My X-Country Bike Trips

Trans-Canada 2009 Cycling Trip

The “TransCanada Backroads ’09 Ride 4 the Health Of It” was conceived in the summer of ’08 at a small pub in Hudson, Ohio over a couple of cold lagers and hearty Cheeseburgers. I wanted to use such a venture as a vehicle to accomplish three very important goals: 

1) To promote cycling as a healthy recreational activity as well as a viable form of green transportation.

2) To take on a formidable endeavor that would challenge us mentally and physically.

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3) As a way to  give something back to other people. We chose the Invisible Children organization because we wanted to be able to help make a major impact in people’s lives, to such an extent where something so small as a few hundred dollars can become a life-changing gift. The children of Uganda are a people in need of life-changing donations. 

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This trip had been something that I’ve wanted to try all my life, challenging myself on a repetitive basis, and seeing how I would handle the mental as well as the physical strain of pushing day after day after day. I was very familiar with rigors and the pain of one-day racing and one to two-week challenges such as difficult cycling and backpacking trips. But the allure of Trans Canada was well above anything I'd ever attempted. At the same time, our Trans Canada trip was not only a journey into the unknown, but it was also a  journey that had the potential to put both Ryan's and my professional careers in danger, as we both had to risk the well-being of our businesses by being on the road for over three months. This was a classic case of risk vs reward in life.  

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On the road I lived my life out of a yak and panniers for nearly three months, and then upgraded to a van for the final 18 days. I'd forgotten what if had felt like to go to bed at home, to get up and go to work, to eat regular meals, to see my friends and family on a daily basis, and to have a sense of normality to my life. Being on the road for so long was a completely new world, where I experienced new places and new faces each and every day, where I never knew what lay around the next turn, and where I pushed and worked with sweat and muscle to reach a new destination each day. 

Some days I was a master of my environment; other days I was mastered by my environment! There was an ebb and flow to good vs bad. But never did I even think of just calling it quits. This journey was my singular focus for a year with respect to my own personal challenge. Today, years later I still have a feeling of total and complete satisfaction having been able to accomplish this long trip. No second guessing. No woulda shoulda coulda. Ryan and I both faced our own challenges, and we persevered! And I believe we’re better men from the effort.                       


Finally, there was one intangible that I had not really dwelled upon before we began the trip, one final wonderful thing that had pretty much been the paint on the canvas of that journey - the amazing people who we'd had the privilege of meeting along the way. Many were people who came into and out of our lives within the span of just a day or so. These people who consumed just a blink of time in my life left me with memories and impressions that I'll carry with me forever. I cannot name all of them, but those wonderful people gave me something that no amount of money could ever buy. 


That adventure was a life-changing event. I guess I'd tasted something so inviting, so invigorating, so intoxicating that I became hooked. Today I call this obsession   "athletic adventuring". This concept of athletic adventuring is now an important component of my business.  

Here is a slide short slide show of the Trans-Canada Cycling Trip

Trans-USA 2010 Cycling Trip

In the summer of 2010 I did a cycling trip across the United States, starting in Houlton, Maine and finishing 4012 miles later in Everett, Washington. This trip was quite different than my 2009 crossing of Canada. My goals for this journey were to #1 Attempt an east to west crossing; #2 Do a solo crossing; #3 Ride considerably faster than the Canada journey. My love for the "North Country" along with my desire to find one of the longer traverses across the US led me to formulate the route you see to the left. My rather stubborn personality led me to go against all tradition and ride east to west against the westerly tradewinds - and do most all of it unassisted and solo. 

_DSC0317 (1) copyI had put in about 2500 miles of training miles prior to actually going one pedal stroke into the trip. Within that were some 2-4 hours of tempo riding every 2-3 days. And finally, I have to credit a very thorough body weight resistance training routine for giving me the stamina to ride for 5-9 hours/day into strong headwinds and intense summer heat nearly every day. I ended up completing the journey in 50 days of riding - an average of 80 miles per day. 

This, my first solo adventure. is an entertaining as well as beautiful trip  across the USA's Northern Tier of states. I just love adventure, and even more, I really enjoy sharing my experiences in "off the beaten track" places with others.  You can review my Trans USA Backroads cycling adventure blog at:

Here is a short slide show of Trans-USA 2010

Trans-USA 2011 Cycling Trip

The following year, In the summer of 2011 I did my third trans-continental cycling trip across the United States, this time starting in Washington, DC and finishing on the coast of Oregon. I called this trip the American Dirt Prologue, that because I was hoping to scout out a route for a future attempt at riding across the USA all on dirt and gravel. Now my original intention was to try to do as much of this prologue trip on dirt and gravel - but as I soon found out that way easier said than done!! 

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From fall of 010' through the spring of 011'  I had been mapping out a potential route where I would attempt to string together several of the nation's longer rail trails with long sections of gravel road, jeep track, ATC track, hiking trails and RR lines. It sure looked good on paper, and it was just fine while riding when on the C&O towpath to WV. Piece of cake! But once off the trail and onto the backroads of WV, that's where the trouble started. What with finding out that roads didn't exist and/or were not through routes, and discovering that other roads were asphalt and not gravel, I knew that I was in for a tough going. 

