May 4, 2015
Bikecentennial set the course for Barb Samsoe’s life. She met her husband, Bill, “one of the best people” she will ever meet, during her trip. They now live in Missoula and have been married for 37 years. “It was the most important event of my life, no question about it,” Barb says. To stay in touch with Adventure Cycling about the 40th anniversary celebration please fill out this form.
How old were you when you did Bikecentennial?
I was 24 and living in Hawaii. I had moved to Honolulu from Oregon after taking a nine week trip in Europe with friends. When I came back from Europe I wanted to do something different. I had a family friend in Honolulu and decided to move to Hawaii. I got a letter of recommendation from the hospital where I previously worked and got a job at a hospital in Honolulu.
What inspired you to do Bikecentennial?
I was living in Honolulu at the time and working as a nurse. I went on a bike ride with a co-worker, Cliff Chang, and he asked if I had heard that there would be a bike trip across the United States the following year. I bought a Fuji S10-S and quit my job in Honolulu so I could ride Bikecentennial.
I grew up in Oregon and graduated from the Oregon Health Science University in 1974. After I decided to do Bikecentennial I went back to my hometown and trained until the trip started.
What sticks out in your mind when you reflect back on the trip?
So many memories. When we went over the first pass in Oregon I thought, “Gosh, am I going to make this?” And I did. It was spectacular. It was so beautiful. It really tested the strength of your body and also the strength of your will to see if you can go all of those miles.
My traveling companion, Leslie Winton, was huge in helping me make it across the country. In the Wind River Range in Wyoming it was so windy you had to pedal when going downhill. Les was so encouraging and helpful during challenging times like that. It’s amazing what you could do if you put your mind to it.
I remember the Ozarks and going up and down. I remember the beautiful sunflowers in Kansas. I remember the plates of cookies people would leave out for bicyclists. We saw the generosity of rural America. If anyone is ever feeling discouraged about our country, they just need to hop on a bike and see it from that perspective. They will have a completely different view of our country. The world is so much different when traveling on a bike or hiking.
I read several books along the trip, including Travels with Charlie by John Steinbeck, which was a great read while on the trip. Steinbeck said people would stop him on his trip and say “I wish I could do that.” We got that over and over again. People we met would get this longing in their eyes. I would say to them, “You can.”
I remember the evening groups with dinners and eating whatever I wanted to eat. I would have two bowls of cereal in the morning, two peanut butter sandwiches for lunch and a full dinner with dessert in the evening.
I can remember meeting my husband Bill, of course. My group was staying in a gym and we played racket ball and volleyball one day. The trip was the vehicle literally and figuratively in my life—I met Bill.
I remember stopping in Florence, Montana along the route with Les in the exact spot where Bill and I later bought property and where we still live today.
I will forever be thankful to the Siples and the Burdens who founded Bikecentennial. After our trip we read the National Geographic article about their Hemistour trip and I thought, "My God, how did they do that?" There were pictures of them dragging their bikes through the mud. They got sick. What explorers they are! Without them having the vision to do Bikecentennial my life would be completely different.
It was the most important event of my life, no question about it. I live here in this beautiful place; I have Bill who is one of the best people I will ever meet. I sense pride in my kids when they tell people that their parents met riding their bikes across the country. I’m grateful to have had that experience to see our beautiful country.
How are you different because of your trip on the TransAmerica Trail?
Of course meeting Bill. It was huge. Bikecentennial really set the course for my whole life. I realize after taking that trip that you can do anything if you put your mind to it. It was tough. You had to have the mental capacity to keep going and you had to have the physical strength. It’s a good lesson in life. You have to keep on moving forward. Now when I have doubts I think if I did that, I can do anything.
Two people in my group didn’t make it. One girl only made it outside Eugene. She didn’t train and had to drop out. Another one had to drop off in Colorado because she didn’t have a good bike seat. Three other people were asked to leave the group because they didn’t really want to follow the route and wanted to have meals on their own. It was a relief when they were asked to leave. I never realized how important our group dynamics were. Our group leaders, Jan Steinman and Bill Sowers, were fantastic.
Which bike trips have you done since then and what’s still on your bucket list?
We haven’t done any bike trips since Bikecentennial, but after we retire we would like to do the Northern Tier or Southern Tier. We like to do a lot of hiking. We hiked across England and we hike a lot in Glacier. We would like to go back to England and do another hike there. Truly, we want to take a couple of other cycling trips. Fortunately, we are both in really good health. We will plan our trips around our grandchildren. We have a 3-year-old grandchild and one on the way, due in May.
40th ANNIVERSARY HIGHLIGHTS is posted every other Monday by Adventure Cycling’s events and outreach coordinator, Eva Dunn-Froebig. Eva and guests will preview 40th anniversary events and projects and interview Bikecentennial cyclists. Adventure Cycling’s 40th anniversary celebration in 2016 will honor the past and look to the future of bicycle travel. Fill out this form to express your interest in the 40th anniversary.