Big Birthday Bike Ride and Marriage Enrichment Odyssey

By Rand Garrett

As I approached a milestone birthday, I knew where and with whom I
wanted to celebrate. My spot would be The Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado
Springs, CO… with Jan. To further celebrate the occasion, I wanted to do
something else special. Ten years earlier as a post retirement adventure, I
had bicycled from the west coast to the east coast, so I thought this would
be the perfect opportunity to bike from the east coast to the west coast,
timed to spend my birthday at The Broadmoor. (It turned out the gods were
smiling for my actual birthday---it was a beautiful day and I was able to
crank out a 75 mile birthday ride.)

First on the agenda: plan a safe, scenic route, and then… convince Jan
to act as my SAG (support and gear) and drive a car along the way. After
some serious negotiation, I agreed to 1) never refer to her as my SAG, and
2) always have confirmed hotel reservations along the route. I ‘fessed up
that a few of the hotels might be a bit rough---after all, my planned route
took us a bit off well traveled highways--- but I felt confident (well...
somewhat confident) that our stay in some lesser-known places like the Lazy
L Motel in Houston, MO and the Whispering Sands Motel in Hanksville, Utah
(pop.219) would work out. And to my credit, all of the no-name motels were
clean, even if, shall I say, a wee bit on the rustic side.

After a fun-filled send-off party given by Jim and Kay Kelly, we left
Yorktown, VA on Easter Sunday, April 17, and I started pedaling, heading
west to our destination, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Along the
way, most of the days were sunny and comfortable; I could cover around
55-60 miles, never separated from Jan by more than about 5 miles. She was
always there on the side of the road with a snack and water as I passed by.
Often she would drive ahead and find a "romantic spot" for a picnic lunch. In
all, we traveled through 8 states, and thinking back on it, our home state of
VA might have been the most diverse, most beautiful, and most treacherous.
The marshes after leaving Yorktown; a windy, cold, snowy day on Afton Mt.;
the lush green forests in the Mt.Rogers area, and the dogs attacking me in
far southwest VA all combined to make an unforgettable state ride.

A special highlight was stopping at the Abbey of Gethsemani in central
Kentucky. There we met a monk who was fascinated by my 3-wheeled
recumbent bike and he just had to take a spin. Since we were regularly
missing church, we felt like spending time at the abbey, where the well
known theologian Thomas Merton lived for over 25 years, somewhat made
up for it.

A surprise for us was the state of Kansas---it was not dead pan flat.
There were some subtle rolling hills and the sky was big, expansive, and
beautiful---you could see for miles. Even the truckers (and there were many)
were most courteous, giving me space as they roared past going 70, while I
was racing along at a 10-15 mph pace.

We stopped along the way for some fun sightseeing activities--the St.
Louis Arch, Bryce National Park, Arches National Park– and we even made it
back to St. John’s one weekend to attend Martha and John Parrott's
daughter Eliza's wedding.

My recumbent bike took up most of the room in our SUV. To get all our
gear in the car along with the bike, we had to pack our clothes, equipment,
and food supplies in 25 small bags which had to be strategically placed in
and around the bike. At the beginning of each day, my Sherpa, aka Jan, who
much preferred that moniker over SAG, really went to work---unloading all
the bags and the bike. Then I would take off for a day of riding. She, alone,
would reload everything sans the bike, start driving, and eventually meet me
along the way, and at the end of the day, and load it all back in the car for
the night. Jan made the trip work.

Jan was on the job all day everyday. Only once did she go AWOL. One
day she seemed to disappear and I later found out she had seen a sign–
“5 mi. to Barbed Wire Museum” - in a remote area of Kansas, and she just
couldn’t resist. Who knew she’d enjoy seeing 2,400 kinds of barbed wire!

Everywhere we went we met fascinating people. At the end of a day,
when you pedal into a motel parking lot and come to a stop at the door to
your room, and the next door neighbor has their pickup truck with fullystocked
bar backed up to their door, you know you’re going to have a great
conversation and a cold brew with some new friends!

After about 2 months we made it to San Francisco. I was able to
reconnect with a friend from my previous cross-country ride, and we rode
across the Golden Gate bridge together. The next day it was time to load up
the bike, the gear, the rider, a most wonderful Sherpa, and lots of great
memories as we headed back home to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

Posted by Evan Hines at 08:54
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