People often ask which places Debbie and I enjoyed the most on our 2010 cross-country bicycle tour. The trip itself was a phenomenal experience, particularly as newlyweds. About everything we encountered was new to our lives, including one another. So, I have many fond memories of intriguing places. Debbie will share her favorites in a future post, but for now, here are the five that impressed me the most:
1. Eastern Montana. This is a no-brainer for me. The key word is “expansive.” The so-called Hi-Line, US Route 2, brings the tourist all the way across the state of Montana. Debbie and I picked up the Hi-Line in Havre. What we discovered for the next several days as we headed toward North Dakota was limitless high prairie and a straight, open road. It was magnificent. Wheat, blue sky, dry heat, and an undetectable but gradual decline in elevation provided idea cycling conditions. For anyone who likes trees, however, this is not the place for you. Me? I’ve had my fair share of trees over the years, so this was just plain glorious.
2. Western Montana. Whereas Eastern Montana was impressive with its inconceivable vastness and exquisite bicycling conditions, the Western portion of the State in the Rocky Mountain region was marked by breath-taking beauty. “Big Sky Country” lived up to its billing, rendering a textbook version of blue sky and mountainous landscapes worthy of an artist’s brush and palette. Sighting eagles soaring overhead was icing on the cake.
3. Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. Some might justifiably label this a tourist trap, but there are good reasons why so many flock to Niagara. The entrancing falls are a spectacle of nature, but the activity in the area makes it truly unique. An ambiance of multi-culturalism and peace far outweighs the unabashed money-grabbing gimmicks. Riding toward the falls from Lake Erie along the Niagara Recreation Trail offers a unique perspective motorists are unable to enjoy. Throw in a couple of border crossings, and our visit to Niagara provided plenty to talk about and enjoy.
4. Columbia River Gorge. The Columbia River separates Washington and Oregon along Adventure Cycling’s Lewis and Clark trail. At Chanticleer Point, the cyclist enjoys a picturesque view of the Columbia and its gorge from high above. While descending from this perch, waterfalls and tree canopies accompany the enjoyable ride, culminating at the bottom with spectacular Multnomah Falls. Farther down the road, tunnels on an isolated stretch and higher lookouts reveal that the Gorge is not just a one-shot wonder.
5. Clearwater National Forest, Idaho. Perhaps this is where I got my fill of trees before venturing to the high plain in Eastern Montana. Nevertheless, this area was beautiful. The Clearwater and Lochsa Rivers ushered us along US Route 12, while thick evergreen forests surrounded us on both sides. A national scenic byway with a remote feel (no cell towers and few services), this climb into the Rockies took us by surprise thanks to the gradual ascent to Lolo Pass amid glamorous environs.
Many other areas competed for a place on this list, including the farmland of the Midwest, views over Lake Erie, upstate New York, and, of course, our home turf in New England. Vermont and New Hampshire were particularly impressive. If you are able to enjoy these sites in person, you will not regret it.
You can learn more about these and other places in our upcoming book, Two Are Better: Midlife Newlyweds Bicycle Coast to Coast.