Bicyclists pedal through on cross-country tour

Easy rider … Bill Gaither shows off his recumbent bicycle, one of two being used on the tour of the northern US. At 72, Gaither is the oldest rider in the group. This is his third bicycle tour, and he says this time he is keeping notes and plans to write a book about his experiences on the road.

If you’ve traveled Interstate 90 or Highway 14 this past week, you may have noticed a lot of bicyclists. Two tours have passed through the area, making stops in New Underwood, Wall and Philip.

Thirty-three riders with America by Bicycle passed through earlier in the week. The group stopped in New Underwood Tuesday before staying the night in Wall. On Wednesday, they took a refueling break at Philip on their way to Pierre.

This past weekend, cyclists with Bicycle America passed through this area on Highway 14, staying at the Philip school on Friday night.

America by Bicycle is a tour company that organizes stops, motel rooms, and meals for bicyclists. They have two support vans for support and gear stops (SAGs) as well as a rental truck to transport luggage.

The riders left Astoria, Oregon, on June 21, planning to reach Portsmouth, New Hampshire, by August 9.

On the annual trip across the northern route, riders average 80 miles a day, with the longest day at 120 miles.

Riders in this year’s group are from nineteen different states, Canada and Iceland. The diverse group includes three father-son teams, eight riders raising money for charity, three doctors and two nurses. Some riders are making the complete trip, while others join for segments.

The group has obviously bonded on their trip, as the good-natured banter flies during their SAG stop in Philip.

One of two riders using a recumbent bicycle, which looks a little like a chopper, endured a lot of hilarity about his non-traditional bike. “It’s much more comfortable,” he said, while his companions teased him about which part of the body it’s easiest on.

The youngest rider, Ian Carey, was introduced as a twelve-year-old, though he’s really sixteen. He and his father, Russell Carey, flew to Oregon from Maine and are pedaling home.

At the SAG stop in Philip, the support staff kept busy handing out drinks, snacks, sunscreen and playing cards for the daily poker hand. As riders rehydrated and ate peanuts, peanut butter and cheese, one staffer explained that they can eat 8,000 calories a day and still lose weight.

To see more photos from the tour and meet the riders, visit www.bamacyclist.com and follow the “Where’s Mike” and then “North 2004” links.