A Ten Thousand Mile Bike Trip… Let the Journey Begin

28 years ago, after wrapping up my part in increasing California's tobacco tax, I decided to go on a 10,000 mile bike trip around North America. Peggy and I are now redrawing the route.

28 years ago, after wrapping up my part in increasing California’s tobacco tax, I decided to go on a 10,000 mile bike trip around North America. Peggy and I are now driving the route. Peggy first met me when I stepped off my bike in Sacramento. She said I looked svelte and seemed to appreciate my tight bicycling clothes. Having been by myself for six months, I immediately fell in love.

It had been an exciting night at the Proposition 99 Campaign Headquarters in Sacramento. The tobacco industry had just spent $25 million ($56 million in today’s dollars) trying to defeat our efforts to increase California’s tax on tobacco, which, up to that point, was more than it had spent on any single political campaign in its history. The industry regarded our efforts as the most serious threat it had ever faced, not because we were increasing the tax, but because we were proposing to spend a significant amount of money on prevention. It had hired some of the best political operatives in the nation, including Ronald Reagan’s former media director— and, it had run the kind of campaign you might expect from an industry that had made billions off of successfully marketing a deadly, highly addictive drug to children.

The prevention part of the equation had been my idea. If we succeeded, we would embark on one of the most extensive prevention program ever, anywhere in the world. The industry was right to be worried. And we were right to be nervous. As the full force of the industry’s campaign had come to fruition in the last week before the election, we had seen our once comfortable lead drop to .05%.

But the night was ours. Heroic efforts by our friends in the health and environmental communities, including my future sister-in-law, Jane Hagedorn, made the difference. Early returns showed us leading. Later returns showed that we had won. I gave a talk on the power of a small group to take on one of the world’s most powerful industries and win. I then led the group in a series of cheers as the TV camera’s rolled. I ended my night by consuming more alcohol than a health advocate should. Jane drove me home.

California’s health community went on to prove that prevention works. The state moved from having the second highest incidence of tobacco use in the nation to the second lowest. Five years ago the California Department of Health estimated that over one million lives and $70 billion in health care costs had been saved to date.

The Proposition 99 battle was won in 1988, over a quarter of century ago. Ancient history now— except it relates to the story I will be telling on this blog for the next 2-3 months. The campaign wrapped up an important chapter of my life, and it left me with a question: what would I do next? I decided to buy a bike and go on a solo, six-month, 10,000-mile bike ride around the US and Canada. It was a completely reasonable decision, right… kind of like taking on the tobacco industry. So I went out and did it.

And this brings us to the present. I earned a huge number of husband brownie points last year— billions of them. I spent lots of time with kids and grandkids, supported Peggy’s various efforts to improve our community, and did many manly chores around our property. The wife was impressed. She made a mistake. “Next year is yours, Curt,” she announced. “What would you like to do?” It was like a blank check. I got a wild look in my eye and (before she could reconsider), tossed out, “Take our van and follow the route of my North American bike tour… for starters.”

That’s the reason Peggy and I are sitting in a Big O Tire store now in Roswell, New Mexico while Quivera, our van, has some work done. I am sure a UFO is circling above us, the same UFO that caused us to have a blow-out last night.

Quivera, the Van. We put a sing on Quivera to encourage people to follow my blog. The blue bike on the outside is the bike I rode around North America.

Quivera, the Van. We put a sign on Quivera to encourage people to follow my blog. The blue Trek bike (creatively named Blue) is the bike I rode around North America.

We were quite amused by the sink in the Big O Tire restroom.

We were quite amused by the sink in the Big O Tire restroom.

Even the toilet paper dispenser followed the theme.

Even the toilet paper dispenser followed the theme.

The staff at Big O was great. Putting new shocks on Quivera was a massive challenge. She is not mechanic-friendly. The mechanic on the left worked diligently. The front desk man helped us maintain our sense of humor. "Twenty more minutes" he told us several times.

The Roswell staff at Big O was great. Putting new shocks on Quivera was a massive challenge. She is not mechanic-friendly and objects to people working on her undercarriage. The mechanic on the left was one of three who worked diligently on her. (He is trying hard to smile.) The front desk manager helped us maintain our sense of humor. “Twenty more minutes” he told us numerous times.

Starting with my next blog, I will take you back to the beginning of my bike trek in Diamond Springs, California. I’ll talk more about my reasons for the trip and I will outline the extensive preparation it takes for such an adventure: I increased my nightly consumption of beer from one to two cans.

