Times Change, Tools Change
This website was created in 2019, twenty years after the end of the ride it describes and nearly 30 years after the start of it. What started as a scrapbook, then got turned into a self-published booklet, became a website as I looked for ways that would make it easier to share my story with others.
Not surprisingly, lots of things have changed since the I did the ride. The most obvious, and most important, involves communications technology. Simply put, we had no smartphones in the 1990s. No way of knowing if a major storm was coming. No way to change plans on the fly. For all the years I rode with Pauli in support, we had no means of communicating with each other when we were on the road. Each morning, we planned the rendezvous for the end of the day, and hoped for the best. More often than not, things worked out fine.
Make no mistake about it, technology is great. But sometimes you have to wonder whether or not it we really need it as much as we think we do. There is something good for the human spirit about having to occasionally rely upon one's own abilities and the kindness of strangers.
Remember these folks from Indiana? Fine people, they were. But if we'd had cell phones at the time, we would have never met them and enjoyed their company and kindness in helping us.
Touring With a Child
Megan and I rode together for five years, covering a total distance of nearly 1,000 miles. While every child and every adult are different, here are some tips that worked for us:
Cut down your daily distance. Don’t push your child to spend more time in the saddle than he or she can enjoy without getting bored.
Stop frequently at places where your child can play. Parks and school playgrounds are great places to take breaks.
Provide diversions. I rigged up a Walkman tape player with speakers on the handlebars of Megan’s Trail-A-Bike, and we sang along with Disney children’s songs. You may look a little odd as you do the Hokey Pokey on a bicycle, but it does pass the time.
Teach through play. We played a lot of math games as we rode, related to the ride. Early on the questions were simple, like “If we plan to ride 10 miles, and we have four left, how far have we gone?” As she got older, the questions were tougher: “If we are 12 miles from our destination and we travel at 16 miles per hour, how long will it take us to get there?”
P.S. -- We were fortunate to have Pauli's help as our overnight-to-overnight support vehicle. Plus, as much as I enjoyed the time spent with Megan, it was great to have adult companionship at the end of each day.
Fewer miles, more fun. That's the basic formula for successful touring with a child.
Glacier / Waterton Lakes Revisited
Maybe it was the wearing force of a week of chilly mountain temperatures. Maybe it was the howling wind of the day we arrived at Waterton. But when I first laid eyes on the Prince of Wales Hotel in 1992, perched on a bluff overlooking Waterton Lake, I thought it was the most beautiful and romantic place I’d ever seen. I made up my mind that someday, somehow, I would return and stay there with someone I loved.
The opportunity came in the summer of 2005, when Pauli and I drove out for a week’s vacation to Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks. We stayed just one night at the Prince of Wales, in a small room on the fifth floor overlooking the lake. The hotel is old, to be sure, but staying there was a dream come true.
Our 2005 auto trip allowed me to revisit many of the places I bicycled through more than 10 years earlier, and experience some new things as well. The Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier remains as spectacular as ever; our days in the park at the Many Glacier Hotel and other locations revealed even more of the park’s beauty.
The Museum of the Plains Indians at Browning is a little worse for the wear. Western North Dakota was greener than I remembered it, partly because of more favorable weather conditions in 2005 and partly, I’m sure, because traveling across it by car is so much easier than bicycling alone into a headwind while in a state of near exhaustion.
I've been back to Glacier two more times since then. Driving along U.S. 2 through Montana and western North Dakota, I wondered more than once if I could ever bicycle that stretch of road again. And I smiled from knowing that I once had.
I picked up this print of a watercolor painting of the Prince of Wales Hotel by Canadian artist Marilyn Kinsella at the hotel's gift shop. I love how the image captures the magic of the place.
Equipment / Planning
One of the questions I’m asked most frequently about my bike ride (right after “Doesn’t the seat make your butt hurt?”) is “What kind of bike did you ride?” The question assumes that a cross-country ride requires a very high tech, expensive, exotic bicycle.
It doesn’t. Racers might need the lightest, most aerodynamic and technologically advanced bikes, but not touring cyclists. A touring bike needs just three things:durability, serviceability, and comfort. Low gearing is a near-must for hills and mountains, unless you’ve got the strength and lung capacity of a Tour de France rider, or don’t mind walking when the going gets tough.
As for other equipment (panniers, camping essentials, etc.), and information about route planning, there are better places for what you need than what I can put together here. Check out the links below for more information.
Though virtually all the riding I did on my cross-country journey had some sort of support, with the right equipment you can travel without it. This photo was from a six-day self-supported trip I took in 2016.
If my story has inspired you to consider a long tour of your own, here are some links that will help you prepare. Happy travels!
The #1 place for bicycle touring information and inspiration on a national/international level. Articles, maps, organized group tours, biking equipment, persons seeking travel companions.
When you’re ready to leave your old life behind and just live on the road with your bike (or just dream about doing so), WarmShowers is the place to go to figure out where you can spend your nights. Also, you can volunteer to host traveling cyclists and fulfill your wanderlust with their dreams. Requires a free account to access most features.
Great source for information about trails everywhere in the U.S., from Augusta ME to Anacortes, WA. Includes information about trail locations, highlights, reviews, etc.
Bike touring route, cycle touring tips and bike touring images from around the world.
Great tips for selecting the type of tour that's best for you and connecting with the right tour provider.
A handy guide for things you need for successful bicycle touring.