Of course, it could be reduced. I could go from place to place that I want to visit. Museums and the like. But this seems unlikely. The logistics are tough. How to secure a bike with your livelihood strapped to the stern?

Most of all: how to want to bike through cities – instead of staying as godly far away from them as possible. Cities are little fun. Stop and start. In traffic one minute, in traction the next. Hard to navigate – constant reliance on GPS. Expensive. Building, building: not that much to see. And most of all, can’t camp out. City hotels? There goes the inheritance you don’t have.

Much fortunate that most of what I wish to see of America-between-the-coasts is not the cities, but the absence thereof. This is not, then, how I want to travel. I want to ride. To be alone, to work, to get somewhere, ride.

My method of madness, then: here’s my start-point. Choose an end-point. By and large the route chosen shall be the best way to connect the two: with quality, by and large, defined by simplicity.

I expect I shall begin in Portland. The idea of going somewhere else to begin seems against the spirit of the exercise. I suppose I could start on Mount Desert Island, at the beginning of the Northern Tier; or Kennebunk, beginning of so much of my life; or Boston, where I’ve begun a hundred rides. But starting from home – maybe even from the law school, at the moment my last exam is done – that sounds more the stuff. Locking my door, clipping in, and heading out.

Where, then, could I go?

I might examine some alternative routes, just for the sake of indulging my daydream, but I expect that I shall begin by going cross-country. Thereafter I can

A) Fly home

B) Bike home

C) Bike somewhere else, then to either fly or return

…as is my want.

The trip, then, shall begin on the East and head West. East is settled. What West?

Well, the Northern Tier runs just about directly from my doorstep to Seattle. That’s by far the most natural destination. And I have friends in Seattle! College buddies. LitMag cronies and just generally excellent people. I’d love to pay them a visit.

I have perhaps a crony or two in the between. But about a third of the way from Right to Left is my dearest friend Mark, who I would love to see, yes very much. (Maybe stay for a day or two. Maybe interest him in joining me for a day’s ride or two! Ahh, dreaming.)

From there it’s two days’ at most to The Other Portland. I confess a certain interest in Portland->Portland. Trippingly on the tongue and all that. Friends I have there too. Family as well. And I could there, unlike Seattle, dip my tires in the ocean. Two oceans. From sea to shining sea.

The Northern Tier is 4264.5 miles. By starting in Portland you chop off about 120 of those. By going to Seattle you add about 80. Seattle to Other Portland is 175, with 100 more miles if you want to hit the ocean by Astoria. Call it 4500 miles.

For those who, like myself – I belatedly realize – really, really like maps: http://www.adventurecycling.org/routes-and-maps/adventure-cycling-route-network/northern-tier/

If I averaged 40 miles per day, it would take me all summer. 80 mpd and it would take me about two months. A century per day and it would only be six weeks. The great variable: how much will I be able to bike.

Let’s use the 80/day average, which seems audacious but wholly reasonable (based upon a very casual survey of bloggery, so God only knows). If I left on 10 May I’d end up Seattle about 10 July. Oregon, say, 15 July. It would then be possible to turn about and come home, and if I pedaled hard I might be able to make it home for start of classes.

Four months’ biking. 9500 miles, give or take. Atlantic->Pacific->Atlantic. 115 days of sleeping under the stars.

I could provide some variation. If I went down to Portland I could take a somewhat different path home. On the way Left I could take the north fork at Glendive, MT and ride past Kalispell to Seattle, whereas on the way Right I could start at Portland and go past Walla Walla and Missoula, then straight on past Great Falls or down a bit through Butte and then Billings. A thousand miles of totally new scenery. Then across North Dakota, little room for variation. Could swing north at Minneapolis and come down by means of the Upper Peninsula, either down past Detroit or cutting up through Canada from Sault Ste.-Marie to Ottawa and Montreal, then down to Portland. No appreciable increase in mileage. Just another way to cross a continent.

I could also depart from the Adventure Cycling routes at any point – Buffalo to Albany to see Beyonce, say, then across Massachusetts, where I know people everywhere. At Buffalo I could take the Lake Erie Connector around Detroit to Ann Arbor, thus making it easier to see Mark (and easier to avoid Cleveland). I might take the North Lakes Route on the way in, trading the plains of Illinois and Iowa for the forests of Michigan and Wisconsin.

Conversely I could, from Seattle, head due south: to NoCal where I have friends, say, then San Francisco where I have much family. Could then bike back to Seattle – south along the beach, north through the Cascades – and fly home from there. Or continue south, all the way to San Diego where I have friends (the parents of friends!), and fly home from there. Conversely I suppose I could go north from Seattle, all the way to Fairbanks (2700 miles) or Anchorage (another few hundred, if I understand how roads in AK work), and fly back from there. And, along that vein, I could just strike out into Deep America – down the Rockies, across the plains – and fly home from wherever when my time runs out.

No shortage of options.

(It’s a big country, doncha know.)


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