Ian and I were moving in concert and with vigah. Mike guided us through a particularly byzantine intersection as we pedaled and flew. Being able to ride with Pat is always a treat. She lives at high altitude in Montana and her powerful piston legs set the tempo for any groups she’s in. We blazed through our allotted miles with palpable synergy. Hair on fire!

We blasted into the Holiday Inn Express in Holland, got out of our cycling shoes and within 15 minutes were eating a delicious dinner with all sorts of pastas ordered in by the guides. Next thing we knew it was dark. Tomorrow will come fast and we have a 90 mile day to Marshall. So kit needs to be organized, showers taken and here’s hoping our bodies unwind enough to allow sleep.

Day 33: Holland, Michigan Today was all Michigan all the time. Surprisingly different in mood, tone and feel than WI (these fly-over states sneak up on ya). We rode through small towns, past many open fields and on narrow inviting roads. We passed lakes, lots of pontoon boats, multiple small drinking establishments with the Pabst Blue Ribbon sign and even more lakes. It was mostly flat with a few rollers and plenty of scenery. An untaxing 90 miles. That’s really saying something. I’m not sure what but there it is.

The roads in MI are configured on the map as a whole bunch of squares. Our route had us on an overall zig-zag schematic all day. A sub-set of our cohort joined into a group on Strava during the many months of training prior to our P2P start. Seeing what others were doing was a motivator for Silk and he would duly report to me, “Cyclist X has done 100 miles and followed it up with 80 the next day.” Gah! It kept us on our toes. One of those Strava-ites was Sandy who lives in Michigan and rides routes that are all zigzags and squares and Silk noted it, “This Michigan Sandy rode 100 miles in a square!” We didn’t know if the person was a girl Sandy or a boy Sandy. Now we know.

Day 34: Marshall, Michigan Thunderstorms rocked the Marshall Holiday Inn Express during the night. I woke at 3:30 to rain lashing the windows. The inky dark was foreboding and I scurried back to bed. By 6 am the sky was clearing, it was warm and the wet roads were drying out. The sun would shine upon us once again. Having heard tell of the June/July P2P and of previous P2P trips of years past, I know we are having a seriously superb run of sun and warmth. South Dakota was a test of mighty proportion (all that heat and sun on top of big miles and elevation) but we’ve not had to deal with horrible winds and whipping rainstorms. Everyone’s bag has kit for rainy and forbidding temperatures but so far we are basking in the excellent cycling conditions.

Today was another zig zag day as we wound our way down to Toledo. Once again because of the low elevation day and so much pure flat riding, the 120 miles was painless. Lots of hours in the saddle to be sure leavened by plenty of appealing scenery, an 8 mile stint on a verdant bike path and low traffic roads. A huge bullfrog was leaping across the road (all that rain last night brought out the amphibians) and she managed one giant last leap to land in the grass just before I started to feint to the left to avoid her. Yeah!

Today we crossed into OH. Unfortunately it was on a road surrounded by cornfields and farmhouses and other than the tar improving immensely, there was no sign. Bummer. Guide Rae (who grew up in OH) decorated a cake for us at lunch which was better than any road sign.

Our relentless march toward the east. It feels less momentous than our time in the west, less dramatic habitats, more people, closer foliage and spaces. Still getting used to riding in the shade of huge oaks and even the fact there is actually shade on the roads. I marvel at the truth that just by pedaling I’ve moved from the Pacific Ocean and the expansive mountainous west now to Michigan. This truth both staggers and makes sense. One constant: the smiles we get from other outdoor humans when we cycle past with a wave and a greeting. I never tire of it.

We are smack in the geography of nowhere outside of Rossford, OH. Safe, fed and showered (plus porpoising time in the pool and laundry done, too) with 120 miles in our legs. It’s a classic P2P end of day feeling: tired, satisfied and eager for tomorrow’s adventure. But not quite yet.

Day 36: Oberlin, Ohio It had rained in the night so we were starting out on a freshly washed day. Pink morning clouds saw us leaving the Hotel Oberlin. While I eavesdropped on Guide Brian as he gave his always-precise morning instruction to the Early Birds and C group, it struck me that we start and end each day in a parking lot. It’s the in-between that romances.

For 9 years I divided my time between Portland, OR and Craftsbury, VT. Driving east across the country in May and west on the return in November on the northern route with my dog Towhee. We’d take our time while seeking camping, running, hiking and swimming places. I never gave OH a second thought.

Today reminded me that every state has beautiful places if one cares enough to go find them. Ohio sang all day: humming crickets, chittering kingfishers, killdeer calling their plaintive notes. Never heard and seen so many. Best cycling soundtrack a girl could wish for.

Rolling hills kept me focused and all the tidy Dutch-style barns caught my eye. It was sunny and toasty with a trifle of humidity. An 80 mile day and I had to find my climbing legs so I focused on using my glutes as we swept up and down, up and down the rolling hills.

Our route today had its tight spots. My Domane steed actually stopped shifting on the rear chain ring because the wires shook loose. Guide Brent was spit spot when I pulled into the rest stop at mile 71. He diagnosed the issue, pushed the wires back into place and I was ready to take it to the final hills of the day chasing Silk and Sandy in to the Punderson Manor Lodge.

Silk decided to be a telly presenter and he narrated out loud as Sandy and I whipped it up over the last mile on the narrow winding road into the Punderson. Floating behind us he broadcast our final push, “It’s Jennings upping the ante now but look at Blix! She’s over her rough patch and determined to outlast Jennings who’s having none of it. Blix sneaks a look to the left! Jennings relentlessly still on her shoulder and Blix makes one last push going to the legs hoping to shake Jennings loose. She does it! She does it! Blix takes the top of the podium!”

Never knew Sandy or I could laugh so hard while pedaling a bike at top speed.

Day 37: Newbury, Ohio Today’s 63 miles are in line with our previous two days of 80 and 86 miles. We all knew what was waiting for us after today: three consecutive century days with prodigious elevation. So…pro tip: stay where your feet are.

As we pushed off from Punderson State Park and our Manor Inn lodging autumn was in the air. The bright September equinox sunshine swept my poor night of sleep away and I was ready to launch 20 minutes early. I amused myself by sitting on the front stone porch watching every one attend to their last details so they could launch and ride with their group. The snap in the air had us all in a bouncy mood. Autumn leaves were swirling in the breeze with the Inn’s flag flapping and snapping.

Watching people figure out what combination of things to wear is fascinating. Wearing too much means sweating, overheating and then riding in wet or damp clothing. Not fun when in the saddle for hours. Happily the van stops allow for clothing changes with a laundry basket at the ready to collect what we jettison.

My motto (borrowed from Guides Brian and Rae), “Be bold, go cold.” I wear enough but am chilly to start and will be chilly until a few miles have passed and my heating system kicks in and/or I’ve begun climbing. Can’t bear to be overdressed. Can’t bear to be cold. Self diagnosis? Classic endurance athlete.

It was retina-stimulating appealing day of gorgeous Amish countryside scenery, scant cars and serious glimpses into Amish every-day lives. Buttery sunshine. Energetic winds. Scarlet and orange leaves flying. Saw a woman in head covering and long blue dress mowing the lawn with a reel push mower in bare feet. Two overall-wearing boys with straw hats picking pumpkins and squashes with their similarly-dressed father. A two horse-drawn plow turning over sod in a huge field. The only sound a small rhythmic twang from some part of the harness.

Clothesline art was on display at many farmhouses; endless lines of perfectly hung clothes sorted by type and color. On one porch, ten house dresses hanging in a range of blues, greens, pinks and creams. I took not a photo and wished I could have. So many tidy door yards, gardens, clotheslines, buggies, sheep, cows and horses in rich pastures. All idyllic with an orderliness and sense of peace pervading.

The miles swept by until Sandy, Silk and I found ourselves under glaring dark skies traversing the Pymatuning Reservoir. The crossing was both alluring and forbidding. It had been awhile since we’d seen so much water. The temps were dropping, the angry winds whisking us across with white caps surging. The water was black and roiling. There was a reward: the PA sign on our side of the narrow no-shoulder road and the OH sign across the way. This was our chance! We leaned our steeds along the guard rail and ran across the road for the OH sign and then caught the PA sign. A new state!

We tried to out-ride the coming drops to no avail. The last 7 miles it began to get serious. The sky blackened and the drops were coming down hard. During my elite racing days this was a thing: the first competitor who mentioned the weather was not going to win. True to form with Sandy and Silk: it started to rain and we stopped so Sandy could put on her jacket (Silk and I had none to put on) and then we rolled. Not a word spoken. Upon arrival sweeping into the Meadville Holiday Inn Express portico: we three whooped and yelled. WE DID IT! YEAH!

Hoping my Sidi leather shoes dry out. We’ve accumulated a nice stash of newspaper by now which comes in handy for such things. If not, I have a new reserve pair that has been riding along in my bag in the luggage trailer.

Fist bumps all the way around. Another day. Another route. Another state. Rain or not. We were indomitable.

