The United States " from a bicycle seat
“We don’t consider ourselves cross-country cyclists. We are bicycle tourists.”
That’s how Nancy Ives, a freelance reporter and resident of Northstar, describes the transcontinental ride she, her husband and four friends completed this year to fulfill what she calls Rocking Chair Adventures.
Ives, 64, explained that when she’s older, sitting on her front porch, she’d rather be talking about her life instead of wishing the trip had happened.
“Me and a friend of ours wanted to have adventures. Instead of sitting there rocking and saying I wish I had done that, instead we’ll say remember when we did that?” Ives said.
On her list of rocking chair adventures was the transcontinental bike ride through the southern United States, a feat that took three months to finish.
The cyclists included Ives, her husband Jerry, and fellow Northstar residents Barbara and Fred Keitzburg and Norm Green, while Green’s wife, Jeann, followed the cyclists in a car to carry their clothes and supplies. Unfortunately, the Keitzburgs had to leave the trek before the others because of time constraints.
Starting on April 1 in San Diego’s Mission Bay, the bicycle tourists dipped their back tires in the Pacific Ocean. Some days, the group would travel as little as 22 miles, and other days pedal as far as 77 miles. After riding the entire 2,901 miles to St. Augustine, Florida, the remaining riders dipped their front tires in the Atlantic Ocean on June 29, completing the trip in just under three months.
Ives describes the trip as more of a vacation than a goal. She focused her effort not in crossing the country, but in stopping and enjoying what the United States has to offer.
“We weren’t out to get mileage. We stopped along the way and saw museums,” Ives said. “We saw the White Sands in New Mexico. We went to Lake Havasu for a couple days and saw the London Bridge. They were filming a movie in the little town of Alamo, so we stopped and watched that. We saw the cliff dwellers in Arizona. We took a couple days off and saw the space museum in New Mexico.”
Besides sightseeing, Ives gushed about the people they met.
“I guess the people were my favorite memory,” Ives recounted. “We met so many neat people, just funny little people just living their lives.”
She described a day when her cycling group got caught in a lightning storm and was forced to take cover under an older woman’s carport for two hours. They visited with the woman and she told them their appearance was the most exciting thing that had happened to her.
“The people in the south are just so nice to you,” Ives said.
Though Ives did say her appearance caused a stir on one occasion.
She and her group went into a cafe after a morning of hard riding where a church congregation was taking lunch after the morning service. Ives showed up dripping in sweat with no makeup.
“I don’t think they’d ever seen a woman dressed like me,” Ives laughed.
One of the hardest parts about the trip, Ives said, was the food. People who are taking long bike rides every day usually try to fill their stomachs with fresh fruit and vegetables. Alas, when Ives and her cyclists entered the South, they discovered a lack of the types of foods that cyclists need the most.
“Southern food is not that great,” Ives said. “Everything was canned or deep fat fried. Eating the same food all the time was difficult.”
Of course, it wasn’t just the food that proved hard to swallow.
“Being away from home was difficult,” Ives said.
Even after all the trials and tribulations over the course of the marathon trip, Ives said she would do it again in a heartbeat.
“The whole trip was just wonderful,” she said. “Every day we got up early and had to get on our bikes and ride. I never once said I hate to ride today.”
In the future, Ives said she and her husband were considering biking along the Mississippi River or the Lewis and Clark Trail.