Family vacation: Campbell and sons bike 4,000 miles across country

When was the last time your summer vacation involved riding a bike 4,016 miles through nine states?

It “was the year” for an adventure with his two sons, according to Warren’s Dave Campbell.

Campbell, along with his sons Erik and Seth, left Yorktown, Va., on May 20 to kick off a biking tour of the United States on the TransAmerica Trail.

“I’m an avid cycler and so is Seth,” Campbell said. “I actually did it 29 years ago. It’s a great experience and I wanted to share it with my sons.”

That experience led the men from their starting point in Virginia across Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and through California to their final destination on July 9 in San Francisco, Calif.

“Each state changes a bit,” Seth Campbell said. “The scenery is amazing.”

The Campbells were far from the only ones taking in the country’s scenery coast-to-coast. Their fellow cyclists were some of the highlights of their trip. From a girl from Germany travelling by herself to a boy fresh out of high school walking across the country, “you really remember the people,” Seth Campbell said.

Some of those people weren’t always the friendliest. While most people would come up and talk to the cyclists, there were some who would stare and refuse to say a word.

“Some towns look at you like you’re a bum,” Dave Campbell said. “There was no eye contact. They’d just give you this glance.” Seth Campbell became so irritated with the awkward stares that in a restaurant in Howard, Colo. where the other patrons did nothing but stare at Campbell in his cycling clothing, Campbell returned their stare one by one. No one said a word.

Many, though, are helpful and friendly to cyclists. Towns allow cyclists to tent in the parks and use the showers at the pools.

Eagles Clubs have built facilities behind their buildings where cyclists can shower. A town in Nevada even changed and posted the sprinkler hours in their park to avoid hitting cyclists with an unexpected shower.

“One family said, ‘There’s sprinklers that come on, why don’t you stay in our backyard? You can use our showers and come in during the night and use the bathroom,'” said Dave Campbell.

Despite what many towns do to welcome cyclists, many have no idea the trail even exists.

“I’m amazed that this route has been there for 40 years and the majority of these residents have no idea that it exists because they don’t talk to the cyclists,” said Campbell. “I thought it was so bizarre.”

The Campbells want others to realize how accessible cycling the country really is. “Anybody can do it,” Seth Campbell said. “We met a high school biology teacher; he liked seeing the scenery that way. He doesn’t even train. He pushes his bike up hills, but he’s done 24,000 miles of touring in his lifetime.”

“A lot of people think they can’t do it, but it becomes your job,” added Dave Campbell. “You get up, eat breakfast, ride a bicycle, have lunch, ride a bicycle, have dinner, set up a tent. It’s your new job. You take it one day at a time.”

That one day at a time helps when weather and mechanical problems arise. “If weather hits, you don’t go as far,” said Seth Campbell. “One day at a time is the best way to do it.”

The Campbells used maps they bought from the Adventure Cycling Association to plan their routes. They circled two towns on the map to planned on where to go for that day – one as the goal, the other as a backup. Those maps also included important information regarding terrain elevation, topography and desert warnings.

“Maps have warnings with ‘no services for next 83 miles,’ pointing in the direction for the desert,” said Dave Campbell. “It’s really important to make sure you’re carrying enough supplies for those 83 miles or you’re in trouble.”

No matter how much water the men carried, Seth Campbell noted one major drawback to water in the desert: “The water’s 105 degrees – it’s not refreshing!” To help get the water down a little easier, the Campbells would add Gatorade powder for the flavoring and electrolytes.

“Ice water is awesome!” said Seth Campbell. Unfortunately, that ice didn’t last long in the desert heat.

“There’s so many things you take for granted, like ice water,” said Dave Campbell. “When you get home, you really appreciate them.”

Campbell says the hardships are what make a trip like theirs rewarding.

“If you like a challenge, whether you’re a runner or whatever, it’s a really good challenge,” he said. “You feel great when you get done. You come home stronger and more energized. If you want to know why you should do it, you hit a point in your life where you can. Years later, you get another itch. I don’t like to pass up on opportunities of a lifetime. Put it on your bucket list.”