|Oregon State Bar Bulletin DECEMBER 2011|
|At Bullards State Park in Bandon, riders (left to right) Nancy Campbell, Lisa Kern, Dana Barnes and Gale Matsumoto touched the Pacific Ocean and began their 3,564-mile bicycle journey across the United States.|
3,564 miles riding.
163,210 feet of climbing, including Monarch Pass, at 11,333 feet.
Temperatures ranging from 41 degrees to 102 degrees.
These are the numbers that reflect Senior Circuit Judge Nancy Campbell and Portland attorney Dana Barnes’ “road trip of a lifetime” the summer one year ago: pedaling across the country on bicycles.
When asked how this great adventure began, Campbell jokes, “I really don’t know.” Barnes first pondered a trans-continental bike ride to celebrate the millennium. The plan didn’t materialize, but some years later, Campbell emailed a link to a cross country bike tour for women to Barnes. After some half-joking emails, Barnes convinced Campbell she could make the trip.
In early 2010, Campbell and Barnes, along with friends Gale Matsumoto and Lisa Kern of Newport, began serious training. The process involved getting cycling maps, scouting drives through Oregon to assess elevations and road conditions, and a bike maintenance course for women taught by Rick Hill at the Green Bike Program in Waldport. Critical to the venture, of course, was training: spinning classes (hours of pedaling but no forward movement) on stationary bikes during winter months, and then 20, 40, 60 miles a day, and often more.
On Sunday, Aug. 1, Campbell and her husband, Steve Mead, joined Barnes and her mother, Fran Barnes, Matsumoto and Kern, and they began the trip. Two support vehicles, Fran Barnes driving one, Mead, driving the other, accompanied the riders to Bullards State Park in Bandon. There, the riders touched the Pacific Ocean and began their journey.
Over the next three months, Campbell and Barnes visited 10 states and numerous monuments and national parks. Work and other commitments took Matsumoto away from the group in Nevada. The three riders continued together until they reached central Kentucky. There, Kern chose a different route through Tennessee and North Carolina to Virginia. Mead left the group in early September, so Fran Barnes remained the single support vehicle for the balance of the journey.
Campbell and Barnes not only rode their Trek Madones during the day, but also took time to post impressions and photos on a blog set up to chronicle their training and then the trip.
Surprisingly, the only rain (though they missed a few thunderstorms) during the ride was a sprinkling one day in Virginia. The hardest day was the stretch from Eureka, Nev., to Ely, Nev.: 78 miles over four mountain passes in 100-degree weather. In addition, a strong head-wind with the occasional cross-wind almost blew the riders from their bicycles. The easiest day was the last cruise into Yorktown, a fairly flat 32-mile ride.
The very worst road the cyclists encountered was Drews Road near Sprague River, Ore. Every 25 feet the asphalt was cracked across the road, in some places, up to three inches. Not quite a week into the trip, Campbell noticed that her rear brake was askew. She fixed it well enough to continue, but when she had it checked by a Trek dealer, she learned that the frame was cracked. True to its lifetime warranty, Trek agreed to replace the bike, sending a new one to St. George, Utah. Fortunately, Barnes had brought a second bike, so Campbell pedaled on with the spare.
On Aug. 20, Campbell assembled her new bike in Utah. After some false starts, all appeared in working order, but only for a couple of days. Feeling certain that ongoing difficulty with her chain was a simple matter, Campbell went to an outfitters store in Torrey, Utah, recommended by Adventure Cycling. The owner of the store, however, said that the mechanic was on vacation. Instead, he directed Campbell to the Tooth Ranch, about seven miles up the road and referred her to “Scott the Dentist.” Surprisingly, Scott the Dentist had cycle-raced across the country and was a very good mechanic. He discovered that the cables had both stretched and slipped, an easy fix for someone who knew how to adjust the limit screws properly. When Campbell tried to pay him for his work, he simply suggested that she should come see him if she ever needed a root canal!
As the riders made their way from the mountains to the plains, they saw everything in slow motion: antelope, hawks, bison, deer, prairie dogs, marmots, wild turkey, eagles, turtles, even a rattlesnake “stalked” by a squirrel in Zion National Park. Even after days of grueling rides, the adventurers took time to enjoy scenery and even hike at the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Goblin Valley National Park, in which natural rock formations are shaped eerily like goblins.
In spite of flat tires and mechanical woes, Campbell wrote from Baker, Nev., that “one of the wonderful things about this trip is that we were traveling on roads less travelled and seeing parts of the country that most will never see.” She noted, for example, that Baker had only 159 people, no cell phone service and a post office that opened “now and then.” Nevertheless, it has two outstanding restaurants.
