Denise Goldberg's blog

Boston to Oregon, a cross-country celebration
It's time to live my dream of riding my bicycle across the country

Monday, January 26, 2009


It's time to ride my dream
Journal entry written on May 10, 2002

I planned to take a short bike trip this summer to celebrate my 50th birthday. I've never even felt middle-aged - so how did 50 years pass? Luckily I didn't spend too much time on my plans, because they've totally changed. I was just laid off from my job, and I've decided to use this as an opportunity (or a sign) to do the cross-country trip I've been dreaming of for a number of years. I've never been able to swing enough time off to do a full cross-country trip, so now that I'm unemployed it seems like the perfect time to go. Some people think that my reaction to being laid off isn't rational, but I know that it is. Most folks seem to go racing to the next job, but my love of cycling and my dream of riding cross-country have risen to the top.

People keep asking me why I want to do this trip. It's really a combination of things to me: a chance to explore our country at a pace that lets me really see things, a chance to meet and interact with people who live in the areas I'll be passing through, a chance to meet other cyclists, a chance to see parts of the country that I've only dreamed of so far, and a sense of accomplishment that comes from a ride of this sort.

It's time for a summer of bicycling! After that, I'll have to decide what comes next...

To learn a little about me, press the Author link at the top of the page.

I hope that you enjoy following my trip as much as I plan to enjoy the trip itself!
--- Denise Goldberg

Here's a picture of me with the bike I'll be using on this trip. My Air Glide & I took a quick trip to Moab with a friend in late April. My bike clearly wanted practice for the cross-country trip - dipping wheels in the Colorado River.

The route - a very crooked line
My first thought was to do the Adventure Cycling Transamerica route, but since I live on the East Coast, I've decided to start from home. Many thanks to the friend (sorry, I can't remember who...) who asked me why I was planning to start my trip in Virginia rather than from home!

Home is north of Boston, so I'll start my westbound trip by heading east to dip my wheels in the Atlantic at either the northern Massachusetts or southern New Hampshire coast. Then I'll head north and west to hook up with the Northern Tier route somewhere in either New Hampshire or Vermont. The official route runs pretty far north, and right now I'm thinking about cutting across southern New Hampshire, angling up to meet the Northern Tier route. I need to pick up some state maps to find a reasonable approach. Once I join up with the Northern Tier route, I'll follow it as far as Muscatine, Iowa, where I'll switch to the Great Rivers South route. I'll follow that until it intersects with the Transamerica route in Missouri at Johnson's Shut-ins State Park, then follow the Transamerica to Oregon. It's always been the western half of the Transamerica route that fascinated me, so this combination of routes lets me see some beautiful territory in the Northeast and some beautiful lakes in New York and Ohio (the route follows lakes through the Adirondacks and skirts the Great Lakes coming into the Midwest). Then the Transamerica westbound will allow me to enjoy the western mountains. I think that will make me happy.

My Adventure Cycling maps showed up yesterday, and I've started going through them to learn more about the route. I actually had to call and ask where the Great Rivers South and the Transamerica routes intersected. Now that I know what to look for (a rectangular white box on the map, not in the cues, that refers to the other map set) it is easy to see the intersection! How many miles? Who knows? My route is definitely not the shortest distance between the East and West coasts!

My bike - a new touring experience
I think I'm addicted to bicycling, and as part of that addiction I find that I am fascinated by bicycles and all things surrounding them. Somehow, I haven't been able to stop at one bicycle, so I actually have a choice of bikes to join me on this trip. What a nice "problem" to have! This will be my first self-contained trip traveling on my Bike Friday Air Glide. It will also be my first trip pulling a trailer, since I used panniers on all of my previous trips. It will be interesting to see if what I've heard is true - panniers definitely change the handling of the bike, but pulling a trailer supposedly maintains the normal feel of the bike (with a bit of extra drag!). We'll see. I don't mind the panniers once I've been riding a couple of days with them, but I'm looking forward to a more free feel to the bike. The titanium beam on my Air Glide gives it a little softer ride, and no, the little wheels don't make it harder to ride! The bike is a dream to ride...

Time to plan...
I've pulled a starting date of June 10th out of the air. That gives me a month at home to train and to get everything organized for the trip. We had a really mild winter, so I never stopped riding this year. I have 1400 miles of riding in so far this season, but that is mainly short rides. I need to start getting some longer rides in. And I need to set up the trailer and do a couple of practice rides hauling gear so I know what my riding life will be like for the next several months!

