The Ride Across

February 23, 1987

I remember when I was about ten, the day my dad decided to ride his bicycle across the country. He had been thinking about it long before. My mother and I never took it seriously.

He and his friend Tom were going to ride together from Ellensburg, Wash to somewhere in Wyoming. Then Tom would turn and my dad would go on. I didn’t approve of this at all. My dad was going across the country almost all by himself. What would happen if he crashed in the middle of nowhere? He might be lost forever. But my dad, of course, talked me into letting him go. My mother was just as easy.

“Come on Alice,” he said. “I’ve been planning on this for a long time. Tom and I have planned it all out. We’ve been over it a hundred times.”

“Now Dennis,” my mother said. She looked around the apartment. It was definitely a mess. No doubt, the doings of my brother. She closed her eyes tight. You could tell she was ready to give in. “You know what might happen. I’m not even going to think about it. What about the children? What about me?”

“Look,” Dad said. “I’ll wear reflectors, put a mirror on my bike. I’ll stop at every town to check my bike. I’ll write every day or so. You know you can’t stop me.”

“I know. Just go on you old fool.” And that was the end of the discussion.

We were leaving for Ellensburg in the morning. You could tell that my dad was really nervous. I mean, after all, it’s not everyone that rides across the U.S.A. I tell you, he did not stop shaking his knees til about 10:00 pm.

I was later informed that he was riding to his high school reunion. He planned on leaving June 17, 1986. When he got there, of all places in the world, he would go to Goodwill and get a semi-suit to wear to the reunion.

On July 11, he was to return hom. It was only to take him 21 days to ride across the country.

When we got to Ellensburg, we met Sue’s family. I was disappointed, they lived on a farm. The house had modern conveniences I didn’t think a farm would have. Things like a dishwasher, cable, stereo system. They even had a compact disc player. We hadn’t even gotten one of those yet. Sue was one of my dad’s biker friends. So she came out to Ellensburg with us.

We also found out that their cat just had kittens. I had my eye on one cute, striped one. They were all so fluffy and soft.

The next day my dad and Tom left. Tom’s wife, Cheryl, was coming home with us. Before we left for home, I asked my mom if I could have a kitten. She said, “No!” So I tried to sneak it home, but it meowed. Then, when were were about 5 minutes into the drive, I put on my fake tears. It worked. We turned around and got the kitten. She is now called Ginger.

Day 1

Dear Alice,

I have missed you much. We have had no difficulties yet. We are staying at the Appleton Hotel. It’s a pretty nice place, but we got it cause it’s cheap. We had to climb a really big hill today. Tom and I made a vow. We promised to race to every city limits sign. Whoever lost had to buy beer for the other one.

Well, say hello to Laura and Mike. Have got to go now. Bye!


Day 5

Dear Alice,

Tom got a flat yesterday, but it was fixed in no time. How are Laura and Mike? I hope they’re not getting into trouble. Probably are, right? Well, I must get my rest. Oh by the way, Tom turned back today. He’ll be all right. So long.


Day 12

Dear Alice,

Haven’t written lately, have I? Oh well. Got chased by a dog today. Fast little bugger he was. No problem though. All he made me do was go faster. Oh my gosh. I can’t believe I forgot to tell you in the last letter.

Well Tom and I were having one of our City Limits Sprints. We saw a sign saying “Coming up on Sawdustville, Idaho” so of course we sprinted.I was the first to the city limits sign, but there was no city. No house, no restaurant, no nothing. It was hilarious. Well, so long.


Day 14

Those darn semis nearly killed me today. I’m all right. Truck drivers have no appreciation for the American biker. Only 7 more days left. Got a flat out here, no problem. So long.


My dad wrote as often as he could. We really enjoyed his letters.

One day we were at the pool and Mike met a little boy. The boy introduced Mike to his dad and Mike said, “I haven’t got a daddy.” It was hysterical. Hey, but after all, he’s only 5.

Day 17

Everything is well. No dogs, no semis, no flats. Just scenery. Riding swiftly, I did 205 miles today. Byt that’s life. You must ride fast to get far.

Today I wrote to Karl. I’m going to stay at his place when I get there. Give my love to the kids.


Today my mom got into one of her fits on how she just knows he is going to crash. She goes on and on about it. Also Ginger decided to go on mom’s new rug. Boy, was mom mad.

Day 19

Hey, only 2 more days left. Today when I got into town, a bum tried to steal my bike and beat me up. I kicked him where it counts and he hobbled away. But that’s life. I knew it would happen sometime. Got to rest up. Big day tomorrow. Good bye.


Day 20

Ha ha! Only one more day. You just have to wait. But that’s life. Today I lost my wallet. Fortunately there was no money in it. People aren’t very nice in this Pennsylvanian town. They’re real snobs. Got to check on my bike. See you soon.


Although my father’s letters were short, they were enough. My father was not a talkative man. Save for when he was yelling at Mike or me.

You know, sometimes I think my dad’s favor line is “But that’s life.” He says it almost every day.

At home Michael kept getting into trouble. He loved to torment Ginger. But Murphey, our dog, loved her. It was funny to watch them play. Murphey would be sitting wagging his tail and Ginger would pounce on it. Murphey would turn around and Ginger would run away.

The next day we went to the pet store. We went there to get Mike the most indestructible pet we could think of. A turtle. We did this so Mike would not mess with Ginger any more. Michael was yippee I A all the way home.

Day 23

The reunion was very dul. Ho hum sort of deal. Not much to tell. After it, at Karl’s house, we played Trivial Pursuit all morning. Geff, Cooper and John were there. See you in a few days. Bye now.


“Mom I can’t wait till we pick him up,” I said. I was very impatient to get to the airport. We were going to go pick up my dad. Then we were going to got to a surprise party at Tom and Cheryl’s hous. “It’s been almost since I’ve seen him last.”

“Yeah,” said Mike. “ I hope he brought some presents. I really need a new toy car.”

I suppose that’s all Mike thinks of, toys.

“Oh Mike,” said mom. “You are such a pest. I don’t know how I put up with you.”

We finally got to the airport. When we got inside, Michael ran off. We couldn’t find him anywhere. We saw one of those guys in uniform that drives those little carts. Well anyway we saw him and asked him for help. He announced it over an intercom.

“May I have your attention pleas,” he said. “If you happen to see a little boy, 5 years of age, in blue choo choo train overalls and a red shirt with blonde hair, pleas return him to the lobby at once.”

Mike was soon returned. Mom had words with him in the ladies room while I went to find dad.

Everything turned out all right. Mike was grounded from T.V.

But that’s life.

The End.

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