Last summer, on the next-to-last evening of riding the week-long annual cycling event known as RAGBRAI, my friend, John, a former college classmate and I were sitting near the stage of the organization’s tent city listening to musicians do their thing. After our second beer, we agreed that the daily rides of 50 to 75 miles (80 to 121 km) across Iowa had been easier than we both had anticipated. By our third beer, we were 99 percent convinced we could tackle something more challenging. More miles. More weeks. More hills. More of everything.
John leaned back in his white plastic chair, looked me directly in the eye, and said it would be his choice to ride across the United States in 2020 to celebrate our 65th birthday — sort of closing out our athletic lives in a single burst of uncompromising insanity.
After our second beer, we agreed that the daily rides of 50 to 75 miles (80 to 121 km) across Iowa had been easier than we both had anticipated. By our third beer, we were 99 percent convinced we could tackle something more challenging. More miles. More weeks. More hills. More of everything.
“No problem,” I replied with a boastful tone, almost certain it would never happen when the reality of the scope of the concept finally sank in.
We returned to our homes and families — him to the east and me to the west — and didn’t talk about our conversation for several weeks.
I knew it would be foolish to tackle riding 4,200 miles (6,760 km) across the continent, or even a shorter unsupported bike tour, without performing the proper due diligence.
So I began researching riding shorter routes that I could complete before 2020. My search led me to the Pacific Coast Bike Route, one of the most popular and beautiful tours in the United States. For several hundred miles, the route follows the Pacific Coast Highway, and it highlights several regions, including San Francisco, Monterey, Big Sur, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and San Diego.
I explored what it would take, how much it would cost, whether it would be best to do it solo, with family or possibly with a tour group. Following weeks of planning, I decided to tackle riding down the PCH from just south of the San Francisco Bay Area to Santa Barbara in the southern part of the state. My ride will begin September 8, and my wife will be driving a support vehicle to help with gear and other essentials.
If all goes well, I’ll be in touch with John to discuss our touring options for 2020. Even if this is the last bike tour I ever do, I’m convinced I’ll have a memory that will stay with me until I exit this world.