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Thoughts and memories

...a year later

I looked at the calendar this week and realized that it's the one year anniversary of the start of my cross-country trek. That's really hard to believe! It was a fabulous experience, one that I'd like to repeat some day. That day will have to wait a while, since I'm not ready to give up a steady income yet (someday ) and I'm currently constrained by my job's allowable vacation time - so for now I'm in a short trek mode

My trip is receding into the somewhat distant past, but my memories are still bright and shiny.

  • I remember wheeling my bike out the door on a bright, sunny day hoping that the funny feeling in the pit of my stomach would go away soon (and it did).
  • I remember holing up at a friend's house in Brattleboro, Vermont for an extra day, hiding from a cold, driving rain.
  • I remember that rain catching up to me again as I rode the funny cable ferry across Lake Champlain from Vermont to New York.
  • I remember days in the Adirondacks of cold rain, and switching to hotels as lodging because I knew I'd never be able to warm up if I wasn't dry.
  • I remember dropping off-route to the south to visit my parents for a few days, and my dad borrowing a truck to give me a lift back to the Northern Tier route at the end of my visit.
  • I remember wondering if I'd ever get across New York State as it seemed to stretch on forever.
  • I remember the wonders of Niagara Falls.
  • I remember my friend Sue driving down from Detroit to visit with me in Ohio for a day.
  • I remember the heat that followed me from Ohio through Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and parts of Colorado.
  • I remember the kindness of strangers in helping me to escape from the heat, offering a place to stay, or filling my CamelBak with cold water as the sweat dripped off of me.
  • I remember watching the corn grow taller through Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, until it was taller than me, and I remember the drought in Kansas and eastern Colorado where the corn was struggling just to survive.
  • I remember the constant wind in Kansas, and I wonder if it ever stops.
  • I remember Madelyn welcoming me to the Hotel Ordway (in Ordway, Colorado) with a clear, cold glass of ice water - she's definitely a cyclist's friend!
  • I remember finally reaching Pueblo, Colorado after thinking I'd never get there.
  • I remember the folks at the Great Divide bike shop making room in their busy day to tune up my bike (they always make room for touring cyclists ).
  • I remember the awesome mountains of Colorado and the varied terrain of Wyoming, from wide open spaces to red rocks that reminded me of Utah, to the Grand Teton Mountains, and to the geothermal features of Yellowstone National Park.
  • I remember the beauty of Montana, and my decision after wandering in Missoula that it was time for me to stop riding for a bit.
  • I remember all of the people who stopped to talk with me as I cycled through or stopped in their towns.
  • I remember the other touring cyclists I met on the road - and I've even heard from a couple of them since I returned home.
  • I remember being blown away by Chuck in Yellowstone National Park when he walked up to me and asked "Are you Denise?" - he recognized me from reading this journal!
  • I remember the magic of my trip...
Realizations about touring...
  • Long trips are for the overall experience. They encompass drop-dead beautiful places, and more ordinary places. They allow exploration at a slow or reasonable pace.
  • Shorter trips are worth taking too, and they can be planned to spend the entire time in drop-dead beautiful places.
  • Traveling alone does not mean being lonely.
  • Traveling with an open mind and attitude on a loaded touring bike opens many doors.
  • I'm still addicted to touring by bicycle! And if I can't be out there myself, I can enjoy trips vicariously by following along in other cyclist's journals. I'll keep writing about my trips, and if you're traveling on your bike I hope you'll contribute too for all of us who want to be on the road with you...

Monday, November 11, 2002

Plans are made to be changed, aren't they? actual route

I couldn't just stick to my plans, now could I?

I did follow my planned route for a good part of the trip, but there were sections where my original plans just didn't fit with what I felt like doing at the time. So - with help from state road maps, and suggestions from faithful readers of my journal - I changed my plans.

