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CUMBERLAND, Md. — Undoubtedly, there is a demographic of people in their 50s and early 60s who have fantasies of unshackling themselves from the workplace in another five or 10 years and bicycling off onto roads less traveled, in a world of splendid scenery, colorful people and spotty shower facilities.
Last fall when Adventure Cycling hinted at a new mountain bike route linking up hot springs in central Idaho, some close friends and I immediately began scheming. Here I was fresh from scouting Oregon Outback and knew I wanted something bigger and with more singletrack. Tougher but with more hot springs. Well we got it.
The Experience: Riding a bicycle across America certainly isn’t new. Thomas Stevens completed the first transcontinental bike ride, amounting to 3,700 miles from San Francisco to Boston, over three and a half months in 1884. He accomplished this on a penny farthing, the classic Victorian-era bicycle with a 50-inch-diameter front wheel—which was, of course, a single-speed, fixed-gear bike.
The stories are as interesting as the photographs on display at Thunder Island Brewing in Cascade Locks, in the traveling Bicycle Eclectic Portrait Exhibit. The black-and-white portraits of long-distance cyclists were made beginning in 1982, when Adventure Cycling co-founder Greg Siple began recording the parade of cycle-tourists dropping by his office in Missoula, Mont. That was the start of the National Bicycle Touring Portrait Collection.
This week, three national leaders came to Chattanooga to participate in meetings on how to better connect the city with cycling routes, which would give tourists another reason to visit the Scenic City and bolster the local economy.
Bicycle tourism is big money these days. In this feature interview with Edward O'Brien, Jim Sayer talks about the economic benefits bicycle tourism holds for cities and counties interested in taking advantage of the sector's growing revenue potential.
As unlikely as it seems, Mike Connor thinks almost anyone could do it. The longtime Stoughton resident spent 68 days last summer bicycling across the United States, from Seaside, Ore., to Portland, Maine. What’s more, Connor, 56, made the solo bike trip entirely self-supported. He put panniers on his bike, carrying a tent, sleeping bag and a few other essentials. Perhaps “self-supported” is a tad misleading, because more than anything, the journey “renewed my faith in humankind,” Connor said.
Designated U.S. highway routes have been around for almost 90 years. Motorists who use the numeric routes to reach destinations near and far usually can find their way pretty easily by following the familiar marker signs that bear an iconic shield with the route number within. Less well-known is the U.S. Bicycle Route System, which dates back to the 1970s but has only seen notable growth for the last decade or so.