August 10, 2015
Bikecentennial transformed David French into a lifelong cyclist. The trip—his first out West—made him realize that he was quite content living simply and without many belongings. David recently relocated to Missoula from Virginia and works as a substitute teacher during the school year. This summer, David is volunteering at the Adventure Cycling headquarters by digging into the archives of Bikecentennial and reaching out to potential participants and volunteers of the 40th anniversary events in preparation of 2016.
We appreciate David’s time and commitment to Adventure Cycling this summer. Express your interest in the 40th anniversary by filling out this simple online form and you may hear back from David.
How old were you when you did Bikecentennial?
Well, old enough to strike out on my own without asking anyone’s permission!
What inspired you to do Bikecentennial?
The lure of the West and the desire to see my own country before going to Europe. I grew up in Northern Virginia and had never been west of the Mississippi—heck, west of Ohio. Places like Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and Kansas simply resonated with me. It sounded all so romantic, wild, and open. More importantly, it was different. Until then, John Wayne movies and the likes of the TV show Bonanza defined my understanding, my concept, of that part of the country, its people, and its history. Now, the opportunity to bicycle and camp all the way across the U.S. presented itself—and it was impossible to resist. I had begun cycling only two years prior to the bicentennial year, and this would be the perfect start to what would turn out to be a new lifestyle.
What sticks out in your mind when you reflect back on the trip?
The one enduring lesson I’ve held firmly to ever since is this: Because of Bikecentennial, I learned how simply—and how well—you can live on so little and be totally content with it. The trappings of modern life—TV, cars, newspapers, radio, suburban life, school, a comfortable bed, a haircut, work—were suddenly unimportant. At least for the duration. Still, my belief in simplicity remains firmly rooted in that first bicycle trip.
How are you different because of your trip across the TransAmerica Trail?
I saw how very different people were from me and how different their ways of life, in those faraway western states, were from mine. I experienced how vast and diverse and ruggedly beautiful our country is. I learned to camp, taught myself bicycle repair, found out that I could bike 50 – 100 miles a day, be self-sufficient, eat well and sleep blissfully exhausted at night. My understanding of American history shifted from Jamestown and Pocahontas, the thirteen colonies, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, the Constitutional Convention, the Civil War... to Lewis and Clark, the Nez Perce, Chief Joseph, and the settlement of the West. The best (e.g., most fun) job I ever had was in the bicycle travel and education field. And, I became hooked on bicycle touring.
Which bike trips have you done since then and what’s still on your bucket list?
Since Bikecentennial, I’ve biked in some thirty countries in Western, Southern, and Eastern Europe; Africa; the Middle East; Canada; and other parts of the U.S. Normandy and the Loire Valley of France are at the top of my yet-to-bike list. Except for all the other countries I’ve yet to see.
Photos and words courtesy of David French.
Celebrate the 40th anniversary of Adventure Cycling Association with Bike Your Park Day on September 24. Ride to or within your favorite parks and public lands with thousands of other throughout the country on the same day. Register at BikeYourParkDay.org. Thank you to the 40th anniversary sponsors: Raleigh Bicycles, Montana Department of Commerce, Salsa Cycles, Advocate Cycles, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana, Primal Wear, Visit Mississippi, Visit Idaho, Travel Oregon, Osprey Packs, Experience Plus!, Destination Missoula and Missoulian.
Find out more about Adventure Cycling’s generous sponsors.
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