OK, so what is Side2Side anyway?

The Side2Side Ride I’ll be doing this summer is a 5,000 mile/8,000 kilometer unsupported bike tour across the continental United States- 103 days from Seaside, Oregon to Seaside, New York, a suburb of New York City out on the Rockaways.

Fifteen of those days being what I call “rest/slack” days, which are days I can compress the schedule into if I’m delayed during the previous week or so by weather, mechanical issues and so on. Each of the 88 riding days averages 56 miles/90 kilometers, with the longest day being just over 75 miles/120 kilometers and the shortest just under 30 miles/50 kilometers. I have averaged ten miles/16 km per hour spread over 10,000 or so miles/16,000 km of loaded cycle touring in the past three years, so that isn’t likely to change much this trip. It makes calculating each day fairly easy- I apply ten miles an hour to the planned mileage, add two hours combined for breakfast and lunch, another hour for all the stops to take photos, and then time as appropriate for anything in particular I want to see along the way. I don’t like to ever ride after dusk, so on a really long planned mileage day I’ll adjust the start time earlier as necessary.

Riding across the continental United States- this Side2Side Ride- has been a life goal of mine, and it looks like this is the year. There was never any question in my mind that I would start on the Oregon coast and the route through the Rockies pretty much fell into place from that. An overarching goal of the trip is to ride the length of the Missouri River, from its headwaters near Three Forks, Montana to its mouth on the Mississippi just above St. Louis, Missouri. I’m in the middle of a six year long plan I have made for myself: In 2017 I cycled the length of the Mississippi River from Lake Itasca in Minnesota to Venice, Louisiana down past New Orleans out on the delta in the Gulf of Mexico. Last year as part of a longer trip from Washington, DC to Kansas City, Missouri I rode the length of the Ohio River from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Cairo, Illinois. At the end of this trip I will have thus bicycled down all three of America’s great heartland rivers. At that point I’ll hang my bicycle up long touring-wise and spend the next three years in University of Alaska Anchorage’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program writing a book about the whole thing, which I hope to see published sometime around my 70th birthday. We’ll see.

…and a flag.

This is the latest in a series of flags flown on the back of my bike during long rides.

Like the license plate [link] it is a conversation starter. No two ways about that. Last year’s flag had just the “DC2KC” logo on it and I was approached several times by people who had no idea what that meant. Tired of explaining, I resolved to be more specific this year. Now I’ll probably get asked in places like Wolf Point, Montana and Elyria, Ohio what continent I’m riding across. But that’s OK, it’s all good.

This is most assuredly, though, not merely a conceit. It is part of my overall safety system, which includes mirrors on both bar ends, a helmet rear view mirror, reflective tape on the back of the helmet, a Garmin “Varia” RTL510 rear-looking radar unit [link] with tail light, a second rack-mounted tail light and high visibility cycling clothing. I want to be able to “see” to the greatest extent what is behind me and I want drivers approaching me from the rear to be able to see me. Other cyclists I ride with and friends who have passed me in their vehicles tell me that the flag is the first thing they notice when I’m ahead on my bike. So that’s a good thing.

It is, though, big ticket bling. I have the flags, which are marine pennant-quality screen printed on both sides on heavy acrylic canvas, made by NorthStar Flag & Flagpole [link] and they cost right around $80 plus shipping. The flag staff is shock corded fiberglass and I bought it, the attachments and the rack mount parts

from the Hostel Shoppe [link], a great recumbent bike shop in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

I’m headed out to a last breakfast in Portland, and will be on the road to Seaside right after that. The Prom Bike Shop apparently didn’t run into any major glitches putting the Surly back together, otherwise I’m sure I would have heard. See you from there shortly!