Coast to coast in a month

Published 11:20 am Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dave Thomsen, left, and Dr. Dick Schindler are among a five-man team ready to bike across North America from Aug. 1 until Labor Day weekend. -- Trey Mewes/

Austin cyclists plan 3,500-mile trip from Oregon to Massachusetts

It’s not an easy thing to ride 100 miles in a day. It’s not an easy thing to ride several hundred miles in a week. It’s practically a Herculean effort to ride across the continent in a month.

That’s what five Austin residents will do in a few weeks. Dick Schindler, Terry Fox, Jerry Ulwelling, Roe Erlandson and Dave Thomsen will embark from Oregon to Massachusetts starting Aug. 1, biking more than 3,500 miles through more than 10 states and part of Canada.

“It’s something every guy has wanted to do for the past five to 10 years,” said Julie Thompson, the support person for the ride. It’s Julie’s job to follow the pack in her car carrying everyone’s equipment. She’s the taskmaster in chief, as she has mapped out where everyone will be going, where they might stay, and where they could camp.

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The trip is a long time coming. Julie originally thought she would help out Dave with a nationwide ride for his 70th birthday, as he had already competed in several bike races. From planning stops to mapping out directions, Julie’s taken care of most of the planning.

That includes a whole lot of food. It takes about 9,000 to 10,000 calories a day to feed a Tour de France bicyclist, or so the team found out. That means eating pasta, bananas and granola for breakfast, eating a pre-race meal, eating during the ride, eating after the ride, eating dinner and eating before bed, all while riding 200 miles a day. While the team won’t push that hard, they’ll still be riding between 80 to 130 miles or more a day, depending on the conditions.

“Some days, it’ll feel like more,” said Schindler, a wry smile on his face.

With all that biking comes a lot of preparation. For Dave, that means carrying a dozen tires, between 12 to 24 bike tubes, some spokes and the tools he needs to fix whatever problems they come across.

“There’s always the unpredictable,” Dave said.

They’ll certainly face some unpredictable weather biking through Oregon, Wyoming, South Dakota (where the land is flat and the rest stops few and far between), Ottawa and upstate New York, before ending at Salisbury, Mass. Yet they’ll have plenty of company, as bikers will be riding with them along the way, with many in Minnesota riding while they pass through Faribault and New Ulm on their way to Wabasha, and on to Lake Michigan mid-way through their trip.

At the end, they will have accomplished a goal not many can say they’ve done (especially since the five-man team’s total age adds up to 340). They’ll come away with some great stories and interesting sites, since they plan on visiting the Jell-O Museum in Le Roy, N.Y., to see whether it measures up to Austin’s Spam Museum.

“We want to see what kind of competition we have,” Julie joked.