Riding Across America on Dirt
In August 2015, my husband Tom and I left on the biggest adventure of our lives. We closed our bicycle shop of 5 years, moved out of our house in Southwest Ohio, and packed up our bicycles to ride the Trans-America Trail. The name may sound familiar to most as the popular paved bicycle route designed by the founders of Adventure Cycling for their Bikecentenial in 1976, following Route 76. The route I am referring to was originally designed by and for dual-sport motorcyclists to travel off pavement, East to West across the United States. These days, the route includes over 5,000 miles of dirt roads, gravel roads, forest roads, jeep trails, and paved back roads.
Tom and I had been riding on dirt roads for quite some time, but had only ventured on a handful of three to seven day tours. We knew the benefit of traveling by dirt roads: the more remote the setting, the less stress from high speed traffic, and the more relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere of riding and stopping along the route. We knew the TAT would be the ideal route for us to experience our country, and that it would be the biggest challenge of our lives.
From Morehead City, North Carolina to the Great Smoky Mountains, across Southern Tennessee, we dropped into Northwest Mississippi, pedaled across Arkansas, over the Ozark Mountains, and dead straight across Northern Oklahoma and the states Panhandle of No Man’s Land. We rode into the gulches of Northeast New Mexico, climbed up into Colorado, up and over the Rocky Mountains, before we dropped down to ride across Utah, and from basin to range of the Great Basin of northwest Nevada. We tapped California before riding northwest, across Oregon, where we came to the end of our western route in Port Orford, Oregon on Sunday, October 26, 2015. The final tally came in right around 5,000 miles, which we completed in 87 days (81 days pedaling with 6 days off).
For more on Sarah and Tom Swallow’s cycling adventures, check out https://www.swallowbicycleworks.com/.