Map & information sources My actual route From my house in North Andover to Plum Island and back
I traveled via back roads, using Rubel's Bike Map of the North Shore (Boston)

From North Andover to Brattleboro, VT
Route 114 to Route 110 to Route 113 to Route 119

From Brattleboro, VT to Ticonderoga, NY
Route 30, then I followed the signs to the ferry to New York

New York and Ohio
Adventure Cycling Northern Tier, sections 10, and 9: Ticonderoga, NY to Monroeville, IN

Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri
  • US 24 through most of Indiana & Illinois
  • Adventure Cycling Great Rivers South from Quincy IL to Hannibal, MO
  • Route 61 from Hannibal, MO to Bowling Green, MO
  • Route 54 from Bowling Green to the intersection with route 73
  • Route 73 south to Route 32
  • Route 32 south to Route 65
  • Route 65 south to join with the Transamerica route in Fair Grove, MO
  • Adventure Cycling Transam section 9 to Girard, KS
Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana
Adventure Cycling Transam sections 8, 7, 6, 5, 4: Girard, KS to Missoula, MT With 2 deviations from the Transam route:
  • US 50 from Pueblo to Canon City
  • CO I-15 North to I-90 West from Dillon to Missoula, MT
Driving from Missoula, MT to Eugene, OR
  • I-90 West across Idaho and into Washington
  • US 395 south to Tri-Cities (Richland, Pasco, Kennewick) WA
  • I-82 South into Oregon
  • I-84 West along the Columbia River Gorge
  • I-205 South to I-5
  • I-5 South to Eugene, OR
For folks looking for more alternate routes...
Larry Mitchell also gave me some suggestions from his trip in 2001. He and his wife rode state route 28 through Indiana. They used US 136 on the eastern side of Illinois, and US 24 on the western side of Illinois. Their routes ran parallel to mine, just a bit further south.

Friday, September 13, 2002

And a thank you too...

As I look back on my trip, I just want to say thank you to a few people:

To my family and friends, for enjoying my trip along with me even though some of you would have preferred that I stayed home!

To my neighbors, for looking after my place and picking up my mail!

To all the new friends I met on the road, for taking time out of your day to chat with me, and for supplying me with conversation, water, ice, rides, etc.

To all the folks I met through, for reading my journal, sharing my experience, and providing feedback.

To the folks at Bike Friday, who were happy to lend me support along the way.

It's been a fabulous experience, and I'm glad that you all came along with me. Some of you told me you were riding along in my trailer or on my shoulder, in spirit at least. I was happy to have your good thoughts along with me, and I hope that you'll join me again in the future!

Thursday, September 12, 2002

What's next?

More biking, of course!

Although I'd love to say I'll be doing another long trip next year, it's likely that won't be possible. I'm headed back to work soon, and it's just not feasible to get several months off while working at a full-time job - especially when the company is a start-up. But - I do plan to continue touring, probably with one- to four-week trips, and I'll do another long trip when it becomes possible. My fellow authors have shown me that short trips can be fun too!

I actually thought I'd be doing another short tour before I start my new job - but although I have the time to do one, I've found that I'm a bit burnt out on travel for now. I was planning a 4 to 5 day trip in Maine, but when it came time to get myself on the road I found that I'm at a stage where I prefer to be in my own bed at night. But - I still want to do some riding along the coast of Maine, so I plan to do that in a couple of day trips. Maybe I'll write it up and post it as a photo journal, even though in the strictest sense it's not a tour!

Looking to the future though - there are quite a few places I'd like to visit on my bike. I want to spend more time wandering in the United States. I still have 5 states I haven't managed to set foot in yet, and it's quite possible that they will be the target for a future bike trip. I'd also (always) like to go back to Hawaii. I did a supported tour on the Big Island several years ago, and I'd love to repeat that as a self-supported tour, staying in B&Bs instead of the hotels I stayed in the last time. And I never seem to get enough of national parks, so that gives me quite a list of places to visit or re-visit. Other possibilities include Ireland, New Zealand, Canada (Vancouver Island and Nova Scotia are just two of the places I'd like to get to in Canada), repeat trips to some of our national parks, and who knows where else! I've had so much fun with my journal that I'm sure I'll be writing journals for my future trips, so keep an eye on my travel stories gallery or my blog for more on my trips.

Coastal Maine - a possible location for a future bike trip

Repeating a trip to the Big Island (Hawaii) is always a possibility --- but look at that wind!

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

An amazing experience

Things I learned (and re-learned)

What an amazing experience! At times it almost felt like I was living in a dream world. I guess you could call it that, because I'd been dreaming of taking a trip like this one for a long time. Living my dream was a good way to spend the summer, and I'd encourage any of you who have a dream like mine (bicycling or otherwise) to follow your dream where it leads you.