Day 38: Meadville, Pennsylvania It was a crystalline autumn day that called out loud. Autumn thrills me. The snap in the air. Knowing that the resplendent leaves we admire are in the process of dying makes their beauty reverberate all the more. It’s the time of year when so many young runners test their racing skills on cross country courses. On this day of cycling, the golden rods were the stars. Their massing, their yellow so shining, bees and butterflies swarming their golden tops. It’s no weed — a member of the aster family — I consider it as alluring as any lupine or daisy. We were surrounded by it most of the day until we started up into the Allegheny Forest leaving the Kinzua Dam behind.

A 3 mile climb was ahead and the clutch of colleagues in front announced their presence with their brilliant blinking tail lights and array of jacket colors. I could make out Greg. Sus and Maura in the way off. By this point in the journey, it’s easy to identify our mates by their kit and I could spy Pat a half mile ahead. Her bright yellow jacket and her identifying signature of strong pumping legs moving with alacrity gave me a beacon to chase. Between us was Silk. As I moved up Silk called to me, “2.5 miles to go Jennings!”

Toiling onward I came even with Pat who used her precious breath to say, “You go Girlie” so I did. I could hear Silk’s rhythmic breathing behind me and I knew he was getting after it, too. “Here we go,” I thought.

Near the top I was stopped by a stick that got caught in my front fork at the top of the tire. Silk whisked past. I extricated the stick and tore off after him. There was about a half mile to go to the van and I chased him all the way until we roared in to Guide Brian’s shady spot side-by-side. Smiles a mile wide. It’s never a race. Been there and done that. It’s always fun to set up a pursuit like this knowing with full knowledge that it’s all about my pursuit of myself.

Everyone completed the route into Bradford knowing two more days of the same distance awaited. The knowledge that there’s only one week left has everyone fired up. Both because we are nearing the end of this endeavor and because we want it to go on forever.

Our five buoyant guides. Indefatigable, competent, professional and always willing. They are our stars.

Day 39: Bradford, Pennsylvania Our 7:45 start was as nippy as the day before but with the promise of sunnier skies and less wind. The only change I made in kit was a heavier beanie under my helmet. With the promise of crossing into New York at mile 26, I was inhabiting the focused mind set “Century 2 with 1 more to go.”

Silk, Sandy and I were joined by Guide Blake. He rides a spanking new bright red high end concept Trek and it has a particularly loud sewing machine freewheel sound. A sound I consistently like and one of the reasons I like my gravel bike. He is fast and nimble. He and I paired up at the front and before many miles had slipped past we were climbing a mile-long winding road and Blake was telling me about how Megan got started guiding with Trek. He had me laughing out loud as we climbed — cruel!

Megan was waiting for us at mile 17 for our first rest stop in a gravel pull-out in the cold. No sun there yet. Blake took off to catch the C group who was some miles ahead, we stopped briefly and left just as quickly. When warmed up, standing around is not appealing and our usual in and out at rest stops remains our prevailing mode all the more so when it’s 44 degrees.

Within 30 seconds I realized: my bike would not shift gears. The electronic shifting was dead. I called out to Sandy, “Can’t shift. Turning back. Tell Silk. Keep going. See you at lunch!”

Just like that my 100 mile day turned into something else entirely.

There was no charger in the mini-van with Megan. If there had been, she’d have whipped it out, plugged it into my bike, tucked it into the little bento box treat carrier on my bike and I’d have been good to go. Instead she called Brent who was stationed at the 37 mile rest stop, asked him if he had the charger in his van (he did) and they concocted the plan of meeting in the middle so he could hand it off to her in the mini-van.

Before I got in the mini van I looked Megan in the eye and said, “I’m not getting in unless you return me to this exact spot.” She smiled big time and said, “Of course!” She knew and I knew riding every single mile of this junket was on my mind.

We drove 10 miles on the twisting back roads, crossed into NY, met Brent, he ran across the road to hand her the charger, we turned around and zoomed back to the 17 mile mark rest stop. Guide Brian who was riding sag showed up and together they got my bike reassembled. I’d not taken my helmet off and was back on the bike with Brian accompanying me within 5 minutes. By now I was probably 45 minutes behind Silk and Sandy.

Brian is not only exceptionally fast and strong on the bike, he’s a tire changing and mechanical issue solving whiz He told me he would be my domestique and together we ramped up the speed and powered along with only one stop for the Welcome to New York sign. Riding in his slip stream, I snuck glances at my watch: we were moving at 22, 23 and 24 mph until we reached the 37 mile rest stop with Brent. Brian stopped to refill his bottle, I flew onward. It took him 10 miles to catch me.

Over hill and dale we rode like that — as fast as possible. I knew my day was going to have an entirely different flavor but there was no other way to get caught up to the group. Rampaging the final miles, we blasted into lunch at the 56 mile mark as Silk and Sandy were preparing to leave. Made it!!

Needless to say the remaining miles of my day were not pretty. Sandy and Silk towed my carcass until Silk told Sandy to go on ahead. The last 10 miles Silk patiently pulled me in to Corning. I was empty on the hills and luckily the last 25 miles of our ride had a net downhill profile. It was a stunning autumn day loaded with views and changing leaves. Confession: I rode much of the day with my head down.

Century 2 of 3 in a row? Done.

Guide Brian? My hero!

Day 40: Corning, New York
First feature of this day of cycling: rain.
Second feature: hills.
Third feature: third century in a row.
Fourth feature: tenth day of cycling since our rest day in Madison, WI.

This quartet of circumstances was exactly what all the months of training were for. Psychological training accompanies physical training. I trained when I didn’t necessarily want to and when the weather wasn’t what I wanted. Training happened on perfect days and on imperfect days.

The real dilemma of the morning was what combination of cycling kit to wear. Getting wet no matter the gear is one essential truth of cycling, running and sculling. Ideally one creates enough heat to counteract wet feet and hands. The very best rain gear (as any runner, cyclist, nordic skier, hiker or sculler knows) never really keeps one dry. Sweating complicates the whole system. So one does the best one can and then sallies forth regardless. Got to wear enough but not too much because climbing means getting heated up. A long day to be in cold wet base layers. I chose Rapha tights and a Showers Pass rain jacket along with a helmet cover. Zipping and unzipping the jacket were my means of temperature control to keep sweating to a minimum.

No pictures taken today. The push to cover the miles mattered more. We started out in pouring rain, enjoyed short respites of no rain and a taunting brightening sky, had a few sprinkles here and there and then just bruised skies. Not a breath of wind all day and plenty of wide open scenery and quiet roads leading us to Cazenovia. Plenty of time to think, take stock, contemplate and marvel at how we’ve pulled together to get where we are.

Our traveling band sweeps in and out of towns doing not much more than trying to find ice cream and sleeping in a hotel (Sandy and Pat did go to the SPAM museum in Austin, MN). Far from our homes and our daily routines, we are the right-sized group to enjoy each other’s company and build community while also easily adhering to routines and organizing principles that make our days flow. Unexpectedly we’ve built community doing laundry. We had another organizing principle which came from Bruce, the fastest and strongest rider of the 21 of us. His buoyant nature combined with his GoPro helped create a fantastic daily routine.

With 26 phones and 26 pairs of eyes, there were lots of photos taken and shared every day on What’s App. it was a veritable feast at the end of the day and I’m not the only one that would lie in bed at night reliving the day via photo. Bruce rode with a Go Pro and each evening he would post a 60-second video of our day complete with music on What’s App. He’d use his own video and photos and then use many of the photos we shared via the app. On the rare lean day when we were so focused on riding we didn’t stop for photos (Day 24 I’m looking at you) he implored us, “I need photos, send anything.” We all obliged by sending photos of our beloved cats and dogs.

This rainy day was a day to allow my thoughts to curl into the fact that we had a mere week left. It was a day to stay where my feet were and to appreciate how far we’ve come. I couldn’t help but start to wonder what it would feel like to be finished. Would it feel like a long dream?

Minutes after getting off our bikes in Cazenovia at the Brewster Inn, soaked and cold, Megan was handing out spanking hot tomato soup and the most delectable hand-made grilled cheese sandwiches off the camping stove in the picnic trailer.

Ian was a goner, “Cheese toasties!” he said in his inimitable British accent. None of us could answer, our mouths were too full.

Rest Day 4 coming right up! Recap of the last ten days of riding miles since we departed Madison, WI: 89, 40, 92, 120, 86, 79, 63, 101, 101, 100.

Stay tuned for more from Lynn.

See the trip

Cross Country USA: South Dakota to Wisconsin

Days 21-29: Rapid City, SD -> Madison, WI. 2,497 total miles and 104,452 ft of total elevation.

Day 21: Rapid City, South Dakota How is it that we are steadfastly heading east and yet spent the entire day enveloped in merciless heat with ferocious, whipping, unrelenting head winds. Doubling one’s efforts results in regular pacing. That was the only way to make forward progress on this day of 113 miles, 4,000 feet and a tardy start to the morning in Rapid City. With 9 days until our next day off we have five century plus days with lesser days scattered amidst them. Silk wanted to be a meteorologist when he was a sapling. His answer: southeast winds.

