Thursday, August 2, 2007
Injury Delays Cyclist's 4,000-Mile Journey but It Could Spur Desert Trek
By Glen Rosales
For the Journal
By this point of August, 64-year-old Jon Knudsen was supposed to be well on his way across America, cycling from coast to coast.
But in a cruel bit of irony, he was injured during a training ride about a week before his departure.
Except he wasn't even in the saddle when he got hurt.
On a gusty day, he was riding the Bosque Trail, taking the big loop along Rio Bravo when he stopped to fix his chain that had popped off.
"Suddenly a big gust of wind came and blew my bike off the pavement and me, too," he said. "My bike fell to the ground right beside the bike path. I was falling on it and stepped beyond it to keep from squashing the bike under my feet. I turned an ankle on the steep embankment and tumbled head over heels down through the brush, coming to rest about 15 feet down the embankment."
It turned out he ruptured a ligament in his ankle, putting the brakes on the trip, at least for now.
"The doctor said I could go, but I wouldn't finish and I would need surgery," Knudsen said.
So Knudsen, a retired area elementary schoolteacher, won't be traveling by planes, trains or automobiles across the country. And he won't be going by bicycle now, either.
He had planned to ride his mountain bike from Astoria, Ore., near Portland, to Yorktown, Va., near Norfolk.
That's just about 4,000 miles.
"It's kind of a metaphor for life in a way," he said. "Life is a journey. There's a lot to see and learn in this country. But you can't do it with everything going past you so fast. If you want to see life, this is the way to do it."
Knudsen planned to follow a meandering path that started down the coast of Oregon, before he began heading inland.
"I've never seen that part of the country," he said.
The route was to cross into Idaho, following Lewis and Clark's route back across the Continental Divide before swinging into Wyoming, where he'd cruise through Yellowstone National Park and past the Grand Tetons. Then he was to ride down through Colorado, topping 11,541-foot Hoosier Pass near Breckenridge. At Pueblo, the route swung back east, heading straight across the plains.
Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, the state of his birth, then Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia and finally Virginia near Yorktown.
The route is called the TransAmerica, and was established in 1976 to celebrate in the Bicentennial. Fittingly, one of its end points is the site of the last major battle of the Revolutionary War.
Since Knudsen is facing about two months of rehabilitation, his plans for this year are on hold, although he's now considering a fall excursion that would take him from San Diego to Florida.
"It's about 1,000 miles shorter," he said. "But you have to go through the deserts in California, Arizona and southern New Mexico. Then you have to spend about 1,000 miles in Texas. Good God, that's a lot."
Knudsen completed a long-distance trip several years ago, following as near as possible along the Continental Divide from Palomas, Mexico, to Jasper, Alberta, Canada, covering about 2,500 miles. The only difference was that trek with Albuquerque accountant Mike Moye, who was to accompany Knudsen on the first 1,000 miles of this adventure, was spread out over four summers.
The trips gave them experience in planning and undertaking a grand adventure of this nature.
Knudsen planned to travel as a self-contained unit, hauling a one-wheeled trailer with a bedroll, a sleeping bag, a tent, tools, spare parts, food and water.
He planned to reach the East Coast by mid-October, but that might just be the start of the journey now.
"The whole point of doing this is to be able to stop and see things along the way," Knudsen said. "That's what I enjoy."
To prepare for the trip, he's been riding five days a week, averaging about 35 miles a day.
And doing that here has been the perfect training experience.
"If you can ride in New Mexico, you can ride anywhere," Knudsen said. "It has the elevation and it has the heat. You'll get some sudden rain."
He planned to ride virtually every day, taking a break maybe once a week or once in 10 days, depending on how things went.
"I'm not an athlete," Knudsen said. "I just like to be a bicycle tourist. The road has so many lessons. Sometimes you have bad days, but you just have to tough it out and keep going."
As to why he's planned such an excursion, Knudsen had a simple answer.
"I guess some people just have a sense of adventure," he said. "There's no way to describe it until you've done it."