After 25-year-old McKinley Bryson rode the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic, she wrote, “...there is way more good in this world than bad. I met the most wonderful, generous people… .” And editor of a new book called America’s Bicycle Route: The Story of the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail, Greg Siple, says many other riders have told similar stories.
Greg Stiple: They’re heading toward a town that’s 50 miles distant and they run into someone who lives in this town, who's out traveling. And they say, well, when you get to town, just go to my house. The backdoor’s open and you can just go in and there’s some food in the frig and you can set your tent up in the back yard. And those things happen quite often.
Chérie Newman: At the heart of the book is Bikecentennial, the reason the TransAmerica Trail exists. Bikecentennial was a huge event in which thousands of people rode bikes across the U.S. during the summer of 1976 to celebrate the 200-year anniversary of our country. Siple and three friends dreamed up Bikecentennial in 1973, while they were riding bicycles from Alaska to Argentina.
GS: The initial thought was just to say, hey show up at 9 a.m. in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on June 1st and we’ll take off. But as time went on we began to realize it should be a more organized event. So, hence we developed the specific route, published maps and guidebooks, trained leaders, so that the riders would be leaving in small groups, rather than en mass. And that’s how it all came together in the end.
CN: More than 4,000 men and women registered for Bikecentennial—people from all 50 states and 17 countries rode their bikes from Astoria, Oregon, to Yorktown, Virginia.
The trip was life-changing for the riders and the organizers, including Greg Siple, who has spent the last 40 years working for the company that grew out of Bikecentennial: Missoula-based Adventure Cycling Association.
The Adventure Cycling Network now encompasses nearly 45,000 miles of mapped bicycle routes across North America, including the 4,250-mile TransAmerica Trail, a route that helped change the perception of biking in the U.S.
GS: When I started bicycling in the early sixties, there was very little in the way of adult bicycling. There were a few small clubs in big cities. A few tiny, hole-in-the-wall shops were selling proper bicycles. And there were no bicycle magazines and no bicycle books. And this book to me is just a symbol of how far bicycling has come—to be able to put together such a grand book. And now to be able to see how bicycling has transformed in the United States. Where it used to be an adult riding a bicycle was considered odd, now a person who rides a bicycle is admired. And it just makes me happy the way Bikecentennial was a part that evolution of the bike. We were able to reach so many people nationally with this message and to show what bicycle touring was all about.
CN: 367 miles of the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail run through Montana. And Adventure Cycling also has other mapped routes in Montana. So thousands of people ride through our state every year, each of them spending between $75 and $102 per day. That’s been an economic boon for small towns like Twin Bridges and Dillon.