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16 Days Racing from Oregon to Virginia on a Bike

By SANDY HAUSMAN | Saturday February 27, 2016    10:24 AM
In June of 2014, 45 people set out from Oregon's coast to reach Yorktown, Virginia on a bike, and filmmaker Mike Dion was there with two video crews, ready to record the epic, 4,300-mile trip.

"It's a set touring route which cyclists were imagined to do in 60 days," Dion says, "but I think as soon as you have these set bicycle routes you've got some fanatics going, "I wonder how fast I could do it in.' So that's where these under the radar races come on. There's no prize money, there's no entry free. It's really just to kind of see if you can do it."

And they do it without any help.

"There are no teams. There are no vehicles following you. You are not getting inside an RV with air conditioning," Dion explains. "You are in control of yourself and your own adventure."

Each rider carried his or her own clothes and sleeping bag, stopped for food, camped or spent a few hours sleeping in a motel. Some, like Juliana, were experienced in the long-distance ride – calm in the face of cold mountain nights and signs warning of bears.

"Grizzly bear time – yay!" she cries. Then, realizing there is food stuck between her two front teeth she adds, "Food reserves in my teeth. It's the first sign of going feral. The second is the leg hair. Should I go on?"

Even after an early crash with a painful injury to her knee, Dion says, she kept on riding.

"She comes from a pretty crazy childhood and background. She was born into this religious cult, and that kind of gave her some stamina and fortitude I think in harsh physical, mental conditions."

Looking at a map, she and Dion assumed the hardest ride would come in the Rockies.

"You've got this massive spike in Colorado – 11,600 feet I believe," says Dion. "Then it appears it's all down hill."

But there were other problems on the road ahead – like high winds in Kansas, humid, buggy nights in the Midwest and the surprising terrain of Virginia.

"The elevation on the map doesn't spike like it does in Colorado, but you've got these saw tooth, up and down for hundreds of miles, and that really surprised a lot of the cyclists and I think it added from their estimation a good day and a half longer to get through that last half of Virginia," Dion says.

Along the way, 20 people dropped out, leaving 25 to finish, including Mike Hall, a Brit who arrived just 16 and a half days after the race began.

"I haven't seen my bare feet since Astoria," Hall joked a few days into the race. " I'll probably have to check those out later today."

This year, the fun begins June 4th at 8 a.m., and while some will make the trip from Oregon to Virginia, others are expected to begin here and race west. The film – Inspired to Ride – sold out at the Virginia Film Festival. It's available now on ITunes and Amazon.

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