Two colleagues were down and out during the night. The guides were on the move sorting out how to help them while getting the rest of us on the road. Their bikes were put in the mini van, their stay extended at the Alex Johnson. It was disconcerting to watch two strong cyclists’s trip derail. The guides will be all about getting them back into our fold as soon as they are mended up. Silk, Sandy and I set forth in the golden sun knowing that the day was destined to be a scorcher. We rode strong, with brief stops at every offered rest stop. For all the liquids we were consuming it was instructive to realize how our bodies were absorbing all of it all day long.

Riding into and through Badlands National Park was the star attraction today. The shimmering heat in the broiling sun accompanied by swirling non-stop headwinds meant I had one one eye on the timeless awe-inducing buttes and pinnacles, expanses of space and the clay’s arresting colors. My central governor eye was focused on drinking enough and wondering what the road temperature was. Silk suggested we stop at the Badlands visitor center for relief and we crumpled off the bikes and staggered inside for bottles of lemonade, Gatorade and Powerade which we guzzled straightaway. Found out later: it was 97 degrees with road temperature 109 degrees.

My take on being fresh off a rest day: my body has fully adapted to what I am asking of it. I trained at a certain level and am now feeling my body leap to perform at a far higher level than I ever trained at. Sun arms, insulated water bottles and the will to engage? Fired up, ready to go. Tomorrow will be just as demanding.

Day 22: Kadoka, South Dakota This is the day that spanked me. Red sky in morning, cyclists take warning. It was a furnace of a day. Just when I thought it couldn’t get hotter, it did. Just when I thought it couldn’t get windier, it was. Biting swirling headwinds finished out the day of crossing body winds both head, mid-body and tail.

Working to breathe, sweat, replenish with drinking and keeping hands and feet from going numb in seething heat was a challenging task. It was a long day of dead straight miles, rolling hills that never got easier, building heat and vexing winds that destroyed any sense of rhythm and flow on the bike. It was a brutal day that sapped energy, fun and joyfulness. The first thing every athlete learns is you can’t control the weather so you focus on what you can control which is your reaction to what amounts to a challenging day in which to perform.

Given the challenges, the complaining was negligible. The mask of fatigue, wear and tear and downright physical breakdown was evident on so many faces. The guides were superb about having ice and cold drinks plus as much water as we needed. Watermelon slices and even ice cream bars were on offer by Rae at the added extra 104 mile rest stop. As the heat and winds built the rest stops were more and more businesslike. No chatter and joking around today. It was a frightfully long day which included losing an hour as we crossed over into central time.

Silk pulled me in today. Battered by the heat and wind by mile 50, I was all about having my head down and keeping Silk close so I could stay the course. 115 miles later we rolled into the Arrowwood Resort after a wee bit over 9 hours in the saddle. All I cared about was getting indoors and into the air conditioning with a shower to follow. It was a hard long day on the bike today. I’m glad I made it in.

Day 23: Oacoma, South Dakota “Let everything happen to you, Beauty and terror, Just keep going, No feeling is final.” – Rainer Maria Rilke.

A new day ahead. All around me I heard, “I made it through yesterday, I can make it through anything” in some iteration or another. There was a lightness to our entire group this morning. To think we’ve been on the road for three weeks perplexes — somehow this day slips past and then another and another and before we know it we are headed to Mitchell, SD. Silk and I remind each other every morning: “Savor the day.” We do, we do. The elasticity of time shows itself over and over.

Today was prima facie evidence of how getting through a day that seems impossible can bring oneself to another experience entirely. The collective mood of one day ago was of flinty determination amid difficult circumstances that pushed and pulled at us all day. The endless rolling hills that required toiling into a direct headwind, the near to 100 degree temperatures, the repetitive landscape not unlike that of the Coyote and the Roadrunner background scenes and the sheer distance of 115 miles on a day that felt challenging merely standing still and breathing amidst the wind and heat.

Not that anyone was whinging. Didn’t have to even open one’s mouth to do that — the somewhat hellish circumstances created an equality of experience. We all knew how tough it was and the only choice we had was to keep pushing into it. Which we did. Watching the others get on their bikes meant I could do it, too. Watching Ron roll in for lunch with no more shade on the side of the trailer as I was shoving off….I saluted him and kept going. He raised a hand back at me. Our gestures spoke volumes. The guides are masterful at not framing the day for us, allowing us to push into the day and experience the Real all on our own.

Today’s 75 miles and the landscapes we traveled through gave us more to marvel at. Six of us rode together taking turns at the front keeping the pace between 15 and 17 mph. Fast enough to feel we were moving, not so fast that we were pushing and straining. Our easy camaraderie flowed and the miles slipped by happily. Upbeat small conversations sprinkled between us.

This road while flatter with no real hills to speak of had more to it than yesterday’s desolation. Kestrels and killdeer were wheeling all around. Black crickets leaped on the road. The peculiarly large grasshoppers of the Dakotas sprung high, their arthropod selves brushing my shins all morning. Gentle reminders that I am always traveling through some creature’s habitat. Two wheeled proximity is finest kind.

The fresh early light, the lack of heat and the aftereffects of yesterday still reverberating, we happily and freely stuck together through van stops 1 and 2 and we rolled into lunch more or less together. The heat built as the afternoon got going but by then we were all safely ensconced in the Comfort Inn in Mitchell with some of us porpoising in the indoor swimming pool. By 1:30 pm it was 100 degrees outside. Whoa!

A sweet day for the P2P contingent. We are individually strong and collectively powerful. Looking around at my fellow two-wheeled travelers leaves me pondering what it is to want to do something no matter what happens.

Day 25: Sioux Falls, South Dakota Seventh state. There was a spritely feeling this morning as our stalwart comrades emerged from the Holiday Inn into the early autumn feel of a crisp bright morning. Seems everyone had dug into their secondary bags that had ridden for days unopened in the luggage trailer.

I saw helmet covers, tights, shoe covers, shoe booties, and other new layers of kit that hadn’t yet seen the light of day. Cyclists come in several flavors: those who stay bare-legged until tights become a necessity and those who don tights the moment it gets below 65. Those who go full monty winter wear when autumn starts singing and those who patch together arm warmers, a vest, a light jacket and a beanie to create enough warmth but not so much that one starts sweating Twinkies the moment exertion becomes real.

Put me in the patching together category. I had to grin at Sandy when I saw her because her distinctive orange helmet was now covered in a neon helmet topper. She had on tights, shoe covers, and three top layers including her now grown son’s long ago childhood black fuzzy vest.
Silk and I were bare-legged. At mile stop 21 Sandy shed a few things but it took until mile stop 44 that her helmet cover came off. “Let your head breathe a bit Sandy,” Guide Brian implored. Brian is of the “Be bold, go cold” contingent and I am right there with him.

It was not an elevation day, it was a distance day. The only way to face 126 miles is to get going and let the road unfold. Silk was quick to announce, “100 miles to go!” when we’d covered 26 miles. My announcing comes in the form of when distance covered and distance yet to go are exactly the same. These low elevation days mean lots and lots of pedaling, not so much downhill fun and a chance to examine how one chunks the miles. Some century-plus days I’m all about every 25 miles. If the weather is taxing (like 23 days in a row of mid- 90’s temperatures, century-plus distances and vexing winds) then I’m an every 10 miles kinda gal.

Today I didn’t chunk the distance at all. Perhaps because the Minnesota sign beckoned, the air was light, the night time rain clouds had cleared away leaving freshly washed roads and skies. The sun worked its way out and I felt capable. All day the cornfields were magnificent silent totems as we wheeled by.

Fanny Management Report Update: Scoring myself as an A-. Obviously I’m a long way from being a Coppertone baby model but with nothing much to cope with these days life is good.

Five superb experienced guides in one place standing still — what? As the days tick by we are all the more in awe of how much we depend upon them and their derring do. Their organization, logistical planning, meal planning and providing plus their bike mechanical and tire changing skills keep us on the road and in good repair. We are endlessly grateful and appreciative. We tell them that, too!

Day 27: Austin, Minnesota When does a 117 mile day feel more like an 80 mile day? When we get to cycle the Root River Trail, a 40-mile shady, peaceful verdant bike path that left us glowing and beaming.

Other highlights:

Four of our group were heroes today helping to right an over-turned Amish buggy driven by some youngsters. The horse startled and bolted off the road into an adjacent field. Our colleagues helped sort out the tangled harness and got the buggy and children back in business.

At the 105 mile mark we had completed a mile high climb up onto a bluff which revealed itself to be an agricultural Shangri-La. Storybook fields, the most bounteous apple orchards I’ve ever seen, hops and flowers resplendent. It was stunning. We were so high up and everything was falling away to the sides all around us. Otherworldly.

