Photograph by Ben Neumeyer
Here’s one way to outdo the all-American cross-country road trip: travel by bicycle. The best way is along the TransAmerica Trail, a low-traffic, highly scenic back-roads route the Adventure Cycling Association designed specifically for cyclists for the country’s bicentennial. Passable between May and September, the route takes three months, factoring in stops to smell the flowers along the way—and there are plenty of proverbial flowers. Between Astoria, Oregon, and Yorktown, Virginia, riders pedal past rugged beaches, ancient lava beds, high passes in the Rockies, fertile farmland, and snowcapped peaks. They pass some of the country’s most beloved national parks (Yellowstone, Grand Teton), and stop in small-town cafes that have served down-home American comfort food, from chili to Chesapeake crab, to cross-country riders for decades.
The challenges, of course, are formidable, such as 11,000-foot (3,353-meter) passes, a 70-mile (113-kilometer) climb, and deadening Midwestern heat. But seeing America from the slow-moving seat of a bicycle offers a more detailed view of the country than any other mode of transportation. It also offers the time to ponder it all, including those who came before you: Signs of Native Americans, pioneers who labored along the Oregon Trail, and soldiers who fought the American Revolution all dot the route. What cyclists say strikes them most, however, is the remarkable hospitality and warmth of the modern-day Americans that they meet along the way.
Need to Know: The Adventure Cycling Association (www.adventurecycling.org) offers maps and guided tours from $4,349.