Hao Yan prepares to head out on the next leg of the cross-country bicycle tour from Astoria, Ore. to Portsmouth, N.H.
By Karen M. Jorgensen
On June 19, a group of bicyclists set off from Astoria, Ore. with the goal of riding their bicycles across the northern United States until they arrived in Portsmouth, NH.
Traveling an average of 80 miles a day, while occasionally going more than 100 miles, on Day 31 they pedaled into West Concord just in time for a noontime break.
The group stopped for a short SAG break at the park next to the Casey's. The break gave them a chance to rehydrate from the morning ride from Mankato and grab a snack from the van accompanying them. A number of them also headed to Casey's or Ginny's for more substantial fare.
The riders and their support vans were taking part in the annual Across America North bicycle tour. It would take them 50 days to complete the 3,650 miles journey.
There are about 50 cyclists taking part in this year's tour, said Rob Leesom, one of the support crew that travels with the group. The support staff includes six staff members, including two mechanics and three vehicles.
The support team are all cyclists and they take turns riding and driving, he said.
The number of riders varies throughout the 50 days, Lessom said, because some opt to ride all five segments of the trip while others will join in for one of two segments.
The age of the cyclists in the tours can vary widely with the average on the Northern Tour about 60. The oldest rider is 75 and the youngest 20.
Hao Yan, 20, has the distinction of being the youngest on the 2017 tour. He is from New York City, he said, but is attending Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.
Although used to bicycling, he said, this is his first long bike trip.
"Now my legs are used to the distance," he said, "but not the wind."
By day 31 the challenges are more mental than physical, he said.
Yan said the group left Mankato early in the morning and were going to stay the night in Rochester. The average day's travel, he said, is about 80 miles although the group was seeing two days of longer treks. Mankato to Rochester trek was about 100 miles and the day before they had traveled 111 miles from Worthington to Mankato. He added they did about 50 miles a day through the Badlands of South Dakota.
The Mankato to Rochester ride was also proving to have its own challenges. Between Mankato and West Concord the group unexpectedly hit a detour that had the staff re-routing about 10 miles of the trip. When they got to Dodge County, staff members said, they found themselves on County Road 24 which the staff blogger described as a "ker-plunk" or "ker-dunk" road.
And the challenges did not end when they left West Concord as the blog for that night reported that just minutes after the last rider arrived at their Rochester hotel the rain started and soon the hotel was telling everyone to move down to the first floor.
With bad weather and rocky roads behind them, at least for a while, the group left Rochester the next morning headed for LaCrosse, Wisconsin.
The group will continue pedaling along until Aug. 7 when they arrive in Portsmouth.
The bicyclists will then disband and go their separate ways.
A new group of bicyclists will hit the road on June 17, 2018 from Astoria and 31 days later make a stop in West Concord on their way to New Hampshire.