Spirits were high as we wound our way to the Mississippi River and La Crosse. We crossed the border into WI and fun ensued at the impressive state line Wisconsin sign. Crossing the Mississippi River held me in thrall. To think I’d pedaled all the way to the Mississippi. Couldn’t quite wrap my brain around it in the moment.

Day 28: Lacrosse, Wisconsin Leaving the Charmant Hotel’s lap of comfort and luxury our robust and sparky trio set off into the fog at 7:17 this morning. It took some intricate urban riding and derring do until we were safely out of La Crosse and headed for the heart of the Driftless region of WI. An unglaciated unspoiled area filled with diversity. Forested slopes give way to dramatic valleys and with limestone bluffs that have been carved for years by sparkling streams. A large Amish community thrives here and as we whirred through we got to see glimpses of Amish farm life.

Outdoor porches loaded with drying clothes hung in perfect order: the trousers and leggings, shirts and pillowcases, colorful kitchen tea towels. So many farms with clotheslines it appeared Tuesday was laundry day. Barefoot bonneted women mowing lawns with push mowers. Horse-drawn plows with squeaking leather harnesses. Fields laden with pumpkins, squashes and greens.

We came upon four barefooted children walking along the side of the road. Two boys and two girls silently carrying Igloo lunch containers, with straw hats and trousers (boys) and bonnets with long dresses (girls). They gave us the exact same look as we spun past and saw our smiles: shy smiles, wide eyes and not a peep. Sandy and I exchanged smiles. Their innocence struck us both.

Today was another regular 100+ mile, 5000 feet of elevation day. Silk and I were familiar with the sharp long climbs and the endless serpentine descents, great tar and scenery. We rode in the local 120 mile Horribly Hilly a few years back. It took awhile for the fog to dissipate. The morning moisture collected on my black wool arm warmers and looked like spider web etchings.

One thing I will never become inured to is the amount of carnage along the road. My heart is soft and I feel the sharp recognition of the destroyed bodies of skunks, ‘possums, raccoons, foxes, deer, cats and too many bundles of feathered creatures. Today a fox lay as if sleeping and a small white with orange cat punctured the early morning miles. I was quiet for awhile after seeing the kitty. It was right in front of someone’s house. Didn’t they see her?

It felt a long day. I don’t know why some days the miles slip by and other days it feels like I am stuck in the 60’s. It’s surely not the company. Silk and Sandy are superb and alluring cycling companions. The silent miles, the conversational miles, the philosophical miles, the story-telling miles and the observational miles are what knit our hours together. The lead changes are organic, the features we silently point out, our admiration of glossy cows and forever views capture all three of us in similar ways. Sandy will say, “I’m so in love with this valley” while I am pointing out a raptor and Silk is agog at the sparkling streams. We’ve mastered the art of each riding our own ride while riding in proximity.

As the day wears on we are more silent than conversational and we are bound by the same task: getting to the end and finishing with verve and safety. The effort of climbing becomes a task shared and we push each other on in small helpful ways. When I was losing steam today, Sandy pushed Silk up the last few hills and I urged her on to give him a run for his money. She is gritty and resilient. Silk always seems to find another gear. Tomorrow we have a 54 mile punchy hills with considerable climbing route into Madison where the Hotel Indigo is waiting to host our third rest day. We are riding the crest of excellent sunny weather and are thankful for it.

Recap of the last ten days of riding miles since we departed Rapid City: 113, 115, 76, 73, 126, 80, 117, 104 with 54 tomorrow.

Day 29: Spring Green, Wisconsin Today was a serious riding day but not because of distance with that measly 55 miles on the docket. It was the Driftless showing her might. Exhilarating descents are followed by, you guessed it, climbs and hills that make 9 consecutive day cycling legs bark and howl. Our ailing colleagues are back to full strength and in the fold on their saddles. As one of them said to me, “It’s the unexpected things that are so challenging to deal with.”

Our day started in a dense humid air fog. The day cleared to warm sunshine and had us rolling into Madison with cicadas humming. In between we wheeled through farmland, past horse farms and on beckoning winding and twisting narrow country roads. There were plenty of ponies, chickens and goats along the way to go with cows and horses. With 15 miles to go we were still seeing such things until soon enough the first Volvo, then BMW and then Mercedes went by. Madison and Rest Day 3 weren’t that far away.

We were happy to have guides Brent and Rae rolling with us. They had their own cat and mouse going on up the hills and it was smile-inducing cheering them on. Young legs!

Twenty one cyclists strong we arrived in Madison to a welcoming array of friendly Trek folks (including Tania Burke!) who were ready with a picnic on the grounds of the illustrious Capitol. The food was excellent and the grassy setting was appealing. After the foodies we had one more mile to the Hotel Indigo. Let Rest Day 3 begin!

Stay tuned for more from Lynn.

See the trip

Cross Country USA: Montana to South Dakota

Days 12-19: Missoula, MT -> Rapid City, SD. 1638 total miles and 42,887 ft of total elevation.

Day 12: Missoula, Montana Our first rest day was over and our clutch of riders was anxious and eager to get going. So much so that the guides released us early. On tap for the next 8 days: five days of 100+ miles plus two in the 90’s and an easier day of 73. The sound of so many cycling shoes clicking into pedals was a welcome musical note as we lit out for Helena, 117 miles and 5000 feet of elevation away. If there was a collective thought bubble it looked like this, “The rest day was fun but I’m ready to get back on the road.”

Route 12 was today’s highlight with its open ribbon byways with gigantic rock formations looming. The latter had me wishing I’d paid more attention in geology class at Princeton. The Little Blackfoot River meandered nearby and Silk’s osprey count was high.

We did a bit of climbing but the real climb came at mile 100 (Show Time at mile 100, can you believe?) when we started climbing up and over Mullan Pass. It was 4 miles of climbing though not as steep as Lolo Pass last week and with a gangbusters tailwind to boot. Our treat was to find Rae and her irrepressible smile at the top with an array of rest-stop yummies. Each guide has their own rest stop and lunching style. Rae’s whiteboards are smile-inducing.

The cross-wind whipping whirlwind 10 mile descent to the flats leading to Helena had me in a tight tuck and grinning all the way down to the flats leading into Helena. Approaching Helena we saw a cloud of windblown smoke and six helicopters choppering the skies ferrying water to a nearby wildfire.

Day 14: Bozeman, Montana This early morning found us at the Lark Hotel prepping for departure in the crisp nippy air. The sun hadn’t found us yet so our morning logistics and tasks were undertaken with quicker steps combined with short stops at the outdoor fire pit to warm hands and backsides. We were riding to breakfast at the Feed Cafe this morning and then launching into the day from there.

Blake had told us we would quickly become a well organized beehive and he was right. By now we were all on the dot each morning with no wasted steps or motion. Our tasks: donning cycling kit, putting everything back in bags that had been taken out the night before, figuring out what layers were right for the cold start and the later intense sun, getting bikes out of rooms, installing charged fore and aft bike lights, filling water bottles, making sure our labeled and packed string bags are in either the picnic or rest stop vans, snapping a pic of the white board, stuffing snacks into jersey pockets, carrying luggage to the luggage trailer, confirming room is clean, leaving a tip for the cleaning staff, triple-checking nothing has been left behind and then hopping on bikes for the mile ride to breakfast.

Bozeman to Columbus was our third century plus day and with 2700 feet of elevation it promised to be a less taxing day. We moved on out of town and in just a short while found ourselves on Bozeman Hill Road. A stunner of a serpentine road with views that would not quit. Storybook fields, meadows, and mountain views were ours along with red tail hawks soaring for good measure. One of the distinct pleasures of this adventure: a new route to be discovered every single day.

The B’s were grinning ear to ear as we swooped, exclaimed, stopped for photos and reveled in this perfection cycling in a drop dead gorgeous place. A few of us stopped to stare at the array of mountains in front of us when I happened to look behind us for an equally jaw-dropping view.

We crossed the Yellowstone River with its glacial flour milky flow. It and the surrounding expanses of fields and mountains felt timeless. I never tired of letting my eyes wander over these peaks and spaces. As the day slipped by the visuals entranced. Ian even caught a glimpse of a sleek antelope. The heat steadily ticked up and the guides added an extra rest stop at mile 100 which was more than welcome.

We pulled into the Columbus Super 8 happy to get out of the sun. Traveling in a group and in sub-groups means there are recurring themes that serve as punchlines and organizing principals. A main one? Laundry. The doing of it, the finding of machines, the sharing of soap pods, coins and intel meant it was a “takes a village” approach for smooth group execution. Before even a few days had gone by there were a subset who were sharing loads. It was also abundantly clear that Mike, with his totemic Ironman tattoo on his powerful right calf, was the Laundry Titan. Without fail he was first to find the machine(s) and relay reliable information about where, what and how. A blink of an eye too late and your bag of laundry was fifth in an orderly line on the floor awaiting its turn. This time in Columbus, Mark monitored the lone machine to then text the next person in line that their bag was up for processing.

