In 1983, QBP Outside Rep Kip Byars embarked on a bicycle tour of the U.S. and came back with many stories to tell. Over the years, those stories made enough of an impact on his son Logan that he set out on his own tour to “follow in Dad’s footsteps.” Kip expected his son to enjoy the journey. What he didn’t expect was an invitation to come along for the ride
“Where you from?”
“Where you headed?”
“How many miles do you ride each day?”
These were the never-ending questions I’d get from complete strangers while out on the road touring. That was 33 years ago. I was in my early-20s. And I was on one of the greatest tours of my life—riding from San Francisco to New York.
At the start of the tour, I found myself getting frustrated by those questions. But when I finally stopped to actually consider the questions and why people were asking them, it dawned on me that maybe it wasn’t so much that they cared about the details as much as the feeling, or the experience, of what I was doing.
Some were intrigued to know my story, others possibly dreamed of doing what I was doing. Some wanted to live vicariously through me, if only for a moment. Others were simply in awe that anyone could or would take on such an adventure.
Case in point: I was having lunch in the Midwest somewhere (although I don’t remember the exact town now), and a father and son came up to talk, opening with the usual questions I’d become so accustomed to. After they wished me well and left me to eat, I figured that was it, they got what they wanted.
To my surprise, as they were leaving the restaurant, they came back over to me…and asked for my autograph! Even as I was happily scrawling my signature, I had to laugh at that one. From time to time, I wonder if in some drawer or box somewhere in their house, that piece of paper still sits, collecting dust and yellowing. I imagine every decade or so one of them sees it and remembers that day, remembers that young guy riding to New York. Doubt it, but it’s a nice thought for me. Then again…
…Maybe I motivated one of them to try the same. I like to think that some of the people I’ve met, some of the lives I touched while touring, decided that they wanted to give it a try as well. Isn’t that what cycling is all about, sharing the experience with friends and strangers alike?
1983: Cross Country,
The very first day of my journey was a day I’ll never forget. I remember riding across the Golden Gate Bridge and looking back at my city through the typical and beautiful San Francisco fog. I’d done this ride countless times before but on that day, I couldn’t completely hold back the tears. At that moment, I remember saying to myself, “You’re riding where? To New York?” The reality hit me so hard that I think it took my breath away. The previous rides across always came with a return trip home. This time, the return trip would be two months later and by airplane.
Meeting new people started immediately. I wasn’t even through Marin yet, and strangers were already helping me in ways both small and large. There was the woman cyclist who rode with me and showed me the best bike path. More significantly, there was the man in his 80s out on a bike ride who recounted his own story of taking the same trip just the year before. At that time, I’m not even sure if I totally knew how important meeting him was. Just like on the bridge, I remember saying to myself, “Well damn, if that old man can do it I sure as hell can.” And so, with excitement, anticipation, and fear, I feel like that’s really where my trip began. There was no turning back.
Encouragement comes in strange ways while touring by bike. Those never-ending questions I mentioned at the top of this article? Turns out they were a big factor in keeping my pedals turning. These unfamiliar people, all who wanted to know about me and my story, ended up motivating me in ways I never expected.
I learned, too, that when you’re riding cross country it’s not just the questions from strangers that keep you going. You can be at what seems like an ultimate low point and just the friendly toot of a car horn, the wave of a hand, or a casual thumbs up makes everything seem better. Simple kind gestures made such a difference in the simple life I led for those two months, and they had a profound impact on me.
At the risk of sounding sappy, my cross-country trip renewed my confidence in humanity. I’m sure that’s why, over the years, I’ve been so passionate about sharing my memories and stories and slides with my kids.
2014: Cross Country, Take Two
Hard to believe that journey was 33 years ago. How can that possibly be? I can still remember the sights, smells, and tastes. The temperature, the wind. The faces of strangers I only met for a moment. I never considered there’d be another opportunity to relive that feeling, but not too long ago it happened. And how it came about still blows me away to this day.
Sure, I knew my kids enjoyed the stories of dad’s old-timey cross-country adventures—what I didn’t know was how much of an impact those stories were making on my son Logan. I found that out in the summer of 2014 when Logan informed me that, from a young age, he’d always wanted to take a trip like dad’s.
That summer he did it.
All the talk, all the planning, and all the expectations he put on himself to do this—he pulled it off. And the best part, the part I’m proudest of, is that he wanted his dad to join him.
Logan, just like me, started his trip riding across the Golden Gate Bridge, following in dad’s tire tracks. He met me in Ogden, Utah where I was for QBP’s annual SaddleDrive event, and we rode together for two weeks with my final destination being Lincoln, Nebraska. (Thanks, David and all the great folks at Joyride Bicycles for helping us at the end of my leg.)
For me, one of the more interesting things about our time together is that when I did my 1983 trip, I got one, yes one, flat tire the entire 3,680 miles! Logan, before meeting me in Utah, had one flat tire. Over the next two weeks on our ride…we conservatively had 25! And guess who got to change them all? After Logan had left me in Nebraska, he got only one more. Explain that one! (My theory is that the bike gods said, “We gave that guy a break 33 years ago and now payback’s…well, you know.” I think it was all about the universe balancing out. If you have a better explanation, I’d love to hear it.)
Same Feeling, Decades Apart
When you look at the photos in this story, you’ll see how many locations both Logan and I visited 32 years apart. Retracing my route with Logan was amazing. To quote a line from the movie Field of Dreams (my all-time favorite), “The memories were so thick I had to swat them away like flies.”
At the risk of embarrassing Logan (what’s a parent for?), my favorite picture from our time together is the one of Logan alone. We were almost to the top of Trail Ridge Road in Colorado. As we stood there admiring the view and feeling proud of what we had accomplished, I realized he was crying. I’ve never been more proud of him. I remember thinking, “Wow, he gets it.” The pride swelling in my heart was amazing. It’s one thing to share an adventure like this with a child, it’s another thing to know that he gets it, that he knows how you felt over three decades ago because, in this moment… he is feeling the exact same way.
There is nothing easy about a tour like this. That’s what makes it worthwhile and memorable. To paraphrase a guy I ride with these days (thanks, Dennis): “After all is said and done, the worst days become good, the good days become great, and the great days become amazing.”
To all the people at QBP, colleagues, and friends, and to all of the dealers that I’ve grown to know over all the many years, thank you for your interest and support of both Logan and me. You have no idea how your simple gestures motivated us to keep turning the pedals. Also, special thanks to Derick and Dominic from Out-Spoke-N in Huntington Beach, for helping Logan and myself with our bikes prior to departure.