With that said, I had some decisions to make this spring: undertake a different project and put AD on hold, totally abandon the AD Project, or continue to push ahead with AD. Got to say that this project has become a burning passion of mine, and the decision was obvious - CONTINUE ON WITH AD! What I've decided to do was to continue the mapping and plan on "test" riding the route for as long as my time/money/fitness allows. I'd like to use the photos, the HD video of myself and the route, and the experiences I encounter, all as marketing material for a 2012 fully supported race effort. I'm planning on 2-3 months on the road in attempting to cross the United States from Washington DC to the Pacific Ocean in Oregon.
I'm going to call this crossing "The American Dirt Prologue." Though not a race against time, I still believe that this solo, self-supported Prologue crossing will be one of the most difficult east-to-west bicycle crossings of the United States ever attempted. I'm looking to do 50-75% of the transcontinental trip on dirt and gravel on my 29er mountain bike pulling a yak of 80+ pounds of gear over 5500-7000 miles. I plan on tying several famous "bikeways" to my mapped route - the C&O Railtrail, the Greenbrier Trail and 1400 miles of the Great Divide Trail.
Thus far - as of April 15th - I've mapped the route into Eastern Oklahoma, noting each and every right and left on gravel roads and trail in text, and my written directions now resemble a small book! I've spent hundreds of dollars on county maps and Gazetteers to map the route and I check and dbl check every foot of the route by using google maps set at a scale of one inch = 200 feet!! My desk resembles a map library as I have two computers going at once while I pour over paper and virtual maps and write out directions. I think I can get this thing fully mapped out before I leave on June 12th for the June 13th start in Washington DC. But let me tell you, the mapping is just painstakingly slow, often taking me three hours/day. My goal has been to map one state county/day. Some days I may get two counties - other days I may stare at a series of maps for three hours and get nowhere with a route. It's crazy hard.
There will be certain sections where I just won't be able to remain off hard surfaces due to lack of support and the difficulty of pulling a trailer with 80 pounds of gear. I came to that determination way early on when I'd decided to make this a solo project. And if and when the real deal occurs - racing the route and remaining totally on soft surface - I'll have some adjustments to make on the route. But at least 80+% of the route will have already been established and ridden.
I had originally intended on keeping the route under wraps until after I'd done the trip, but on further consideration I think I'd like to let people know where I'll be and how tough the conditions are - just makes for better entertainment for the blog readers. Now I'm not going to give you a blow by blow list of the roads because quite honestly just one day's worth of riding can entail up to a hundred road changes. REALLY! So you'll get the general vicinity of where I'm riding, not the exact route.
Finally, to end this first blog, I'm throwing out an invite to any of you who might want to ride a portion of this trip and experience adventure in a very big way: If you're interested in doing a portion of the 2011 American Dirt Prologue with me please let me know. I can fill you in on my time-line and my route such that you could plan a couple day to a couple week ride with me - I'd love to have the company now and then. But I do have to tell you that this trip will be unlike any bicycle trip across the US - it will be damned hard riding on dirt and gravel, especially when crossing mountains! You must be fit!! But I think the payoff will be the peace and solitude of all those thousands of miles of dirt and gravel roads and trails. This will be a ride that is more than a once in a lifetime deal, this is a ride that's NEVER been done.
So that's it. I'll continue to update this new blog to keep you abreast of the trip and it's logistics. As I've said, I plan on beginning the journey on June 13th on the C&O Railtrail in Washington DC. Once outside of Cumberland MD, it's onto the gravel roads and across the mountains - many, many, many mountains!