Day 15: Lovell, Wyoming This 90 mile day distinguished itself with it’s particular stint of afternoon miles in seething heat. Looking for a sliver of shade was a fool’s errand and it took teamwork, mental fortitude and the guide’s uncanny sense of when and where to place vans for the rest stops. The remarkable landscape of MT changed as we neared the more hardscrabble border with WY. The sagebrush was more prevalent, the winds relentless.

The post-lunch 22 mile stretch was a nose to the ground push. No shade, fearsome headwinds, less treed landscape, and the road stretching out forever in front of us. It would have been a lonesome scenario were I not surrounded by the buoyancy of Sandy and Silk. Guide Blake showed up a few miles in and got in front which was fortuitous because only minutes later Sandy called out, “Jennings! Is my rear flat?” I focused in and sure enough, she had a puncture. I called ahead to Blake who wheeled around and came to help her and we pressed on knowing they’d catch back up.

Rae soon joined Silk, Sandy and me and for the next 90 minutes we traded leads and rode with heads down, legs and brains dialed in. I didn’t let my thoughts wander too much because I wanted to hold my place in our line. Preserving mental energy for moving the bike forward was paramount. If hell is other people that is not the case on this trip. Riding with others who are well-matched makes the miles slip by with even more flair. My Garmin told me later that we were facing off with 15 mph head winds. Upon arrival in Lovell my eyes were red and dried out.

Today we were completely dependent on the guides and their van stops every 13 miles after lunch and all the way to mile 90. Knowing a guide is ahead with sustenance, abundant ice and cold water plus a dose of good cheer kept us on task. We finally pulled into our oasis the Horseshoe Bend Motel. It looked humble as a barn stall and happily it was a wonderful respite complete with outdoor meals on a shady grassy parklet. We would be up and out very early in the morning for the 100 mile haul over to Sheridan. Our route? Up and over Big Horn Pass which will test mightily.

Day 16: Sheridan, Wyoming How do the guides keep track of 21 cyclists on the open road? There is no imperative that anyone ride with anyone else, there is no requirement that any particular pace or rhythm be adhered to. There’s no rule that one can’t stop at a local watering hole en route just because it’s there…just kidding.

Our ages range from 55 – 72 and the great equalizer is that we all trained steadfastly and with huge motivation for this peerless trip. Individual strengths come into play each day, every ride, mile after mile. It was athletic eye candy all day long and hugely motivating to see our group rising mightily and together to meet the daily challenges. Finding motivation in the most interesting and unexpected ways is possible with eyes and mind wide open.

The guides configure each day’s rest stops and lunch so they are synched with the overall day, suitable locations on the day’s route (is there shade?) as well as allowing for the pace differences that exist among 21 cyclists. So that the 21 of us more or less convene for lunch at the same time the guides perform a magic trick. They send us off in the morning with intervals of 15 to 30 minutes between groups. Their motto is always, “Start with your group, ride as you wish.” How is all this communicated? Both with What’s App and Ride With GPS on our phones. This way the guides can update how our day is to be organized with ease and no fuss.

By the time we had Missoula in the rear view, it was clear that Ron, Doyle, and Lynn wanted to leave as early as possible every morning so they could accomplish their day with no time worries and also be able to share lunchtime camaraderie. Blake was on board with this idea and the trio were dubbed by Doyle: the Early Birds.

For the rest of the trip, these three indomitable, upbeat, patient and persistently buoyant cyclists became the touchstone for the rest of us. Their conversations and every-mile shared experience was a model for how to combine forces and strengths. As Ron says, “It seemed like Lynn, being the strongest, would always find a way to let me lead our pace line on a downhill section!”

As the days began to pile up and the miles and elevation mounting precipitously, the Early Birds stood as testament to the rest of us, “If they are doing it, I can too.”

With the Big Horn Pass on tap for our day the 21 member string of us stretched over many many miles. It was a 100 mile, 7800 feet day. With Guides Megan and Brent on bikes, Blake, Brian and Rae had their hands full keeping the rest of us watered, fed, buoyed and on track. The task of getting up and over Big Horn Pass alternately loomed and motivated. The white board said it all: look at all those rest stops!

Our pre-dawn start lent a sense of otherworldliness to this day’s endeavor. One by one we each pedaled every single mile of this 20 mile climb. Climbing is so often a solitary endeavor with each of us bent to the task. Seeing the guides along the way either on bike or at van stops chirks us up every time. The 20 mile climb was both a challenge and a joy. I noted that akin to my experience in the Himalaya in Nepal that as the elevation goes up so does the cost of taking a sip of water. For every sip, that’s a breath not taken. Thus after the sip, breathing is on the double to catch back up.

Day 17: Gillette, Wyoming How is it to face down 109 miles after having ridden 101 miles all while tomorrow’s 111 are looming? There’s an optimism that infuses all of us on the morning starts and that bright-eyed bushy-tailed demeanor gets slowly extinguished over the course of 8+ hours out in the sun, wind and hills. No matter what ride it is and how incredibly appealing it all is, the last 10 – 15 miles are a struggle. For every single person.

I was on my way to the pool after pulling into Gillette to the Hampton Inn and I met Greg getting his luggage. He’d just finished. He looked at me with towel and board shorts and said, “Why is the last 15 miles so dang hard? Is it the heat?” He was right, it was 90 degrees as we traversed the mind numbing ugliness of the outskirts of Gillette. I said, “No matter what ride it has been the last miles are almost unbearable, aren’t they?” He smiled and said, “Just got to keep pedaling to get it done.” He was so right.

By rote I took a photo of the day’s whiteboard. I will confess to the dulling effect of all these numbers. Most mornings I snap this pic not paying one whit of attention to what is actually on the board. Sandy will come over and tell me, as she did this morning, “18. 40, 62.” Which refers to rest stop, rest stop and lunching.

I’ll say it to myself a few times, silently get astride the bike, start pedaling in the sunshine flowing like honey early morning and promptly forget the numbers.

The road out of Gillette was winding, long, quiet, with views forever and legs that were still remembering yesterday’s 7000+ climb over Big Horn Pass. Seven of us grouped together: 5 gents and 2 power women. The headwinds were relentless but not ferocious. So we took turns leading and the leader would pull for 2 miles or so before moving left, so the next rider in rotation would be up front for their chance to pull. We were seamless like that to 18, 40 and again to lunch at 62.

Today our guides showed me once again that how they do anything is how they do everything. At lunch there was not an inch of shade to be found. The guides arranged the vans so we would have a slice of shade and, like small animals at feeding time, we would each snag a small camp chair and quietly take in the needed calories. We all know the respite is short and we must soon get back on the bikes.

Not long after lunch we stopped in Spotted Horse at the biker bar and Blake lead us inside the watering hole and we emerged with ice cream bar treats. Thank you Trek Travel! Sandy and I rocked in the wooden porch chair, the bikers and their Harleys and our group with our Domanes peaceably shared this one of a kind oasis.

Maura provided the nature moment of the day when she spied the free-running herd of antelope. Check out that ungulate’s perfect middle-distance running form. Swoooon!

Day 18: Spearfish, South Dakota Our last day in WY with SD beckoning. Theme for today in this order: headwinds, crossing headwinds, crossing tailwinds, tailwinds.

Happily we scored some tailwinds on the huge uphills that has us leaving WY and heading to the Black Hills and SD. But the morning started with 25 miles on a long straight road with persistent headwinds. Sandy, Silk and I took turns pulling and taking the brunt of it. For safety’s sake (and for drafting) cyclists are usually single file. Today, the crossing winds were so strong that being single file did nothing to alleviate being slammed by the gusts. So we figured out real quick on this desolate road that the bowling pin configuration was the way to go. Silk would lead, Sandy would be to his rear and left and with her front wheel about mid-point on Silk’s bike. I was fanned out behind Sandy to her left with my front wheel halfway down the length of her bike. We had a superb rhythm going of sharing the lead and it lasted that way until the first rest stop at mile 18.

Today’s highlight was Rae’s dance in the sprinkler fountain in Sundance, WY in cycling cleats! Megan’s Sundance power lunch was four star. She always stands at the table to explain and point out what her creations are. Always delicious, always arresting.

Day 19: Rapid City, South Dakota Wish I could report that all spirits were high on this the 8th consecutive day of cycling as we departed Spearfish on Sunday morning from the somber Holiday Inn which resembled a brutalist Russian fortress on the inside.

This was the first morning I found it tough to get out of the sack being sound asleep at 5 am when the alarm went off. From colleagues who I’d not ever heard anything negative or whingey I heard, “I don’t really need today” and “I just want this ride to be over with.” It’s true that the mileage (75 miles) was do-able. It was the prospect of another 5000 foot day in the intense heat that gave pause.

My attitude: I will pedal this bike until I arrive in Rapid City. I will negotiate every hill that comes my way. I will stick with Silk and Sandy and make the day happen with full attention paid. If Ron, Doyle and Lynn can do it, I can do it, too.

