Persistent pedaling through towns, down canyons, up mountain passes, along rivers, and across vast deserts and farmlands — this is what it takes to cross the beautiful and diverse United States by bicycle.
For several years, Tom Bischoff, a member of Oregon’s Brookings Seventh-day Adventist Church, dreamed of this challenging adventure. As he listened to and read touring cyclists’ stories and pored over maps, his plan took shape. COVID-19 broke out, but Bischoff and his wife, Misti, agreed it was the “now or never” moment.
A camper on their Dodge pickup would serve as the rolling bed and breakfast, affording self-containment and plenty of social distancing. An average of 50 miles (80 kilometers) per day would bring Bischoff to his 50th high-school class reunion at Fletcher Academy in North Carolina on the first weekend in October. Retiring from his 42-year anesthesia career, he celebrated his 69th birthday and embarked on the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail journey.
Bischoff began pedaling at Florence, Oregon, on July 7, 2020. Established in 1976, the TransAmerica route typically sees thousands of riders annually and guides them through the heart of rural America via backcountry roads. Maps give riders needed info on amenities in each town, such as grocery stores, restaurants, campgrounds, and hostels.
Summer heat demanded early starts. Daily rides often ended with a nap in the sweltering heat of the day or a splash from the faucet at a town park. He experienced the term “radical generosity” at several churches and city hostels. The Bischoffs met only 10 other riders on the 72-day journey, and that rarity led to instant friendships and some meaningful conversations.
In the last week of September, Bischoff turned south onto the famed Blue Ridge Parkway and finished his ride at Fletcher, North Carolina. His reunion had been canceled, but a handful of classmates celebrated at an outdoor pavilion.
Long-distance riding requires endurance usually found only in youth. Bischoff attributes his good health to a temperate vegetarian upbringing, a lifelong love of outdoor exercise, and the blessing of good genetics. His final stats include: