Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | April 26, 2016

It’s all happening …

With new biking buddy Dave Reitan

Biked to Indiana and back with new biking buddy Dave Reitan, a former St. Paul guy himself.

That’s one of my favorite lines from the movie “Almost Famous.” I use it all the time, even if the people I’m with have no idea what the hell I’m talking about.

And so it is with the cross-country bike ride adventure this summer. It’s all happening.

Two months ago, when I last wrote (I know, shame on me!), I explored the “why” of this trip. The hunger to test myself physically and mentally. The desire for Melody and I to meet people along the way and talk with them about their lives, their hopes, their dreams. I’m sure we’ll meet inspiring people who are doing amazing things. And maybe, just maybe, we can spur a few people to drop everything and chase their own dreams.

We know it’s not easy. We’ve made a few frightening withdrawals from retirement funds that might lead us to sleeping on YOUR couches sometime when we’re in our 70s (we’ll start accepting invitations now). The physical challenge of doing this will be something new to me, too. But I’m doing my best to prepare. I rode 140 miles over the weekend (Friday-Sunday). And I’ve ridden almost 400 miles this month. That’s not near what I’ll be doing come June 14 (our tentative start date), but I’m satisfied with how I feel this early in the season. Riding on back-to-back-to-back days is the test and I’m happy to report that my bike seat and I are doing just fine, thanks.

Planning is another big challenge and I’ve got the route pretty much sorted out.

I’ve mapped my path from Oregon through Indiana. I’ve got a few more tweaks to get through on the final legs. I got great help getting started from a “pen pal” biking friend in Oregon, who introduced me to a great APP (Ride With GPS). He mapped Oregon and gave me suggestions for Wyoming, where he’s led tours. Here are the legs of the trip so far (I know, mountains, right? Damn!): Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming,  Nebraska (there’s a little jog from Sioux City down to Omaha not included here),  Iowa (for the RAGBRAI), Illinois and Indiana (if you’re actually checking out the links here, the Illinois through Indiana section is represented in Section 8 of this cross-country map).

When I get to Ohio, I’m using a mix of resources and then I head to Pittsburgh, where I plan to pick up the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal Towpath (weather and trail conditions permitting). From there, I’ll try to find the best path to the Atlantic Ocean, perhaps heading to Rehoboth Beach, Del., where we spent many family summer vacations. There’d be some poetry to that, I suppose.

If you know anyone along those routes, let us know. We’ve tweaked our plans in light of the fact that no one has “donated” an RV. Ha. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Oh, well, we’ve adjusted and have some other plans cooking. Probably a mix of hotel/motels, a bit of camping and (hopefully) some Warm Showers, an international network of hosts for adventuring cyclists.

So all we need now: good health, good luck with equipment, safe passage and a healthy tailwind from beginning to end. As hard as it is to believe, I’m actually starting to think that it really is all happening.

North Branch Trail, Chicago

Biking to the Chicago Botanic Garden and coming out the other side in Highland Park.





  1. What made you decide to go from west to east? Say hello to Idaho from me when you’re there. I spent five years working at Sun Valley after college.

    • Mostly so I could make ragbrai part of the trip. Our daughter, her boyfriend and some other friends and relatives are doing it this year and I wanted that to be a part of it. Also, prevailing winds? Aren’t they usually more often westerly? I hope so. Haha.

      • Yeah, when you mentioned at the ed of your post about having the wind to your back, I thought about that. Sounds like as good a reason as any! Fun to add ragbrai to the trip.

  2. CONGRATULATIONS on actually making this thing happen, Mark! I expect those withdrawn savings will be repaid many times over in wonderful stories, new friendships, and great opportunities. I can’t wait to see where this road will lead you; I know it will be fantastic.

    PS: Let me be the first (or maybe the 28th?) person to extend a couch invitation to your 70-year-old self. I have no idea where said couch will actually *be,* but you and Melody are welcome there anytime.

    • I will begin building the spreadsheet for home visits 15-20 years hence.

      • … and we’ll be ready with a hotdish and some nice bars, you betcha!

  3. You will be amazed at what you can do when there is nothing to worry about but the road in front of you. Totally envious.

  4. […] realized that in my earlier post I provided hyperlinks to the parts of the cross-country route that I had mapped. I then realized […]

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