Saturday, July 2, 2016

EAST MEETS WEST

Summer 2013...Columbia River Gorge near Hood City, Oregon...Robbie nearing completion of cross country bicycle trip...



Robbie entered beginning of a greenway going west along the Columbia River. Bart Cohn and his dad were turning around on Bart's bicycle and dad's recumbent to return to Hood City. We rode the greenway together. Robbie's bike was loaded down with front and rear panniers, nearly 90 pounds of bike and gear, that intrigued Bart.

Bart asked many questions about my experience. I told him some of the amazing things I had encountered during the close to three months journey that summer. Bart had never considered ever doing a multi-day ride, much less cross the country by bicycle. I left him with a card listing the blog I posted along that journey. Bart followed the rest of my approach to the Pacific coast past Astoria, OR, and read many of the earlier posts.



More than a year later Bart posted on Facebook that he had purchased a touring bike (a Surly Long Haul Trucker, the same brand as mine), and that he was planning to ride cross country in 2016. I had also begun to consider riding cross country again as 2016 would be the 40th anniversary of the first US continental bike ride, the Trans America bicycle trail, known in 1976 as the Bikecentennial bike ride in honor of the American Bicentennial. A good history of that event is posted at https://www.adventurecycling.org/about-us/history/bikecentennial-summer-of-1976/.

1976 Bicentennial Bike Ride
1976 riders


Bart and I eventually selected, separately, the Trans American (TransAm) bike trail that runs from Yorktown, VA on the Atlantic coast west to Astoria, OR on the Pacific coast. Tradition has it that you dip your rear wheel in one ocean and the front one in the other. Bart would start on May 10 near his home of Hood City on the Oregon coast. Robbie began on May 14 in the North Carolina adjacent state of Virginia on the Atlantic coast.

Sowing the topographic changes


From the first I knew Bart would be on the same trail, I looked forward to meeting him on route. Would it be in Kansas? Colorado? Bart was held up for many days and separate instances due to late spring weather that included much rain, sleet, and snow. He noted that he needed to wait to cross western mountain passes until the weather matched the summer clothes he packed. Robbie took several days off to camp and day-hike along Virginia's Skyline Drive with his children, Molly and Andy, attend the wedding of second-niece Elise in Luray, VA, and return back to Asheville to attend to personal matters. I did not know how I would return to the route until Andy and his friend Kristine returned from Florida through Asheville on their way home to St. Louis. I hitched a ride in a very crowded car filled with mangos, coconuts, and one other passenger to southern Illinois where their road route crossed the TransAm. It was 1:00 AM, a dark night outside a state park. They did not want to risk descending a very steep hill and find the camping area due to fuel low-warning light and no knowledge of where next gas station would be. I would be only one day behind the scheduled location of my TransAm route by calendar, and comparable to two weeks being off route. I bypassed western Virginia and all of Kentucky, 700 miles. The next day, June 9, I rode into Chester, Illinois on what really feels like the beginning of this bike trip.



During the next several weeks, I was aware that the chances of our meeting was complicated by Bart's weather delays and my plan to detour off route to ride through (and over the 12,183 foot high) Rocky Mountains National Park and drop down into Denver to visit my sister-in-law Ann and husband Hal. Bart and I kept in contact. I finally determined that if necessary I would ride a day beyond my detour point if necessary to meet Bart on route. He and some other TransAm riders going east had determined to stay over the July 4th holiday in the small town of Kremmling, CO, south of Hot Sulphur Springs, at the Eastin Hotel because of potential difficulties to find accommodations in the fairly heavily touristed area of central Colorado.



Seven weeks from my Chester departure, while riding into Hot Sulphur Springs, CO, standing by the side of the road in front of a roadside burger and ice cream stop, Bart was waving me over. I did not have time to unclip my riding shoes before Bart is giving me a big hug. Enduring and experiencing a coast-to-coast bicycle ride is perhaps a once in a life time event, with hopefully more to come, and Bart accounts me as the impetus for him to undertake this months-long journey that does change one. "I must have read your blog thirty times," says Bart. It is exhilarating to have this east-meets-west experience that began with a moment's encounter along the Columbia River.

Robbie east meets Bart west


Many of the riders gathering at this road side stand choose to stay over night in local motels due to potential heavy rains to come, not to mention the thick mosquitos residing at the low-lying ground of the city campground. I also take in a relaxing soak at the hot springs. The following day five of us ride the 17 miles to Kremmling for a pleasant stay at Hotel Eastin and camaraderie.

  • BTW, Hotel Eastin is a lovely 1906 establishment in Kremmling, CO set in central Colorado mountains with gracious hosts Maryanne and Walt who acquired the hotel four years ago and have been restoring its soul. Worthy of your visit. I spent $25 a night for a very simple hostel single room with shower down the hall. Second story rooms are more.
Hotel Eastin
Walt and Maryanne

...and biking among old and new friends...
Bart and fellow east rider Ian
Beginning of mighty Colorado at canyon
Map discussion with Swiss Heinz and Rita


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