by Max Feldman
Ed. Note: This series of articles was written by Max Feldman. His dad, Ken Feldman, has lived in Mt. Airy with his mother, Ruth, since 1980. Max, 29, grew up there but currently lives in Roxborough. Ken turned 64 on June 24 of this year, the same day that he and Max left on a plane to Seattle. Ken went into semi-retirement just before that, after 40 years as a physical therapist. He will return to work part-time in September, probably for another year or so, before retiring fully. Next month Max will be starting his fifth year as an English teacher at The Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush High School, a magnet school in the Northeast. Max and Ken shipped their bicycles to a bike store in Anacortes, Washington, a week or so before their trip began, and picked them up and assembled them there after flying out. After touching their back wheels in the Pacific Ocean, the Feldmans rode their bicycles eastward from June 24 and arrived in Philadelphia on Thursday, Aug. 14. The following day, they rode their bikes to Ocean City, NJ, to complete their coast-to-coast trip. The total mileage was 3,756 miles over 52 days — 46 for riding and six for rest. Following is a much-abridged version of Max’s more-than-15,000-word diary of their cross-country bicycle journey:
This is not my first time doing a trip like this. The summer after I graduated from college, from June to August of 2008, I crossed the country by bike with first three, then two, and finally one companion. Jenny, Chris, Shaun and I had all arranged completely online to do the trip together, never having met before we got together in Portland, Oregon.
We rode from Astoria, Oregon, to Yorktown, Virginia, following the Lewis and Clark trail on the map for the first half. Shaun rode for the first week; Chris rode with us for half of the trip (before having to start work), and Jenny and I finished out the trip of about 4,300 miles over 66 days! Not counting our seven or eight rest days, we averaged 76 miles per day on that trip. The average number of times a stranger helped us per day was probably two. The average number of times a driver honked aggressively/frighteningly at us per day was about 0.25.
To make a long (4,300-mile) story short, that trip was one of the best experiences of my life, and I think I can say the same for Jenny and Chris, who (having been strangers prior to the ride) got married afterward and now have a family together! I have since done two shorter bike tours: in summer 2009, I rode solo from Philadelphia to Bar Harbor, Maine, and back to Boston; in summer, 2013, my dad, brother Jake and I rode 1,000 miles around the state of Maine.
On the 2008 trip, I had a “dumb” cell phone and would reach a public computer about once a week to email a list of people with updates from the road. This year, I will have an iPhone and Chromebook, which I have mixed feelings about.
• Day 2 — Marblemount, WA to Mazama, WA (76 miles): Most of today’s ride was through Northern Cascade National Park, including two mountain passes, the higher at 5,477 feet. If you haven’t been to the Cascade mountains, then you haven’t seen the most beautiful mountains in the country. They are towering, many covered in lush trees but many high enough to still be snow-capped and with rocky, steep sheer cliff edges.
You end up riding about 50 miles with no place to refill water and nowhere to buy food, so we had to prepare well. This basically involved drinking a ton of water at the last fill spot to start off ultra-hydrated, filling our three bottles each, and eating a lunch of Powerbars, Nutella and some GORP.
As we worked our way through and then up the mountains, the temperature began to drop slightly until suddenly there was a very cold rain. At our elevation, the sides of the road were still covered with snow, as were the higher parts of the mountains. It dropped from about 70 degrees (and very nice for the first half of the day) to 55 or a little less in a matter of 10 or 20 minutes. After that, we were fairly cold up to the top of the pass, and then got to enjoy 17 miles of pedal-free downhill to our motel room for the night.
One last quick story about food: At this point I want to impress upon you how hungry you can get while bike touring. I’m not even completely there yet; sometimes it really hits only after a few days of riding when your body is really in a calorie deficit.
But when we were finished tonight, I was definitely ready for some hot food. However, we discovered to our horror that one of the restaurants in town was closed; the only other one had a family emergency and closed early, and the only food store had closed while we took warm showers!
Another meal of Powerbars sounded so unappealing I thought about just going to bed and waiting for breakfast, but then I thought to try seeing if the store clerks would let us in, even though they had closed 40 minutes ago. We ended up eating a microwaved meal of canned chili and frozen burritos, along with a bag of salad. That may not sound like much, but it was more than worth it after our day.
• Day 3 – Mazama, WA to Tonasket, WA (82.5 miles): Today was NOT the easy day we thought it would be! Our mountain pass for the day, called Loup Loup Pass, was 10 miles of the steadiest climbing we’ve seen so far. We’re also out of the snow-covered Cascades and into the drier, more desert-like plains and mountains of eastern Washington, which is also very beautiful but made for less spectacular climbing views than yesterday.
We are at yet another WarmShowers.com host home tonight, a lovely woman named Ivette, whose son Mike got her into the idea of hosting bikers. She is also hosting Mike’s friend, Checkers, while he builds himself a rowing scull so that he can row 5,000 miles to New York. (So we’re the wimpiest people staying here tonight.) Ivette enjoys hosting bicyclists, although she is not one herself, and hosts about 35 people/pairs/groups per season.
Statistics: Total mileage so far: 236.5; Average miles per day: 78.83; Pounds of gear carried: About 45 lbs each; Gallons of gas used: 0; Miles per gallon: Infinite
• Day 15 – Havre, MT to Malta, MT (90 miles): Tonight we’re at the Maltana Motel in Malta, Montana (say that five times fast). This morning’s ride started out with three miles of dirt and gravel road under construction, followed by about 70 miles of riding into a fairly strong headwind, followed by a final 17 miles where the wind turned and pushed us to the end. Dad and I traded places leading and drafting off of one another for much of the ride into the wind, which slowed us to about 12 mph for long stretches (of otherwise flat road where, with an opposite wind, we’d make 17 or 18 mph easily).
We met three other cyclists on the road today, including Sheila, who has been riding to the same towns as us and whom we have heard about from other people. She’s riding alone and was the tortoise to our hare today; we passed her in the morning, stopped for lunch in Harlem (MT) and then passed her again in the afternoon. She must have been plowing through the wind all day without breaks!
— Continued next week