As I talked to people along the road, many of them told me that I was brave, or that they couldn't do a trip like mine. I never felt like I was doing something that required being brave - I was just following my heart!

My trip had both high and low points, and I wouldn't give any of them up. It confirmed my belief that most people are good - in spite of the warnings I kept getting from people about the 'next' town. It also enhanced my desire to continue traveling by bicycle. After 2 ½ months on the road, I'm still addicted to bicycle touring.

When I started out, I planned to use Adventure Cycling maps for most of my trip. That plan changed when I realized how far north the Northern Tier route took me on my way to Iowa, and how far south the Transamerica route really was. I abandoned my plans, and found my own way across Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri, joining the Transamerica route in southwestern (instead of southeastern) Missouri. This is the first self-contained tour I've done where I haven't depended on cycling maps for the entire trip - and it feels good to have moved on to other sources of routes. I like the Adventure Cycling maps because they include information on grocery stores, motels, and campgrounds. But - I learned that I can find my own way too. I spent time pouring over road maps, talked to locals, and even got some suggestions from my faithful journal readers. All sources of information were welcome, and all were used. The thing that made me the most nervous about striking out on my own was that I didn't know where the next food or shelter would be. I found that I could rely on locals for information like that - people generally know which of the next towns on the road have hotels, campgrounds, and food. What I didn't rely on locals for was information on the road. If they weren't cyclists, they tended to think that the road ahead was flat!

One of the things I knew from previous trips is that sometimes the Adventure Cycling route follows roads that are a bit too desolate for me - or routes that require too much attention and too many turns when there is a more straightforward road. This was true on this trip too. Once I hit Ohio I started carrying state road maps in addition to my Adventure Cycling maps. They allowed me to find occasional alternate routes. They also gave me a better sense of where I was, since the Adventure Cycling maps only cover a small distance on either side of the actual route. It was good to have both sets of maps. I picked up AAA maps a couple of times enroute, and I sent the maps home as I finished with them, so I was never carrying a full set of road maps + biking maps.

I feel incredibly lucky that I came home healthy and happy, and only 5 pounds lighter than when I started. I was really conscious of what (and how much) I was eating because I knew that in order to stay healthy I had to maintain my weight. Drinking lots of Gatorade and eating quantities of nuts (peanuts, cashews, and walnuts) helped me stay hydrated, fight off heat-related problems, and keep up my weight. I'd never used Gatorade like this before, and I found that it really helped. On those hot, hot days back in Kansas I could easily go through 6 to 8 20-ounce bottles of Gatorade in addition to my water. Wow! I guess it helped, and I'll continue to go down the Gatorade and nuts path. That's not to say that I didn't eat other things too - I just think those two items made a big contribution to keeping me healthy. And of course I was eating unhealthy things too. Somehow muffins and pastries tasted better than energy bars, and ice cream was a staple during those hot, hot weeks... I have to admit that I haven't totally figured out food and touring yet. I was trying to be careful, but I'd still have occasional days where I either didn't eat enough or didn't get enough of the right nutrients. I usually paid for that error the next day. One of my goals for my next trip is not to have any insufficient food days!

Another side effect of doing all of that riding along with hauling my gear is that my legs are absolutely solid muscle! Although I'm still a slow hill climber (one of the cyclists I met along the way told me that all touring cyclists are slow hill climbers!), I can pedal up hills more easily than I could when I started out. And of course that's a welcome change.

Wait, what about being exhausted? You're right, I came home tired too! It took me a while to get into the habit of taking regular rest days. I learned that taking one day a week wasn't always enough - especially if I used that one day to run errands. Since my bike was my only means of transportation (other than my feet, of course), I had a habit of riding on my days off, or running so many errands that I didn't get a rest. It's funny to think about, because this trip was a vacation. The physical exertion of riding 50 to 80 miles a day for weeks on end made it work too, and by the end of the trip I realized that I needed a vacation from my vacation. It wasn't until I hit Colorado that I started taking more than one rest day at a time. I should have figured that out earlier And of course the reason I took the second rest day in Pueblo was that I didn't get any rest at all on my first rest day! The next time I take an extended trip like this one I will plan for some 'vacation' time in the middle of the trip. I think that taking a week off in the middle of the trip would have been a smart thing to do. But - I didn't want to sit in a hotel room or a campground for a week. I need to find someplace where I'd be happy to sit still and relax for multiple days. What I plan to do before my next long trip is to find a place that interests me in the middle of the trip, then research places to stay before I leave home. I may look into becoming a Servas traveler as suggested by a cyclist I met from the Netherlands. He said that he had arranged a home stay about every 10 days on his trip. Or I may look into the Warm Showers List, contact someone in the local bike club, or try to find a reasonable place to stay by researching the area before I leave home. I don't want to lock myself into dates ahead of time, because that changes the spontaneity of the trip - but having the information in hand would be helpful. I could have happily spent days in the Old Faithful area of Yellowstone National Park just walking and watching the geysers (and people watching too). Unfortunately, spending days there would have meant getting reservations way in advance! I was lucky to get a one-night reservation at the Old Faithful Inn - and I loved the time I spent there. It just felt right