As we headed directly onto the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway, the winding roads, the shade, the peaceful combination of huge trees, the limestone outcroppings and the sparkling rushing Spearfish Creek made it all appealing. Sandy, Silk and I started out with the idea of letting the miles unfold as they came to us. Sometimes we were near each other, other times farther apart but always mindful of re-grouping as needed and wanted. When the hills started coming I was going gangbusters. Then came a hill when I waved them on and said, “See you at the top.” My breath was getting hard and fast with the heat building.

I ate a handful of peanuts at lunch at our 45 mile mark idyllic pond-side location. It was too hot with still too much elevation to accomplish to consider a belly of food on top of the work to come. Grim determination over-ruled stuffing my pie hole.

The very last hill of the day I was far behind S and S as they started up that interminable appearing ascent. I’d been told at the last rest stop this hill was our “last uptick.” I told myself it was time to get moving and as I looked up I realized Silk was about five long white-line rumble strips ahead of me.

There were short intervals of smooth pavement between the rumble strips. Methodically I inserted a bit of rumble strip fartlek and near to when I was running out of real estate I caught up to him. My legs were stripped. I got up to the top as Silk yelled, “Yeah Jennings!!” Putting my head down, chest heaving, heart wild I told myself I’m done as I coasted for a few meters waiting for my breathing to settle down. The heat seemed a dome around my body and head. I squirted water onto my sun sleeves and poured more down the back of my neck.

The rest of the way was downhill deliciously earned. Then 4 more miles avoiding the traffic of Rapid City on a blazing hot with no shade bike trail. It was 97 wind-whipping degrees as we found our way to the beautiful Hotel Alex Johnson.

Rest day 2 is tomorrow. Done and done.

Rest Day: Rapid City, South Dakota

The state of our collective state? There were a few walking wounded in our midst. So to say the Rapid City rest day was welcome is an understatement. Even those of us who are sturdy, standing tall and coping well were relieved to know we were soon to have a day to be still. Being outdoors all day in molten heat and winds with so many many miles to travel takes the shine off each of us in just enough ways to make this, our second rest day, uber appealing. The guides are busier than a summer hive of bees all day long supporting us. On rest days we leave. them. alone.

This endeavor requires strict attention to one’s body and state of mind every day. Self-care matters deeply. Dave Edwards, our favorite Trek Travel Ride Camp guide in Greenville told us, “Everyone has a breaking point on Portland to Portland so be ready for a day that just doesn’t go your way.” So far so good.

Stay tuned for more from Lynn.

See the trip

Cross Country USA: The First 10 Days

Days 1-10: Astoria, OR -> Missoula, MT. 801 miles and 42,887 ft of elevation.

Admit it. You’ve perused the many enticing Trek Travel trips for ages. There’s one trip you’ve glanced at. Perhaps you even loitered enough to absorb the nitty gritty details. Then you’ve looked at that map with the blue dotted line stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic and thought, “Could I? Would I want to? How would I train for such a thing? How does it all work?” Portland to Portland tugged at my cycling partner’s heart for quite some time. When Silk told me in January 2021 that he wanted to sign up I was cautious. Knowing what it is to train hard and long for a specific thing is searingly familiar. He forged ahead. I followed soon thereafter despite my trepidation about returning to training for something specific.

For many years now I’ve happily trained daily for the pure pleasure of it: Running, cycling, gym work, ergometer rowing, hot power yoga and so on. Sure I trained for a few sculling races here and there but this was going to be an 8-month training task. Been there and done that. I wondered if I still had the physical and inner resources to train for this thing. What if I crash on my bike? What if I get sick? What if after all the training something happens and I have to cancel? Once I worked through those machinations I realized this was no different than what I’d spent a lifetime doing. Embracing the unknowable and forging forward regardless.

I read somewhere that nobody is brave, generally. We can only be brave, specifically. I realized that we would both have to be brave to commit to this audacious, mysterious, unknowable task and then be even braver to go do it. It would be so much easier to lounge on a beach somewhere taking selfies or to go wherever the latest destination is to see things. I think that might be Iceland. Instead we were going to be embarking on a grand land voyage propelled by our legs, hearts, lungs and brains all on two wheels. I decided I wasn’t afraid of failure or of the unknown. I believed I was capable of doing this challenging thing. It was out there waiting for us. Without having a clue about who we’d be doing this with, I sensed the poetry of the trip would be supplied by the other unknown 19 cyclists and the guides who would make this trip happen for us.

On 1/4/21 we put down our deposits. On 3/18/21 we were officially booked. As far off as it was, the trip loomed. Once in awhile I’d catch myself and think, “What have we done?” and I’d quickly shove the thought aside. Official training started on on 12/1/21. For a few months I was all about hot power yoga, running, the rowing ergometer, gym work, and Zwift as the snow piled up outdoors. As the months went by we transitioned to outdoor riding including a week in Greenville at the TT Ride Camp. We started accumulating ridiculous amounts of hours in the saddle, focusing on accumulating back to back centuries and as many hills as possible. It was all about building two-wheeled strength, endurance and hours.

Along with the cycling, I’d be ripping off intervals on the erg, getting runs in, putting in time in my old-school gym. Silk faithfully ran during the week and went to core yoga. Once in awhile he’d ask me, “How many centuries have we done now?” There was always a hopeful tone in his question as if he was wondering maybe I would declare ourselves ready. Before we knew it the clock had run out. It was time to go find out our story.

Day 1: Astoria, Oregon Can you imagine a moving village of 21 cyclists, 5 guides, 21 Trek Domane bicycles and three vans two of which are pulling trailers? There was a first day of school feel going on with lots of excitement and “Can you believe we’re here?” That’s what was going on here. Day 1 had its moments. It also had a lot of logistical knowledge passed from the guides to us. All in all it was a road trip from Portland to Astoria, a meet and greet, bike-fitting, picnic lunching, GPS lesson, safety lesson, and cycling 30 miles kinda day.

Guides Megan, Rae, Blake, Brian and Brent were tasked with every single logistical detail needed to move us including our luggage, food and bikes safely from coast to coast. It was abundantly clear they knew exactly what they were doing and that if we followed their lead it would all work out. How little we knew then about what these over the top superbly detail-oriented guides would be doing for us. Or how much we would come to admire their commitment to our dream of pedaling across the United States. On top of their daily tasks, two of the five guides would be on bikes each day sharing the miles with us.

We were going to be a 26 person team with the attendant inherent challenges and gifts therein. We were 8 women and 13 men from all over the USA. I was struck immediately by the pure confidence and happiness emanating from these folks who had done exactly what Silk and I had done to be ready. That camaraderie coupled with the enormity of what was in front of us produced waves of lightheartedness tinged with focus.

A sparkly day of sunshine with ocean breezes wrapped around us in Astoria. The mighty Columbia River was at our elbows with cormorants flying and ginormous container ships easing past (one carrying windmill blades which looked like elephant tusks writ large). We found our bikes, listened to Blake explain the logistics that soon enough would be second nature, enjoyed Megan and Rae’s first picnic lunch and exchanged introductions. Blake let us know that the myriad tasks each morning and evening would soon become second nature and we’d be a well-oiled operation in and around the actual cycling.

My inaugural ride? I was lighthearted. Marveling at the wonder of training my body. Trusting it now to carry me to Maine. A feeling so large and expansive it stunned me to realize, “This is it. It’s happening now. Don’t let a single hour slip past now without feeling grateful for this experience.”

Day 2: Portland, Oregon We went from goosebumps breezy Astoria right into the frying pan on day 1 after breakfast at the Pig ’n Pancake. 100 miles to Portland with 4800 feet of elevation. First ritual of each day: snap a pic of the whiteboard on the lunch trailer. The daily numbers were all right there: the day’s miles, rest stop mile markers, lunch mile marker, any other details the guides thought critical. I realized hours later that I had no idea what I’d read on the whiteboard.

Our many many miles on Route 202 had us on serpentine woodsy roads deep into what felt like mysterious rain forests. Criss-crossing several rivers many times (Nehalem River I’m talking to you) and riding alongside the sparkling, burbling, coursing water I could hear and see kingfishers. More than several of them. We had a couple of challenging climbs today and the cooler crisp air gave way to thicker hotter and more intense heat as we were closing in on Portland.

Day 3: Hood River, Oregon For most of the morning the cloud cover was welcome and we delighted in being completely away from cars. The Vera Katz Esplanade in Portland to the Springwater Corridor trail took us to Gresham and then soon enough we were at rest stop 1 and starting out on the Historic Columbia River Highway. (HCRH) We climbed and climbed and soon found ourselves passing waterfall after waterfall.

Day 4: Condon, Oregon Given the snippets of conversation that floated around the breakfast room, it seemed more than a few cyclists had trepidation about the big day ahead. Lead guide Blake was honest as he stood at the white board this morning, “Today is a tough ride.”

Not only was it long, it was going to be a day where the heat built as the hours ticked by. Then there was the reality of 8000 feet of climbing. Some climbing in the morning but the bulk of it later in the day. I am not a “dial in on the route map with all details of where and when the hills are” kinda girl. Silk is a “know all the details of the route” kinda chap. Between the two of us we get the job done and today was a perfect example of how we operate.

