In 1976, Brother Mike and I rode our bicycles from Boston to Springfield where we joined Brother Jim, Mark McNay, Mark Sechler and Bob Dillstrom to ride to Vancouver and the Pacific Ocean.  In 1978, nine of us began in Springfield and rode our bikes to Circle, Alaska with brief interruptions to ride a freight train and to raft north with our bikes on the Yukon River.

At each destination, we spent months working to earn our passage home.  In total, we spent over a year under the stars with lots of time to think.

Here's ten things I'm sure of.

1.  If you can't carry it on your bike, you probably don't need it.

2.  Cross the Great Plains of the United States with only two plastic pint bottles to drink from and you will know the value of water.

3.  Long distance cycling is the most social form of travel there is.  Casual conversations with strangers are the most fun and your greatest impediment to progress.

4.  If you need help and a place to stay for the night, stand in front of a grocery store in a working class section of town.  A teacher, or a bus driver or a mechanic will take you home and give you supper and green grass for your sleeping bag.  Working people are the cyclist's best friend.

5.  If you want to be skinny, suntanned and strong as a horse, then ride your bicycle across America.  No exercise program can compare.

6.  If you want to eat as much as you want, as often as you want and never put on a pound, then ride your bicycle across America.  No diet program can compare.

7.  We averaged 10 miles an hour with full packs through mountains, plains, deserts, cities and rainstorms.  To make progress, you've got to ride 7-8 hours each day.

8.  Mountains are overrated.   They hurt going up and it's terrifying going down.   You must share narrow passes with giant Winnebagos and bunch up in glittering, overpriced tourist towns.

9.  The Great Plains are the best.  They are vast, beautiful and nobody lives there.  You'll see 10 abandoned farms for every live one.  Navigate by the tailwinds and sleep beneath broad sheets of brilliant stars.

10.  There is no age limit to transcontinental cycling; no glass ceiling; no gender gap; no means test; no ethnic or racial divide.  It's almost all in your mind.

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What I learned on our transcontinental bike trips.

We built a raft in Whitehorse and floated North down the Yukon river because the Alaska Highway was inhospitable.  Note the crow’s nest, main sail and poncho top sail.  The sweep is a Phoenician design

The Whitehorse newspaper covered our launch into the Yukon.  Reporting for duty were Carl Eyberg, Mike Chiles, Ellen Hamlin, Dan Chiles, Mark Eudaly and Mark McNay.

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Photo by  Jim Chiles

Photo by  Mark Eudaly

Photo by  John Flirth