The mountain climbs and descents were literally breathtaking. In Oregon, the riders climbed Mount Bolivar (4,000 feet) and Goolaway Gap (3,100 feet). In California, it was 6,100-foot Cedar Pass. In Nevada, they braved 12 mountain passes. Utah not only had numerous steep passes, but also extreme heat. In Colorado, the riders climbed to 10,222-foot Lizard Head Pass and then into Telluride — not a difficult climb, but a tough descent and dangerous roads. Monarch Pass at the Continental Divide was a climb to 11,312 feet, some 10 miles of a 6 to 7 percent grade, then a 25 mile descent into Salida, Colo.
The experiences of friendship and community with people in remote places were a special treat for the riders. Leaving Fernley on Highway 50 (a busy road of speeding drivers erroneously labeled “The Loneliest Road in America”), the bikers rode 70 miles through the Nevada desert and “over a couple of easy mountain passes” to reach Middlegate, Nev., population 17 souls. Barnes described Middlegate as “the old west today: a group of people living in the middle of nowhere.… They ask for nothing and do it themselves.” There is no electricity. An 1850s Pony Express building filled with fascinating antiques was being used as a restaurant and bar. The family who owns the town has been there for 25 years, and all work to keep the restaurant, bar, motel and campground running smoothly. The owners shared great stories, provided excellent food and offered clean and comfortable motel rooms.
In Utah, the riders rode past whole fields of sunflowers. They went through national parks: Zion, Bryce, Natural Bridges, Glen Canyon, Escalante and Canyon Lands. They saw Lake Powell and crossed the Colorado River, suffering extreme heat and grueling climbs, “but none of us would have traded this experience for the comforts of home,” Campbell wrote on Aug. 28.
In September, “Andreas,” another bicyclist touring from Germany, joined the riders for several days. They enjoyed evenings talking and sharing stories. Several times along the journey, Andreas changed his plans to continue his ride with the Oregonians. Eventually, Andreas even rented a car in Tennessee so that he could drive to Diamond Lake, Ky., to join Campbell and Barnes for dinner in the evening. At virtually every departure, Andreas encouraged the riders to join him at his home in Switzerland next year to ride some of the beautiful roads in that country.
The riders discovered incidental connections to other people in unlikely places. In Larned, Kan., they learned that a man who stayed near them in the R.V. park has a friend in common with Barnes’s mother in Yuma, Ariz. In Hutchinson, Kan., the owner of a bike shop at which the riders stopped for minor work happened to be a good friend of the owner of the Bike Gallery in Portland, where Barnes works. In a restaurant in Lexington, Va., toward the end of the trip, the riders encountered two men whom they had seen briefly at the Lee Chapel. In conversation, one man noted that he had just returned from a visit to Oregon to see a cousin for the first time in 40 years. The cousin, coincidentally, is attorney Terrance Hall, whom both riders knew well.
In Eldorado, Kan., after the riders became separated from their support vehicle, they stopped at a Burger King/Walmart. Sheltered inside from the 90-degree heat, they struck up a conversation with a local couple, Glen and Sondra Barrier. The Barriers not only suggested a campground on Lake Eldorado for the night but also got on the phone with Fran Barnes to give her proper directions to the Burger King. After the riders found the campground, showered and began pondering dinner, they looked over to the lake and saw the Barriers in their boat close to shore. They offered the bikers a boat ride around the lake enabling them all to share a beautiful evening.
In Big Clifty, Ky., the riders enjoyed some rest days with Campbell’s cousins and their families. The visit included a fishing trip on the farm, during which the riders caught enough bass to cook for dinner.
In early October, the riders headed into Appalachia as the leaves began their annual transformation into spectacular colors. In Buckhorn, K., they chanced upon the pastor of the largest log cathedral in the world. He provided a tour and a history of the Presbyterian Cathedral, which serves as a community church for the town.
By Oct. 9, the riders reached Virginia, the 10th and final state in their long journey. On a rest day, they visited Appomattox and Lexington, including the Lee Chapel on the Washington and Lee University campus and the museum at the Virginia Military Institute (noting whimsically that the VMI mascot is a kangaroo).
After a few more days of riding through battlefields and soaking up history, on Wednesday, Oct. 20, the riders reached the Yorktown (Va.) Victory Monument, rode down to the ocean and dipped their bikes into the Atlantic. Campbell wrote in her blog that evening, “I will miss this journey, the people I have met, the fantastic scenery, and even the climbs.”
Reflecting on the “lessons of life you learn after days … on a bike,” Barnes outlined some of them:
“Don’t worry, it will change: If you don’t like the wind, road surface, it will change.”
“You will get there when you get there, you might as well enjoy the journey.”
“Life is best in slow motion.”
Describing the adventure as the “trip of a lifetime,” Barnes summed it up: “[I hope] anyone who has a dream can have the chance to go take it and enjoy the ride!”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Susan Elizabeth Reese has been in private practice since 1973, emphasizing criminal defense in state and federal courts. She also handles appellate and juvenile delinquency cases.
© 2011 Susan Elizabeth Reese