Coast to coast on two wheels

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 9, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Three cyclists rode into Suffolk early Wednesday morning after peddling their way across America to get here. They are headed for the Atlantic Ocean to touch the front wheel of their bikes to it, an act that completes the journey begun by dipping their rear wheels in the Pacific.

Chris Reese and Mary Ann Williams, both of Philipsburg, Pa., and John Farr of DuBois, Pa., were the sojourners on this special trip. They are highly visible in their fluorescent green bicycling outfits emblazoned with &uot;Coast to Coast&uot; on their backs.

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Williams didn’t take the entire trip with the men. She met with them when they arrived in Martinsville. Her day job with the state correctional institution, Rockview, kept her from committing to the entire passage.

&uot;This has always been a dream for me; crossing the country by bicycle,&uot; said Williams. &uot;I couldn’t go the entire distance this time, but this is preparation for my big trip someday.&uot;

Reese actually began thinking of bicycling coast to coast several years ago when he began to consider retirement. Farr retired from Penn State where he was a physics professor. Reese is still a park manager for Black Moshannon State Park in Pennsylvania.

&uot;I had a friend who said he was going to take a bike trip coast to coast,&uot; said Reese. &uot;That thought just infected me for a number of years, and then I began to prepare for it. I looked into what type of bicycle I would need and to getting stronger, and studying maps.&uot;

When the day came for the trip to begin, Farr and Reese packed up their bicycles and shipped them out to Los Angeles, Calif., by United Parcel Service. They were waiting for them when they arrived.

The expedition began Aug. 13. They have traveled almost 3,500 miles through mountains, desert, plains, and across the muddy Mississippi to arrive in Suffolk.

Williams said she had the easiest leg of the trip to peddle – the Piedmont area of Virginia. She had no mountains to climb as her cohorts in cycling did.

&uot;We went north from Los Angeles to the Glenn Canyon Dam, through Yosemite, down to Lee Vining, Calif., then over to cross the deserts of Nevada, then on to Enterprise, Utah,&uot; said Reese. &uot;We also got to see some great rock formations throughout Utah and some marvelous scenery in Arizona, and the Rockies of Colorado. We thought, when we arrived in Kansas, that we would have it easier since we would be dealing with the heat and climbing, but we faced another challenge – headwinds.&uot;

Reese said they thought that they’d make at least 100-miles per day since they’d left the mountains, but winds sweeping in from the east prevented them from achieving that goal.

&uot;We did enjoy the foothills of Kansas,&uot; said Reese. &uot;We were just surprised to find those winds. It was very challenging.&uot;

Farr said he and Reese crossed the Mississippi River at Dorena Ferry in Hickman, Ky.

&uot;We had to use the ferry because… one problem in a trip like this is that a lot of the bridges are now for interstates,&uot; said Farr. &uot;Finding your way across America without getting onto the interstates is definitely a challenge.&uot;

The trio left Suffolk by way of Route 460, headed for Zuni. They were meeting friends there, and then it was on to Virginia Beach.

This isn’t the last trip they’ll make, said Farr. He said they met a lot of interesting people along the way and they definitely plan to do it over again.

&uot;We met a peanut farmer yesterday and we learned about the harvest and why they are sold salted, roasted, boiled, and raw,&uot; said Farr. &uot;This was just so interesting and he told us that Suffolk is the Peanut Capital of the World. We also met a man, Paul, at Bike West in Suffolk. He was very helpful to us. We just learned so much from so many people all across the country.&uot;

What did they eat while traversing the nation?

&uot;We especially enjoyed ice cream and anything else that would get in our way,&uot; said Reese. &uot;We ate a lot of snacks and just about anything we wanted and still, John lost a couple of pounds and I maintained.&uot;

As for the return home, the trio plans to be home by Oct. 14. Reese has to go to work Tuesday morning, after all.