Today’s takeaway: it doesn’t matter to me when the hills come or how hot it is. This endeavor has me “inhale (ing) great draughts of space” (Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road) with alacrity. I like where my feet are.

Day 5: Hermston, Oregon Today was another 90+ mile day. I track our elapsed time in my training log along with our moving time because it matters. Covering the miles is one thing and the all day affair of this dog and pony show is another thing entirely. Just another reason we make the effort not to dally at rest stops or lunch unless it’s necessary. One of my diversions today was to move a barn owl off the road and thank her for letting me have a few of her wing feathers. She was beautiful. Took me quite awhile to catch back up to Silk who didn’t realize I’d stopped.

Silk and I rode and rode. The miles slipped past and we discussed how it is that little towns like Condon end up the way they do after more prosperous years. We tossed around the concept that we will be doing this for 41 more days. That lead to several miles of silence with both of us contemplating the reality of what it is we are doing.

As Silk says on just about every ride after we are done, “It’s SO good to be out of the saddle.” He’s not kidding. Another reason we had trouble sleeping last night: both of us are nursing chapped fannies. As I told my friends Tracy and Dave in Calgary who we met in Greenville at the TT ride camp in April, “Fanny management is job 1 on this trip.” We have our elixirs and we are on top of it!

Tomorrow we are bound for Walla Walla. Goodbye Oregon. I miss you already.

Day 6: Walla Walla, Washington A much better night’s sleep and our organization of our bags the night before meant Silk and I were operating on all cylinders this morning. We started out with a group of 8 and soon it was just Silk and me in our own rhythm with Sandy nearby. There’s a trick to being compatible endurance companions. Silence is often the most comforting as we move but then conversations can be just the right thing, too. Sandy has it down.

It was a day for open roads, few cars, and the sun emerging from cloud cover. It was a non-demanding day knowing how few miles were on tap. I enjoyed the freedom of not having to gut out those ubiquitous last tough 20 miles on 100 mile days. A picnic day for this justagirl cyclist. I know full well what’s in store for the rest of the week.

Riding with Sandy has been a happy discovery. She’s zesty, smart, outgoing and completely aware of the beauty all around. She calls out, “Jennings! Look at that light!,” “Look at those clouds!” “I love this!” I ride alone at home or with Silk and it was a treat to discover such a compatible riding partner to share the miles with. She and Silk often broke out into song together. While cycling. Too funny.

Day 9: Kamiah, Idaho 117 miles dawned clear and crisp as the rolling herd gathered in the parking lot of the of the Kamiah Clearwater Motel at 6:45 am. The Clearwater River was streaming by and I could hear kingfishers chitter chitter chittering from where I was slathering sunscreen, filling my water bottles and making sure the little bento box on my ride had a few packages of fig cookies.

My task: to get up and over Lolo Pass on this 117 mile day knowing the climbing was going to kick up at mile 103 with near to five miles having to haul my carcass uphill. Pretty late in the game for the Big Show if you ask me.

The guides masterfully assisted us in chunking the miles so we could negotiate our way with as much buoyancy as possible. Though we were every minute of the ride today with the sparkling Clearwater River off our right shoulders and continuous spectacular high scenery all around, it was a day-long continuously relentlessly sneaky climb. All while knowing the big climb was still ahead. The Bitterroots were deep, mysterious and provided visual serenity all day.

As the climb got going I was passed by two of our group (boys) and decided I would try to hang onto the wheel of Bruce the latter of the two. Tall, lean, a super strong rider and a recently retired anesthesiologist from CO with triplet children I knew he’d be strong as the climb wore on. I rode behind him and then decided to vault past. He stuck with me (I could see his shadow on the road off to my side). Hmmm. Ok, time for a little fartlek. I rode 15 pedal strokes hard and 10 easy and repeated that three times and I didn’t see his shadow any more. I didn’t look at the Garmin. I kept my gaze affixed to the road in front of me and kept on pedaling. Finally I felt the breezes, looked up and saw the van .25 mile away. Yeah! Montana sign! Yeah!

Day 10: Missoula, MT We passed log cabin homesteads, ragtag machinery sheds, the first wild purple asters of the season and ponies. Lots of ponies. Many with appaloosa fur jackets — grazing ponies, galloping away at the sight of us ponies and a few strings of pack ponies with big mounds of hay for munching. They all looked as if they were waiting for a cowgirl to come out with a saddle over her shoulder.

Silk and I cruised into Missoula riding with a pack and we all were in love with the final 8 miles into Missoula — a separated bike path. I was swooning over the chicory that was everywhere. Spirits were beyond high. The various wish list doings had been articulated at breakfast: ice cream, laundry, swimming in the Clark Fork River, massages, chill out time galore. One aspect of the trip had became obvious: there was very little down time each day particularly at the close of the day.

6pm saw us gathering for a social with everyone clean and holding some kind of libation. The waves of chatter and laughter were heartening and satisfying. Clearly the group has gelled. Kaye offered up her leadership for a yoga class on Saturday morning. Various spouses and family members made the trip to come visit and/or ride with us from Missoula to Helena.

Jacque’s young adult children came, too. Her daughter Brook rows at the University of Tennessee and she and I had a meeting of the minds talk about the purity of the sculling stroke, seeing the oar blade puddles moving away from the stern of one’s sleek sliver of a boat. Sandy and Pat were sleuthing which ice cream shops to go to, laundry outings were being planned, our shared cycling exploits were re-capped and celebrated.

I looked around at all of us, triumphant in our miles ridden. The architectural structures of our proficient bodies so different from each other. Long sinuous legs. Powerful legs. Short bodies. Tall drink of water bodies. All of us capable, trained and willing. The knowledge that strong mile after mile cycling is the only way to get where we want to go. It’s our steadfast will that is the same. We all believe we can do it and we are getting it done.

Stay tuned for more from Lynn.

See the trip

From the Olympics to Cross Country USA: Meet Lynn Jennings

Part 1: In October, our group of cross country riders reached the coast of the Atlantic and completed an incredible 3,784-mile journey by bike. Among them was one of the most accomplished women’s long-distance runners in U.S. history, Lynn Jennings. The three-time Olympian and world cross-country champion took on a new challenge this fall and embarked on a 47-day journey from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. Get to know Lynn firsthand as she writes about her experiences on the open road across America and stay tuned for more entries soon.

For as long as I can remember I have been happiest moving outdoors with birds, forests, flowers and any kind of water. For years I moved through the world on two feet testing my limits and my willingness to endure the training to be the best runner in the world. Being a world-class runner is not for the faint of heart and somehow I came through it all intact and still kicking and with my love of the outdoors all the stronger.

When I discovered serious cycling in my forties, I found an even better way to move through the world — so many places to cycle, so much time to be on a bike. I fully embraced, as Henry James wrote, “Try to be one on whom nothing is lost.” The very notion of traveling the world on two wheels means moving through one environment after another with eyes, heart and mind wide open.

Portland to Portland 2022 was the ultimate expression of so much of what I hold dear. Being brave enough to try something new and challenging. Being willing to train hard and strong for 8 months to prepare for it. I was ready for anything to happen. I had this sense that I would thrive no matter how challenging it all was, that beautiful days and tough days would combine to create an unforgettable adventure. Improbable as it seems, I was certain I would be in my element every single day.

Sharing my experience on Portland to Portland 2022 will, I hope, show how we are always capable of more than we think, we are always more resilient than we think. I was the best version of myself every day on this trip and I can think of nothing better than inspiring someone else to give it a go.

Stay tuned for more from Lynn.

See the trip

Our Top 3 Places to Ride in 2019

Wonder what destinations are on our radar for spring? We’ve got a few we’ve been dreaming about from the comfort of our hot chocolate and onesie pajamas. Soon, when the seasons start to change and winter’s grip is loosened with the first warm breeze, we’re breaking free of our hibernation with these three trips that bring nothing but warmth, sunshine, delicious food and good times.

1. Palm Springs

Trek Travel Palm Springs Cycling Vacation Colony Palms Hotel

Known for its beautiful landscape, stunning architecture and storied history of Hollywood glamour, if there’s one word we would use to describe the new Palm Springs it’s “glam,” with a unique mix of both high style and access to world-class natural resources all in one place. On this adventure you’ll visit a river in the desert at the Whitewater Preserve, take a hike into Tahquitz Canyon and spend two full days in the stunning beauty of Joshua Tree National Park. Plus you’ll spend the week settled down at the iconic Colony Palms Hotel. And with restaurants like Workshop Kitchen + Bar right down the street we’re even more tempted to turn our round-trip ticket into a one-way.