This trip solidified my trust in my own instincts for both simple and not so simple things. When I started feeling unhappy about my planned route, my instincts told me to change my plans. There wasn't anything magic about my initial route, and my new route served me quite well. When my instincts told me in Montana that it was time to come home - that was the right thing for me to do. (And that instinct or feeling had been building for a while; I just didn't pay attention at first.) I loved my trip, and I came home very happy with what I had accomplished. I didn't quite hit the Pacific Coast, but I found that I didn't need to get there to feel that I'd accomplished my goal of riding cross country.

I had a fabulous summer. I loved experiencing the vastness of our country, I loved meeting and talking to people along the way, and I loved sharing my experiences with friends, family and strangers via my journal. The feedback and encouragement that I received from everyone who followed me became an important part of my trip. As I mentioned in my journal entry the day I arrived at Old Faithful, Chuck just absolutely blew me away by recognizing me from my journal photos - and that experience just enhanced the fun!

I'm left with a love of touring by bicycle, and with the conviction that I can reach any goals that I strive for. I headed out on my trip with an open mind and the desire to meet new people and see new things and I came home happy with my experience. Maybe I'll see some of you out there on the road some day!

Monday, September 9, 2002

After thoughts on gear

...any way to lighten the load?

I kept looking through my stuff all summer, looking for more items to send home. I found a few, and as you'll see in my gear list I did send things home. Well, some things I sent home, and others I sent to my parents because I figured they'd send them back in a hurry if I changed my mind!

The one area that really sticks out is camping gear. When I started this trip I intended to camp, but that went away pretty quickly. I did send my cooking gear home, but I kept (and needed to keep) the tent, sleeping bag, and pad. My stuff is pretty new since I bought it for my first solo biking trip in 1998, but even camping gear has changed over the past few years. Before I do another trip like this one, I'll probably take a look at the latest camping gear to see if I can shave off some pounds. My sleeping bag is pretty light at 2 pounds 10 ounces, but I just found a bag that weighs 1 pound 5 ounces. My tent is good for a 2-man tent, but there are solo tents that weigh less. Ideally the next time I will either make more use of the camping gear or I will leave it home all together. It really depends on where I am touring.

Then there are the bicycle supplies. I started out with spare cables and spare brake pads, both of which I sent home. I also had a spare tire for both the bike and the trailer, and spare tubes. I wasn't comfortable sending the spare tires home. Both are odd sizes, and not something I could easily pick up in a bike shop. It's not likely that I'd need to replace a tire - more likely that I'd need tubes. But I've had a tire sliced by glass on a previous trip, so the spares made me happy. As for the tubes - maybe 4 spare tubes for the bike was a bit much. I had 3 flats, and was able to patch the tubes in two of the instances. The 3rd involved the valve stem separating from the tube - not something I could fix. I probably could drop down to 2 (that would probably make me nervous) or 3 (probably a realistic number!) spare tubes for the bike and have more shipped to me as needed.

Let's see, what about clothes? Believe it or not, I used all of the layers that I had with me. If I were on a shorter trip in a region with more consistent weather, I might have been able to leave some of the cold weather layers behind. On this trip, I needed them - so it was worth the weight. I was also happy to have 2 sets of off-the-bike clothing with me. My reason for carrying 2 pairs of shorts and 2 shirts was to have something to wear when I do the laundry. Even though I did most of the laundry a little at a time by hand, I still used the extra set for laundry days. Since I was using mostly synthetics (cool max, etc.), these clothes didn't contribute too much to the overall load.

I got used to the load very quickly, but it is always nice to lighten things up a bit!