The blog will cover both my original journey and our present journey by van. For example, here’s what we have done in the past couple of days:

  • Visited a small town museum in Springerville, Arizona that included a Rembrandt among its treasures that could probably buy the town, or maybe the whole county.
  • Stopped off in Pie Town on the crest of the Rockies that is nationally famed for the pies it sells. The owner, who once gave me a free piece of pie, came out to have her photo taken with Peggy, me, Quivera and our bikes. (Crossing the Rockies was my first 100-mile day on the bike trip.)
  • Magically showed up at the annual open house for the Very Large Array of radio antenna/telescopes that have been featured in movies like Contact and Independence Day. Scientists from around the world compete for time on the radio telescopes. We were given a tour by a scientist who is looking back in time to the very beginning of the universe.
  • Contemplated the devastation created by nuclear bombs as we viewed the Trinity site where the first atom bomb ever was exploded.
  • Paid homage to Smokey the Bear by visiting his gravesite and singing his song. (Do you know it?)
  • Walked the streets of Lincoln where Billy the Kid fought in the Lincoln County range wars of the early West.
  • Kept a sharp eye out for UFOs as we drove in to Roswell.

And that’s just two days. My challenge will not be in finding things to write about! This is a back roads journey through America and Canada, a Blue Highways Adventure. I’ll give more details on my next blog, but to get you started, here is a rough map of the journey I made by bike and we are now making by van. Please join us.

This is the route I followed through the US and Canada. I began and ended my trip in Northern California.

This is the route I followed through the US and Canada. I began and ended my trip in Northern California.

24 comments on “A Ten Thousand Mile Bike Trip… Let the Journey Begin

  1. Good for having tackled the tobacco industry, Curt. Does America have plain packaging for cigarettes and only allow tobacco to be sold from out-of-sight lock-up cabinets.?
    Australia achieved that. I wonder if the next hurdle will be the McDonalds and KFC outlets, the sugar, fat and salt merchants of death.
    Look forward to another mighty journey.

    • Thanks, Gerard. They are locked away now behind counters but can still be seen. Laws vary by state. California just passed a law that people now have to be 21 to purchase tobacco. The governor just signed it into law. It was 18. Peggy and I are on the road again. Woohoo! –Curt

  2. This is just so cool! Love the cycling trip you made to fight the tobacco industry or at least to make sure new laws could be passed to help limit the use of tobacco.
    And I love that your wife offered you to choose what you wanted to do for a year.
    This Big O tire place is really cool with its sink and paper toilet dispenser.
    What an adventure you started. Best to you and your wife.

  3. Wow Curt I was enthralled with this post. I used to lead tobacco cessation classes so you can see my keen interest in this amazing part of your life. Congratulations to you for being a pioneer in heath prevention in this field. I look forward to following the journey now and hearing about it back then.

    • It should be an interesting balance, Sue. Hopefully, I can pull it off. There are certainly lots of stories between the present and past journeys. I kept a journal, sort of. It wasn’t always easy to write after a 70-100 mile day. And unfortunately, I didn’t carry a camera. (A friend took the photo of me cycling up a hill in Nova Scotia. I am making up for the photos now. (grin)) —Curt

  4. The Proposition 99 Battle sounds intriguing …

    “I am sure a UFO is circling above us, the same UFO that caused us to have a blow-out last night.” Lol, may the force be with you both 🙂

    I will follow your journey as much as I can. I always learn something new.

  5. Very cool! Curious why you trekked across Northern Ontario and Quebec on your first trip. That is a long ride across the Canadian Shield which I am familiar with and where I grew up (not by bike though). Are you planning to do the northern route again this time? -Gord

    • Hi Gord, I was looking for backroads and even remote backroads. My trip across Northern Quebec and Ontario seemed to fit. 🙂 And I hadn’t seen that country, which is always a criteria. Our intention is to redo that route depending on weather and road conditions. –Curt

  6. Smoky the Bear, Smoky the Bear. Howlin’ and a growlin’ and a sniffin’ the air. He can find a fire, before it starts to flame! That’s why we call him Smokey’ that is how he got his name. Dang, I haven’t sung that song for a long, long time. Thanks for the opportunity. I’m only sad that a couple days ago I took Tara back to college and didn’t have the honor of listening to me caterwauling.

    btw, I object to having people work on my undercarriage as well.

  7. Wow, I’m glad you stopped in at my blog and I promised to see what you 2 were up to. Love this journey! As always, your photos are amazingly beautiful. I love the thought and detail you put into each post.
    Safe & happy travels to you and Peggy.
    Patti

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s