Part 2 of a 3-part series (To read Part 1 of his post trip thoughts, in which Tim describes the experience and how he misses it, click here.)
Our route provided plenty of challenge. It kept us out of harm’s way and offered cities where we could pitch TheHopeLine to media and engage more people face to face. We traveled more miles and climbed more feet of elevation than on our other tours. And when you include Oregon, Idaho, and Montana in your touring, you’re sure to encounter breathtaking sights. The appealing visuals continued into Wyoming, where the terrain had us wondering whether we had landed on the moon. South Dakota and states farther east followed suit. We inhabit a beautiful country.
Debbie and I began TheHopeLine Tour of 2014 on the marquis route for bicycle touring, the Transamerica Trail. This moved us through the high desert of Oregon and Idaho, through the Clearwater National Forest and Lolo Pass, to Missoula, Montana. This portion of the route was more challenging than the Lewis and Clark Trail that we followed through the Columbia River Gorge in 2010. This year’s early route had more climbing and some long stretches between services. It was also hotter.
In Missoula, we changed to a route that would avoid the traffic, tourists, and “teddies” of Yellowstone National Park, a multi-day service-less stretch through Wyoming, and 11,000-foot Hoosier Pass in Colorado. Instead, we opted to head east through Montana along the I-90 corridor. With rear ends sore from climbing and a knee that had already been treated in Oregon, we felt the route change suited our capabilities much better. Our route would also take us close to some major cities that might offer better fundraising possibilities.
So, we headed east and dropped into Wyoming. Little did we know, the Bighorn Range and 9,600-foot Powder River Pass awaited us before we would eventually earn the right to enter flatter terrain. Once into South Dakota, we shadowed I-90 until reuniting with the Missouri River and the Lewis and Clark Trail. The Missouri led us south to the state of Missouri, where we followed it toward the Mississippi River. We dipped south again to cross into Illinois at Cape Girardeau, following ACA‘s Great Rivers South route on the fringes of Missouri’s Ozark region.
An option of our revised route would have taken us through Mississippi and Tennessee, leading us south of Nashville to TheHopeLine’s headquarters. However, after a two-week break in Sioux City, Iowa, tending to an injury, we skipped the more southerly route in the interest of returning home before snowfall and just in time for Debbie’s return to teaching.
The Ohio River soon became our traveling partner as we navigated through Illinois and into Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio. Somewhere in Kentucky, we switched to ACA’s Underground Railroad route. The hills along the Ohio River surprised us…and challenged us. The state of Ohio delivered us back into the northeast when we entered our fourteenth state of the tour, Pennsylvania. Halfway across Pennsylvania, on US Route 6, our tour ended with a broken arm. We were headed toward ACA’s Atlantic Coast route, which would have deposited us into New England. Eventually, we’d have found our way to Rhode Island and the Atlantic Ocean to complete the coast-to-coast trek. However, this time, it was not to be.
Missouri gets the prize for being the most unpredictable state. We were surprised by the many hills. Missouri’s lettered highways provided plenty of roller coaster action, with constant ups and downs. A two-day hiatus on the Katy Trail provided welcomed relief to the climbing.
The most beautiful state? I’m partial to Montana, which has it all: beautiful mountains, grasslands, evergreen forests, clear mountain streams and rivers, blue sky, and expansive vistas that earn it the name Big Sky Country. Idaho has magnificent scenery, too, but it was more difficult to enjoy due to more harrowing roads.
Oregon is a worthy competitor. Its scenery is wonderful and diverse, plus it features the Pacific Ocean. The unusual terrain of the high desert, with its breathtaking views, was spellbinding. Kentucky’s ridges offered plenty of long, eye-catching views, filled with green hills and valleys and interspersed with cropland. Our final days in Pennsylvania suggested that we had some even more spectacular foliage awaiting us had we been able to continue farther east.
Bicyclists heading west told us the people of Kentucky were extremely friendly, helpful, and hospitable. We found this out firsthand. The people of South Dakota were unusually friendly, too. In fact, we found friendly people in most of the places we traveled. Those we met from Canton, Pennsylvania, who played a special role in our journey’s end, fell into a category all their own.
To read Part 3, about the fundraising and marriage aspects of TheHopeLine Tour, click here.
If you have not yet pledged support to TheHopeLine as part of TheHopeLine Tour of 2014, it’s not too late! What’s more, a generous donor of TheHopeLine has agreed to match your contribution dollar for dollar from now until the end of 2014. Won’t you please help raise the fundraising thermometer higher while making a lasting difference in the lives of young people in crisis? To pledge support right now, click here. If you would like to learn more about why TheHopeLine is worthy of your support, please read our case for support page.