TransAmerica Bicycle Tour — 1984

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Yorktown, Va., to Oceanside, Calif.
68 days
3,989 miles

May 13, 1984 – July 19, 1984

See the daily journal index below

I always get a little distracted when May rolls around. It seems that no matter what I’m doing, a part of my brain is spinning to remember what I was doing at this time in 1984.

That’s the year my friend Bruce and I took leaves of absence from our jobs and began a cross-country bicycle trek on May 13.

We’d met at a newspaper job and became friends. Neither of us were particularly athletic, but we did enjoy bicycling. A week-long loop in Virginia one year was followed by a bicycle tour along Lake Champlain and up to Montreal the next.

I seem to remember the idea of a TransAmerica ride hit us at a party while a bottle of Yukon Jack lubricated our bearings, but it took a couple of years for us to bring it to fruition. We bicycled for 10 weeks from Yorktown, Va., to Oceanside, Calif., using maps provided by Bikecentennial, a group formed to encourage cycling during the 1976 Bicentennial. That group is still around; it’s called the Adventure Cycling Association.

We both kept journals, and now I have a chance to do something with them. I’ll be posting the Reader’s Digest version of our scribblings on a daily basis over the next 10 weeks. I’ll post that day’s journal entry on the main page, then move it inside a few days later to the TransAmerica Tour 1984 index.

I’ve checked out journals online, like those in Crazy Guy on a Bike, and a lot has remained the same in the intervening 38 years. For instance, everyone still talks about incessant hills of Virginia and Missouri, the trains passing through the city park in Sebree, Ky., and the good pies in Kansas.

A lot has changed, though. The biker’s hostel in Elk Garden, Va., used to be a log cabin, but is now a brick building. Lazy Louie’s bike camp in Missouri is long gone, but there are other folks along the route who regularly entertain bicyclists.

Please feel free to comment, especially if you’ve pedaled the route since 1984. I’d be interested in your impressions.

Start at the journal entry for Day 1, or go to the weblog for TransAmerica Tour 1984

Daily journal index:


Day 1: Dude, Where’s my campground?

Day 2: First roadside attraction — Shirley Plantation

Day 3: Still a shakedown cruise

Day 4: Give me cycling or give me death

Day 5: Discovering gravity the hard way

Day 6: Rest day; mailing gear back home

Day 7: Climb a mountain, get a cookie

Day 8: Natural Bridge seems so unnatural

Day 9: Tired, tarred and dogged

Day 10: Dick Boyles, where are you?

Day 11: Fellow travelers, different paths

Day 12: We meet the Rev

Day 13: That’s the Breaks

Day 14: A salute from King Coal


Day 15: Hill Hell

Day 16: A good welcome to Berea

Day 17: Not everyone welcomes bicycle tourists

Day 18: The fragrance of good home cooking

Day 19: Abe born here, honestly

Day 20: “Just about right!”


Day 21: Pirates, bandits and skeeters

Day 22: Just like cowboys after a cattle drive

Day 23: Rest and repair


Day 24: Clearing a path for the Olympic torch

Day 25: “Show me” some respect

Day 26: Ups and downs in the Ozarks

Day 27: Beautiful scenery and never-ending hills

Day 28: Lazy Louie’s Bicycle Camp

Day 29: Charmed by flat roads


Day 30: Kansas is big state to lose partner in

Day 31: Shortcut proves hazardous

Day 32: Limping Across Kansas

Day 33: Don’t fence us in

Day 34: Eating across Kansas

Day 35: Go West young men!


Day 36: Can’t stop cycling

Day 37: Well-housed in Pueblo

Day 38: Just hanging out

Day 39: Entering Rockies — it’s all uphill now

Day 40: Running the Arkansas River — upstream

Day 41: Up and over at Monarch Pass

Day 42: Fellow travelers in stunning landscapes

Day 43: By bike and train over the San Juans

Day 44: Using a pickup instead of  bikes at Mesa Verde; bad move

Day 45: This drink tastes better than Gatorade

Day 46: Back and forth over Divide at Chama

New Mexico

Day 47: Flat near Taos, but not Kansas anymore

Day 48: Like being south of the border

Day 49: Walking around Santa Fe

Day 50: Bicycling the Turquoise Highway

Day 51: We run out of options, camping in the desert

Day 52: Cycling through reservation lands

Day 53: Celebrating the Fourth in Navajo Nation


Day 54: We learn about Navajo code talkers

Day 55: Our cross-country tribe grows

Day 56: Ritual and conflict in Hopi – Navajo lands

Day 57: Camping at the edge of the Grand Canyon

Day 58: On foot in the Grand Canyon to Dripping Springs

Day 59: Through hail to Flagstaff

Day 60: Stuck in Flagstaff again

Day 61: We find a leech after crossing Verde River

Day 62: Ghostly visions pedaling uphill to Jerome

Day 63: The toad in the desert puddle

Day 64: I can feel the heat on my eyelids

Day 65: We find an air-conditioned oasis in desert at Stone Cabin


Day 66: Strange lights in the California desert

Day 67: Final toasts in the glow of a Coleman lantern

Day 68: End of the road

Postscript: The tour comes full circle

Back to Biking Bis main page.

Attila Horvath

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    • Jack Heninger on July 25, 2014 at 5:35 pm
    • Reply

    Interesting story. I would love to read the rest but it seems that from day 43, the pages cannot be found.

  1. 1984 jumps out. I recently found old slides of my mom and me riding down the West Coast that same summer when I was 16! I turned them in to digital shots (scancafe), uploaded them to my web site, and am now working on putting titles on them and making the memories even stronger. It has been nice to relive great times with my mom. I hope you have had a chance to digitize some of your old stuff or give them a permanent electronic home.

    Those same memories of 1984 are driving me to plan a trip with my son, hopefully doing something similar to what my mom did with me. He will be 15.

    Keep on biking!

    If you are interested, check out
    (next summer’s ride) or for my 1984 trip.

      • Clay on November 25, 2022 at 12:51 pm
      • Reply

      The two men that wrote this story especially the one about Louis. That is the best that’s the best campground story. I love a red in my life. Do you know it would’ve been nice if you could’ve gotten some pictures of him and done all that stuff if you know what I mean, and how old are you guys now and do to still talk to each other where are you living that type of stuff that story of Louis that campground guy, it really brought me close to your story and to the both of you extraordinary story you wrote about him I felt like I knew him by the time I was done reading. Thank you very much for all of that. I was 23 years old that some are you guys playing cross country

    • Michael Schultz on October 11, 2021 at 1:03 pm
    • Reply

    Lazy Louie bicycle camp might be long gone, but everyday when I look across the road, I still see all of the nice folks that stopped by and said hi to my Dad.
    Mike Schultz

      • Clay on November 25, 2022 at 12:55 pm
      • Reply

      Wow, that was your dad?? That is awesome. So tell us a little bit about your dad and you know what if you don’t mind I’d like to actually have you email me.
      That was definitely the best story I’ve ever read about bicycle touring and just regular people.

      And your dad lives on in the story that was told about him for sure and then how come you don’t open up that campground and do what your dad was doing allowing people to stay there I think that would be a great legacy

  1. […] buddy and I ran into plenty of rain in the first half of our cross-country bicycle tour. We came up with a couple of strategies that worked […]

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