And it only got worse when I found myself cycling through the mid-west in one of the nastiest heat waves in recent decades - towing 75 pounds of gear in my Yak trailer with a mountain bike. By the time I had reached KS I was cycling in 100-degree temps on a daily basis. That was about the time I caved in to the weather and the difficulty of riding on dirt and gravel with full load of X-country gear. The prologue eventually turned into another asphalt crossing with only about 700 miles of gravel under my belt out of a whopping 3700 miles of riding. 

You can review my American Dirt Prologue blog at:

Here is a short slideshow of Trans-USA 2011

American Dirt 2012 Cycling Trip

American Dirt 2012 was 3710 miles from Washington, DC to Oceanside, CA on a 26 inch full suspension Ti mountain bike in 59 straight days. No off days on this trip. The daily average equaled 62 miles – very low compared to my previous trips and yet I had support this year. I easily spent triple  the amount of money for this trip as I had in the previous three. And yet I’m still light years from actually accomplishing my vision of American Dirt - having done only about 1700 miles of dirt out of those 3700 miles of riding. The physical difficulty of this journey was exponentially tougher than the previous three. Ditto for the mental difficulty...the preparation for this one, the equipment, the logistics, the terrain – ditto, ditto, ditto, and more ditto. But hey, that’s what I had wanted to do, to do something way more challenging than what I’d done on the previous trips. On that side, this was incredibly rewarding.

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Today, having been through AD 2012, I’d have to say that it was a success in that I’ve gotten a bit closer to accomplishing this grandiose goal. I suppose that having put so much sweat, blood, time and money into that trip, and then calling it a complete and utter failure would take away from the numerous positive gains that I’d made. Now I am still kind of second guessing myself on a number of different fronts here, and I think that’s only natural. But honestly, I think you’ve got come away from an attempt like this with an air of optimism, with a sense of what you’ve learned and what you need to do differently to get closer to the prize. And by gosh I really learned a ton on this attempt. And I still want that prize!

I did not think that I’d be able to do the complete American Dirt in its purest sense, and that I’d have to create some parameters to live by where I could kind of “cheat” my way through certain situations and terrains. These I’d erroneously figured might make it possible to reach the west coast with a “pseudo-AD route established. And those guidelines I lived by for 17 days of riding, where I managed to get from DC to Hocking Hills SP in Ohio nearly the whole way on soft surfaces – save for at the VERY most  a couple miles of pavement on super dangerous descents.  I rode and bike-hiked on trail, ATV track, dirt roads, foot trails, RR tracks, and on gravel and earthen berms alongside asphalt roads. But  I soon came to the realization that even with the “cheat” parameters as options Judy and I were just too far away from making it across the country at that pace with those parameters - I was averaging a mere 25-30 miles/day and putting in 5-7 hr days that were just kicking my butt. 

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I finally decided that I’d rather get all the way across the country with even more “cheat” sections than I would by spending a fortune in time, money and effort and only getting as far as the Mississippi River by riding dangerous sections of berm.  Staying true to the cause meant long sections of berm riding through Southern Ohio, Southern Indiana and Southern Illinois. That berm riding was the hardest, most intimidating, brutal   and dangerous riding that I’d ever done on a bike.  As I think back, the fact that this revelation occurred in Southern Ohio makes total sense to me. I mean down there, riding up the relentless and steep asphalt hills is hard enough, but when you try to do it on the gravel and earthen berms of those asphalt roads it’s just so difficult that I cannon truly describe it with any sort of justice. You have to experience it day after day to feel the total and complete beat down of going only 25 miles in a whole day of riding.

Now I’d anticipated and embraced this facet of riding when training for the trip, but NEVER upon anything on par with the severity and frequency of the terrain I encountered in Southern Ohio. I had struggled up and down so many of those climbs on berms that I think it just broke me mentally. Seeing one berm climb after another, and one berm descent after another and knowing that I’d either be pushing the bike, or climbing and descending in weeds, rubble, gravel, or in ditches, that really helped me see the light as to just how complex this American Dirt thing really was. And not only was it just the physically taxing nature of the trip, but it was also the whole concept of the time and money needed to do it properly. That just completely showed me the reality of such an endeavor. 

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So yes, American Dirt can be done by bridging all the soft surface tracks I’d researched by riding on berms, but the cost of said berm riding –  is a high cost indeed!  With all that said,  I can and will not attempt to do this again as we did it this year. It’s just too big for two people – a rider and a support person in a non-off road vehicle. To really accomplish American Dirt takes more money and time than I alone have to put in. It’s a major endeavor that will take at least triple the finances that I’d put in. Not only that, but it will take at least 3-4 other support members and at least 1 more vehicle – a pilot vehicle that is a 4-wheel drive and able to go on every road the rider/riders go on. It will take someone other than just the rider/riders to negotiate the ever-changing route in real time. It will take a minimum of 3 months, and quite possibly 4-6 months to do it right, berms and all.  

American Dirt is the last frontier of X-country bike riding in the US, and someday I hope to again push on down the dirt and gravel roads of this beautiful nation in an attempt to accomplish such a grand and lofty goal. 

To read of my pain and deprivation check out the blog at:

Watch a quick movie trailer of my American Dirt trip

© excel adventure sport & photo 2012