Finding Love Along the TransAm Trail

August 24, 2015

Sue Carroll met her husband Tom during Bikecentennial 1976. If the car transporting half of Sue's group of high school girls hadn't broken down in Pennsylvania, she never would have met Tom. The two groups ended up merging and Sue and Tom fell in love along the TransAmerica Trail. Keep reading about Sue's 1976 journey, and...

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Tom and Sue Carroll
Tom and Sue Carroll

How old were you when you did Bikecentennial?
I was twenty-two years old—I had just graduated from Denison University two weeks before and took my leadership training class right after I graduated in Virginia. I then returned to Illinois and packed up with the group and headed back to Virginia for the start of the trip.

Sue Carroll on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. It rained every day for the first two weeks.

What inspired you to do Bikecentennial?
I was asked by the Evanston Illinois YMCA to lead a high school group of girls on the Bikecentennial 1976 TransAmerica Trail. I said yes, right away, but boy I was scared! I had led canoe trips in the Boundary Waters for four years with high school girls, but had never been on an overnight bike trip—ever! I did have a ten-speed bike, but that was all. It seemed like such a huge trip to make it cross county on our power. We started in Williamsburg, VA and rode all the way to Winchester Bay, OR. My co-leader, Paul, was my age, and the girls were all sixteen.

Some of the group members slowed Tom down in eastern Colorado on his birthday
while the rest went ahead to bake him a birthday cake. Left to right: Tom, Paul, Billy.

What sticks out in your mind when you reflect back on the trip?
The fun and friendships. The power of the six sixteen-year-old girls in our group. They were amazing! We merged our group with another Bikecentennial group in Kentucky. We had started the trail together on June 16th.

Talk about "fate." A car transporting half our group broke down in Pennsylvania on our way from Illinois to our start in Virginia. Had we not had car trouble, we may have never met the other group—Dave Marshall and Carla Majernik's group. However, because we missed our start date, we set out with their group on the last day that Bikecentennial 1976 let groups start from east to west.

We kept seeing all the members of the other group on the trail, in campgrounds, huddling under eaves in the rain (it rained every day for the first two weeks), eating ice cream at grocery was natural for our two groups to merge. Together we had twenty folks: ten women, ten men. Life got more fun when we merged and planned all sorts of fun together and got to ride together. Our groups were self-named, "Bumpass Bikers" and "Blazing Saddlesores."

This is the rest of the group that awaited us on Tom's birthday ride on July 28 in eastern Colorado.

How are you different because of your trip across the TransAmerica Trail?
Quite simply, I fell in love with Tom Carroll, a member of the other group. We married in 1978. That was life changing! We have two sons and our oldest, Ryan, rode the TransAmerica Trail solo from west to east in 2013.

I think it was very empowering to make my way across the country on a bicycle at a young age. I wouldn't have considered doing it had I not been asked. No one I knew had done anything like that. But we just did it bit by bit, day by day. We had a lot of fun together and it really was one of those experiences where the sum was greater than the parts with wonderful people and an incredible experience that challenged us and took everyone to new places—literally and figuratively. It was a very special summer.

Sue and Tom Carroll at Winchester Bay in Oregon at the end of the trail.

Which bike trips have you done since then and what’s still on your bucket list?
We have biked Vermont and New Hampshire (our honeymoon), the San Juan Islands, Napa and Sonoma counties in California and Wisconsin. We have also biked the Danube River, southern Germany, and southern Poland when Tom has been working abroad. As for a bucket list, Tom wants to do the United States from North to South ... still in the planning stages. I'm sure we'll do some more in Europe if we get the chance.

Did Bikecentennial change my life? Yes, it certainly did—and I appreciate it so much!

Photos and words courtesy of Sue Carroll.


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. 


Billy August 25, 2015, 6:50 AM

Nice Pics!! Is that like a plugin on your iphone to get that groovy 70's color? Or did you actually have some drunk guy in a drug store in Wyoming develop the film??

You guys were proto-hipsters, using your old film cameras!!

And next year will be your FORTIETH anniversary! Married for soooo long! THAT is cool.

Stephen De Dalto September 25, 2015, 6:08 PM

If my slides from 76 & 80 are any indication, we might have had the same drunk guy developing the film. :-)

Actually, I mailed (as in the USPS) my slide film canisters from the road directly to Kodak using their mailer system. They sent the developed slides to my parents, who ended up seeing the shots before I got home (granted, of course, they had to hold the slide up to a light).

As for birthdays, I spent my 18th in Chanute, KS and my 22nd in the Tetons.

Doug Snyder August 24, 2015, 7:48 AM

I rode the trail in 1978 and still my favorite ride and still look at the slides I took. I still ride and tour and have been to Missoula to your place. My good friend backpacks and lives in Missoula. I live in Ohio and still do self contained touring. Still have and ride my 1972 Concorde Deluxe I rode across the trail but now mostly ride my Co-Motion Nor'Wester Tour bike. We live in a beautiful country.

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