- Posted May 27, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Visited all 50 states?
All 50 State High Roads -- on a Bicycle
The setting sun was in my eyes, making it very difficult to see the potholes in the worn out blacktop. I was pedaling a rented bicycle up the last few miles of the narrow, ill-kept road leading to the Meteorological Observatory on the top of Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii. Finally, after 12 hours, 10 in the saddle, I simply gave up. My legs were still OK but my mind had run out of willingness to push against the obstacles. It was July 1, 2011, my 74th birthday, and my entire family was there to share the final stage in a quest that had spanned forty years. Many tourists from all over the world have visited all fifty states, but a far smaller number of bicyclists have ridden in all fifty. I took on an even more specific quest, to pedal a bicycle from some suitable low point to the highest reasonable bike road in every state. It all started in 1972 when I rode from Williamstown, Mass. to Mt Graylock, the highest point in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Two years later I rode from my home north of Plattsburgh NY to the base of Whiteface Mtn., then pedaled to the top of the auto road, then rode back home, completing my first "century ride" (100+ miles). Those two rides infected me with a bicycling high-point disease which became chronic. My next few high point rides were scattered over an 18 year period, but after I retired from my job teaching mathematics at SUNY Plattsburgh, I had the time to grab high point rides (and high road rides) in big handfuls. In 2002 our son and his family traveled from their west coast home to Birmingham, AL, for a wedding. They couldn’t fit in a side trip up to Plattsburgh so instead my wife and I planned an 18 day motor trip touring the south and seeing the kids. On that trip, I scored rides in eight states (in order), GA, AL, MS, FL, SC, TN, KY, VA and we enjoyed eating southern cooking, observing southern practices, and listening to the music of southern speech. All but the last of these eight rides ended at an actual state high point, but that final ride up Whitetop Mt. in Virginia was the most pleasant of the eight. The weather was perfect and my route took me from the tiny village of Drowning Ford (I love interesting place names) east through a forest where I was serenaded by birdsongs and the water tumbling down a rocky trout stream. I waved to a few fly fishermen plying their own hobby on the rocky stream banks. Even the final mile or two on steeper roads, now with a gravel surface, went past without a struggle. At the top we sat quietly in a broad field of flowers and wild strawberries. It all made for a lovely ride. The next year, having had a brush with cancer, I wanted to participate in Lance Armstrong's Ride for the Roses, so we laid out a route to Texas and then west to California and up the coast to visit the kids again. Along the way I completed high point rides in Arkansas and Louisiana and high road climbs in Texas and Nevada. We were delivering a car to the west coast so we had the luxury of flying back home. In 2005, on a heroic 9000 mile loop of the USA, I took on the big ones, high road rides in the Rockies: Idaho, Utah, Colorado, and a mulligan in Nevada. The Utah ride was the longest -- another century ride -- and the Colorado climb up Mt. Evans, was the hardest as it began at 7000 feet elavation and topped out just below 14000 -- thin air up there! The Nevada ride from the Utah state line up to Wheeler Peak campground was the most pleasant of the four, taking me up a long, straight ramp ascending an apron formed by the rocks and soil shed by the mountain, then onto a mountain road past unfamiliar varieties of western pine trees including Bristlec