2. Ride Across Italy

Trek Travel Ride Across Italy Cycling Vacation

Discover the essence of the heartland of Italy as you ride across the rugged misty Apennine mountains and traverse 280 miles and over 24,000 feet in 5 short days. You’ll dip your toes in the Adriatic sea and set out through the enchanting regions of Le Marche, Umbria, Lazio and Tuscany to the Mediterranean coast. Along the way, you’ll indulge in sumptuous cuisines, world-renowned wines, roll through vine-covered landscapes and climb up to the towering tufa mesas of Umbria before you celebrate your journey’s end on the stunning Orbetello peninsula in Tuscany with a sunset cocktail. This is truly the once-in-a-lifetime experience for lovers of all things Italian.


3. Prague to Vienna

Trek Travel Prague to Vienna Cycling Vacation

A bicycle is truly the best way to discover the secret forests, charming Baroque palaces, and quiet cobblestone streets of this enchanting Bohemian wonderland. From Prague to Vienna you’ll wind through history, preserved Renaissance towns and countryside laden with dense forests and rolling hills. Take in the sweeping vistas of the lush Danube River Valley as you immerse yourself in the culture, cuisine, and adventure that continue to make Bohemia a favorite for active travelers and cyclists worldwide.


Around the World on Two Wheels: Annie “Londonderry” Kopchovsky

As the first woman to ride her bicycle around the world, Annie “Londonderry” Kopchovsky challenged world views on women in cycling and paved the way for many greats to take to two wheels after her.

In 1894, Annie was like most 19th century women, a 23-year-old mother of three, a dutiful housewife and not necessarily a cyclist or an outspoken advocate for women’s rights. But when a pair of strangers bet that a woman couldn’t possibly ride the globe on a bicycle in fifteen months, she decided to take on the challenge.

She left her home and family in Boston and began her journey in full skirts with a 42-pound bike dead set on proving that women were not only strong, physically and mentally, but that they could provide for themselves. To finance her journey she took on sponsorships–carrying advertisements on her clothing and bicycle, and even changing her name to “Londonderry” as promotion for the Londonderry Lithia Spring Water company.

Annie Londonderry Trek Travel Cycling Vacations

As her route wore on through Europe, North Africa, Asia and the South Pacific, she acquired a lighter bike (20lbs lighter) and evolved her wardrobe from traditional women’s clothing to a men’s riding outfit. She, admittedly, loaded up her bike aboard a few steamships and trains at key points in the journey, but despite that still crushed her way through thousands of miles of rough terrain, camping outside and fending for herself every step of the way.

Eventually she made her way back to the states by way of San Francisco and returned to Boston 15 months to the day after she departed. According to Peter Zheutlin, author of Around the World on Two Wheels, “What Annie accomplished with her bicycle in 1894-95 was a tour de force of moxie, self-promotion and athleticism. Though she was a skilled raconteur and gifted self-promoter with a penchant for embellishment and tall tales, she was also, as the evidence shows, an accomplished cyclist who covered thousands of miles by bicycle during her journey.”

Annie Londonderry Trek Travel Cycling Vacations

Upon her return, Kopchovsky went on to become a popular and vocal advocate for both cycling and women’s rights. Speaking around the country about her adventure and throwing in some fantastical tall tales along the way.

The New York World remarked in 1895 that her trip was “the most extraordinary journey ever undertaken by a woman,” and we can be sure that what started as a bet became an immeasurable impact on the attitudes about women and an inspiration to women of that time and today.

Annie Londonderry Trek Travel Cycling Vacations

Pursuit Ride Across America

When David Baldwin came to us with his idea in January 2016, the task seemed as far-fetched as the goal itself. In June he was going to set out on a 3,500 mile ride across the United States, and he wanted us to design three different opportunities for friends, family and donors to ride along with him. His goal? Raise $13 million for adults with disABILITIES.


It was a tall order, especially in just four short months. In total there would be more than 100 people joining this ride, all of whom required bikes, hotels, food and support. This in addition to the difficulties David himself was about to face. “Trying to raise $13 million in Houston when oil is $35 per barrel is one challenge,” he said. “And I’ve only done a couple of long rides in my life.”

But if there was ever anyone up for the challenge, David was the right person for the job. “As [my wife] and I started to share our dream/vision with others, our ‘peloton’ started to grow. In total there were more than 200 volunteers working to make Pursuit a huge success, and with Trek Travel’s help, we created three opportunities for people who enjoy riding to participate in the Pursuit mission as well.” After countless hours of planning and preparation, the team dipped their wheels into the Pacific Ocean on June 6 in Astoria, Oregon and began the journey west.
Pursuit Ride Across America
The route, custom designed by Trek Travel Trip Designer Amy Davison, covered 14 states and 3,362 miles. It showcased the vast and indescribable beauty our country has to offer, from iconic small towns and restored railroad depots to dramatic mountains and lush green forests. “While I had previously ‘touched down’ in all but one of the 14 states I visited with Pursuit (South Dakota being the exception), I hadn’t spent much time in any of these states. From the seat of a bicycle, without the pressure of time or interruptions or any physical barrier other than sunglasses and a helmet, I began to take in the real character and beauty of each individual state and developed a true appreciation for so many unique things across our country,” David said.
Trek Travel Custom Bike Ride Across America

“The kindness of strangers, the physical beauty of our parks, the wide open spaces…we have something tremendous under our feet, just off the beaten path. It is truly refreshing and inspirational.”
– David Baldwin

Trek Travel Custom Pursuit Bike Ride Across the United States
Along the way they spotted moose in Jackson Hole, rode through the Badlands, stopped at Mount Rushmore, and cheered on the Cubs at Wrigley. They changed flats, battled winds and climbed mountains. And on August 3rd, 59 days after the Pursuit began, David dipped his wheel in the Atlantic Ocean, concluding what can only be described as the ride of his life.

For us it was a custom trip unlike any we’d ever created. The chance to not only bring one man’s dream to life, but to help bring hope to a population so desperately in need of a hero. So thank you letting us be a part of your journey, David. It is one we will never forget.

Design Your Own Custom Trip

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If a date is marked as Private, it is reserved for a private group.

Looking to travel with a small group or looking for a custom date?
Call our trip consultants at 866-464-8735

What is the Difference?

Ultimate Luxury:

Savor some of the most spectacular, 5-star properties in the world. Exuding luxury and elegance, these one-of-a-kind accommodations offer the chance to rejuvenate at award-winning spas, dine at Michelin-starred restaurants, and more.


Enjoy luxurious accommodations handpicked for a refined experience. From signature spa treatments to delicious local cuisine, you’ll be more than provided for; you’ll be pampered.


These handpicked hotels provide relaxation and fun in a casual and comfortable environment. Delicious cuisine and great service mix perfectly for a memorable stay.


On select cycling vacations, you’ll stay at a mix of Explorer and Luxury hotels. Rest assured, no matter which hotel level you’re at, our trip designers carefully select every accommodation.

Activity Level

Level 1:

Road: 1-3 hours of riding. Up to 25 mi (40 km). Up to 1,000 ft (300 m).

Gravel: 1-3 hours of riding. Up to 20 mi (35 km). Up to 1,000 ft (300 m).

Hiking: 1-3 hours of hiking. Up to 5 mi (8 km). Up to 1,000 ft (300 m).

Level 2:

Road: 2-4 hours of riding. 20-35 mi (35-60 km). Up to 2,500 ft (750 m).

Gravel: 2-4 hours of riding. 15-30 mi (25-45 km). Up to 2,000 ft (300 m).

Hiking: 2-4 hours of hiking. 4-8 mi (6-12 km). Up to 1,500 ft (450 m).

Level 3:

Road: 3-5 hours of riding. 25-55 mi (40-85 km). Up to 4,500 ft (1,500 m).

Gravel: 3-5 hours of riding. 20-40 mi (35-60 km). Up to 3,000 ft (900 m).

Hiking: 3-5 hours of hiking. 6-10 mi (9-16 km). Up to 2,000 ft (600 m).

Level 4:

Road: 4+ hours of riding. 40-70 mi (60-110 km). Up to 8,000 ft (2,400 m).

Gravel: 4+ hours of riding. 30-50 mi (45-80 km). Up to 4,000 ft (1,200 m).

Hiking: 4+ hours of hiking. 7-15 mi (11-24 km). Up to 4,000 ft (1,200 m).

What are your trip styles?

Classic - Reserve:

Savor the finer things as you relax in luxurious 5-star accommodations and wine, dine, and ride in some of the most unforgettable destinations around the world.

Classic - Signature:

Explore beautiful destinations by bike, enjoy extra inclusions, savor delicious local cuisine, and enjoy the perfect mix of accommodations.

Classic - Discover:

Enjoy a casual cycling vacation with fantastic routes and comfortable accommodations.

Ride Camp:

Train like the pros in some of their favorite riding destinations.

Pro Race:

See the pros in action at the biggest cycling events of the year.

Cross Country:

Tackle an epic adventure that takes you point-to-point across mountains, countryside, and more.


Enjoy a bike tour on your schedule with just your chosen travel companions.

Single Occupancy

Sometimes it’s more convenient and comfortable to have your own room while on vacation. We understand and that’s why we offer a Single Occupancy option. The additional price guarantees a private room all to yourself