July 13, 2015
Carla Majernik signed up for Bikecentennial as a college graduation present to herself. She was Assistant Leader to her group, which was all about having fun, celebrating birthdays and planning activities like swimming, canoeing, rafting, and hiking, along the TransAmerica Trail. Carla moved to Missoula in 1977 after attending a post-Bikecentennial meeting about how the organization should proceed after the ride in 1976. A few years after moving to Missoula, Carla was hired to be a cartographer for Bikecentennial. Today, she is Adventure Cycling’s Routes and Mapping Director.
How old were you when you did Bikecentennial?
I was twenty-two and had just graduated from college.
What inspired you to do Bikecentennial?
It was a college graduation (University of Cincinnati, 1976) present to myself. I might have seen a poster advertising Bikecentennial in one of my local bike shops in Cincinnati. I also got Bicycling Magazine and I think they had an ad for Bikecentennial in there. I hadn’t really done any trips, but I was a member of the Cincinnati Cycling Club through my college years and did a lot of day rides and century rides. The one big thing that I did for training for Bikecentennial was I signed up for TOSRV in Ohio. There were a few of us who biked from Cincinnati to Columbus, rode TOSRV, and the next day biked back to Cincinnati. It was 400 miles in four days.
Before I did Bikecentennial, I had written an article for Bicycling Magazine as part of a college assignment. The article was about women needing wider bike saddles. I actually worked with a welder to work with an existing bike seat to stretch it. Then, I showed a prototype for a wider women’s saddle as part of the project.
What sticks out in your mind when you reflect back on the trip?
A fun summer. What typified our group was having fun. Our group leader, Dave Marshall, was good at planning activities, like swimming, canoeing, rafting, and hiking, during our rest days. [Carla was Dave’s assistant leader. Dave Marshall is a former member of the Adventure Cycling board of directors.]
Our group was the last one to leave the east coast on June 16. There were thirteen people between the ages of sixteen and twenty-seven years. The day after our group left, a church group with seven sixteen-year-old girls and one man departed. Our group had five people under the age of twenty and only three women, so it was natural for our group and the church group to merge for a more even male-female distribution, and so the younger participants in both groups could be together. The result was twenty-one of us together in a pack traveling along.
On the Fourth of July, we were in a town in Kentucky on a rest day and Dave got us invited to be in the parade, so we decorated our bikes and were in the parade. Dave also got us to have family members send us cookies and cakes to arrive at a mail stop on a rest day and we had a baked goods contest, eating ourselves silly.
I remember celebrating birthdays by biking ahead and making a cake and decorating a rest area for the birthday girl or boy to arrive and be surprised. We also stopped at a thrift shop one day to purchase dresses to wear at the “birthday party.”
We took a side trip on a sixty-mile gravel road near the Snake River on the Oregon and Idaho borders. It was something special; the views were amazing. After being on the road that long, we didn’t care about riding on gravel. We didn’t worry about having fatter tires or having a different kind of bike. We just did it.
The Appalachians were the most physically and emotionally difficult part of the trip. The group dynamics could be difficult, and we lost one member in the first week because he wanted to ride a lot faster.
Out of the two groups, there were two marriages. One couple is still married, living in Bend, Oregon.
How are you different because of your trip across the TransAmerica Trail?
It gave me a huge amount of self-confidence and made me realize I could do anything I wanted to do. It made me physically and emotionally much stronger.
I remember coming back to my parent’s house and wanting to sleep in the backyard on the ground—and my parents didn’t like that idea. I remember that it felt strange to use a purse again.
I moved to Montana shortly after Bikecentennial and in that sense, it totally changed my life. During Bikecentennial, I fell in love with the mountains and wanted to move to Missoula after our group spent two rest days here. In the fall after Bikecentennial, the organization invited everyone who participated in Bikecentennial to a meeting in Missoula about whether or not the organization should continue. I actually came out from Ohio to attend the meeting that October or November. By January, I had moved here. I started working as a drafter for an architect and a few years later Bikecentennial was looking for more cartographers and I was hired. It’s interesting how the Routes and Mapping Department has changed from hand drawing to computer drawings over the years.
Which bike trips have you done since then and what’s still on your bucket list?
The longest bike trip I have done since Bikecentennial was a month long trip where I started in the San Juan Islands in Washington, biked to Jasper National Park in Canada, and finished in Missoula. I have done some smaller week-long trips here and there over the years, many of them Adventure Cycling tours. In the late 1990s through the early 2000s I did some week-long Adventure Cycling trips with my son. I have always wanted to bike to Alaska and hope to accomplish that one day.
We thank Carla for taking the time to share her Bikecentennial experience.
Story and photos courtesy of Carla Majernik.
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.
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