A visit to the offices of Adventure Cycling Association is a highlight for bike travelers on the traditional TransAmerica route as they pass through Missoula, Montana.
Since 1982, Greg Siple, the co-founder of Bikecentennial which later became Adventure Cycling, has been taking portraits of them.
Here's the first one, at left. She's Laura Orton, a hospital dietician from Michigan who stopped by the office while on a bike vacation from Seattle.
Now, the Adventure Cycling has posted 76 of those portraits online in the National Bicycle Touring Portrait Collection. It's fun to browse through them and see what people have been riding and carrying over the years. One thing in common, they all have the self-satisfied expression of being on the ride of their lives.
The 76 portraits (consider the first Bikecentennial rides started in 1976) can be browsed by category themes — such as tandems, recumbents, musical instruments — or searched by rider name, departure city, destination city, or other keywords in the portrait text.
They're just part of a larger collection of 3,000 images of visiting bike travelers that Siple has taken over the years. They've appeared in the Adventure Cyclist magazine, as well as in bicycle touring exhibitions around the nation.
In addition to shooting the picture against a blank background, Siple interviews the bicyclists on the spot. Laura, for instance, told about her strongest memory of the tour: “We experienced 13 miles of tarred, bubblegum road, the temperature at 90 degrees, with man-eating flies.”
Siple tells why he likes the portrait project:
“These images and stories comprise a rich history of bicycle travel. I just love capturing a snippet of each person’s life which is almost always humorous, fascinating, or inspiring in some way.”
There's more than a photo op for visitors to the Adventure Cycling offices. Those who stop in Missoula are rewarded with ice cream, a cold drink, a chance to relax in the Cyclist's Lounge and view the bicycling memorabilia posted around offices.
One of the most moving portraits in the gallery is that of Ken Kifer, the larger-than-life long-distance bike traveler and webmaster who encouraged people to travel by bicycle through his website Ken Kifer's Bike Pages.
Kifer visited the Adventure Cycling office in June 2003. What's so moving about the portrait is that Kifer was killed by a drunken driver while riding his bike near his home in Alabama that September.
One of my favorites is George Decker, who's shown in a portrait from 1982 holding a small trumpet. A musician at the Kennedy Center Opera House at the time, he later moved to Eugene, Oregon, to become a fishing guide.