I can’t close off this cross-country bicycle trip without a postscript, because the tour really didn’t end for me when we arrived in Oceanside. Still suffering from wanderlust, the trip ended for me up the Pacific coast with a chance meeting with another cyclist.
The day after our Oceanside arrival, I accompanied our British friends several miles up the bike path that runs along the beach to Los Angeles. They were getting a proclamation from the mayor, or something, to mark their cross-country fund-raising tour. Somewhere north of San Clemente I turned around and headed south and they continued to LA. I never saw any of them again, although we corresponded once or twice.
Trail leech Jim
My sweetheart Becky arrived the next day and we hung around San Diego until the Summer Olympics in LA started. With Bruce and Marie, we headed up there and saw some events, including cycling at the Velodrome. While we waited for the races to begin, who should pass by on the walkway about five rows in front of us — trail leech Jim. Although we were curious about how he ended up here, neither Bruce nor I wanted to know enough to catch his attention. We both instantly ducked.
The Games ended, but I wasn’t ready to leave. Everyone headed home to Maryland except for me. Three or four weeks after we arrived in Oceanside, I packed the panniers and headed up the Pacific Coast bike trail from Los Angeles to San Francisco; there was an old high school chum I wanted to visit in Northern California.
Traveling north along the coastal highway is not the best way to ride. Southbound cyclists sped by in T-shirts. I struggled along in a sweatshirt into a nonstop headwind. Along the way I met another cyclist, Tom, and we rode all the way to San Francisco.
Another TransAmerica rider
One night, at Sunset Beach just north of Monterey, the whole idea of a community of bicycle tourists out on the road jelled for me. Tom and I had set up camp and I was cooking. I saw a guy sitting on a log eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and invited him to come over.
His name was Mark. He just had started a job out in the Bay Area, but he liked to get out on his bike on the weekends. This summer he had finished college in Illinois and ridden cross-country to California. Along the way he had met up with a group of cyclists — among them Dave Ianatti (I believe that’s the spelling) – who also were heading to California.
I instantly recognized that name. Dave Ianatti was a name Bruce and I had read in logbooks frequently through the tour. Many cafes in small towns kept a logbook for out-of-town guests to sign. At hostels and cafes in Pippa Passes and Marion, Kentucky; at Lazy Louie’s, repeatedly throughout Kansas and in the bike shop in Pueblo, that name appeared, just above ours. Bruce and I thought about catching up with them, but they always stayed a few days ahead.
Now, weeks after the cross-country tour had ended, I’m sitting out here at a campground on the Pacific beach talking to a member of the group that Bruce and I chased through several states, but never caught.
Bike touring community
It made me realize that while we cross-country bicycle tourists are pedaling throughout the world, we’re also cycling in our own world.
We’re a close-knit community on wheels in our own time and place. We’re held together by cafe logbooks and pictures in the Cookie Lady’s photo albums. People like Lazy Louie and the Rev. help teach us the culture of the TransAmerica trail. And the cyclists we come upon on lonely backcountry roads pass along anecdotes and give us hints about the what’s up ahead of us.
Thinking of fellow bicycle tourists as members of a community and realizing that I was a member helped me finish the tour without sadness. I continued north, by train from San Francisco to Red Bluff, where I set out across the Trinity Mountains to my friend’s homestead in Mad River.
I worked on his house for a couple of weeks, then I did a surprising thing — I left my bicycle behind as I climbed aboard a bus and headed south to find work in the Bay Area. I didn’t need to ride anymore. I had finished my TransAmerica bike tour.