In early April 1983 four of us, my son Chris, who was studying at the University of Arizona in Tucson, his friend, bicycle mechanic Steve Smith and Mike Russell, a juvenile probation officer from Spokane, Washington, set out on what we called “Triathlon America.” I had bought an old, used trailer that we used as our home away from home on the road. We were doing a symbolic reversal of the white man’s journey across North America, starting with Lewis and Clark, then on to the Voyageurs and finishing where the Mayflower made land. Short version: I will save you the details, but between April and July we bicycled about 100 miles a day, swam across every river in the northern tier of the U.S. (and in all the five Great Lakes) between Seaside, Oregon and Plymouth Rock, Mass, including a diversionary trip to Toronto. We reached Plymouth Rock on July 1, 1983. (It isn’t much to look at.)
After we finished at Plymouth Rock, the four of us headed down to New York for a Fourth of July “grand finale”. The four of us were joined in Manhattan by nine friends, for a total of thirteen to represent each of the original thirteen colonies. Here is what we did that day:
- We swam from Battery Park in Lower Manhattan, across the lower Hudson River, to the Statue of Liberty, waved hello to her and the tourists, and continued swimming to Liberty Park in New Jersey. We had adequate boat support and support people all along the way.
- Waiting for us at Liberty Park were our bicycles. We mounted up and cycled south, across the bridge to Staten Island, continued south and cycled across another bridge back to New Jersey. From there our route took us through the State of New Jersey to the Delaware River. (We did make a stop at someone’s house for a pool dip.) The Fourth of July was a very hot day.
- At the Delaware River we had a huge rowboat waiting for us. The thirteen of us, wearing George Washington hats, climbed in and rowed across the Delaware River to the Pennsylvania side.
- The final leg of our four-part day of fun was a ten-kilometer run from our boat landing to the Liberty Bell, which was about to close for the day as we arrived. But when we told the guard what we had done, he let us in for a few minutes to see the Liberty Bell.
- A hard, hot day for our celebration: New York to Philadelphia; Liberty to Liberty. Because of all the red tape these days, I do not believe our Liberty-to-Liberty event will ever happen again. That’s okay with me.
From our start in Oregon to our finish in Philadelphia, we had no permits for anything we did. We just did it, ala Nike. All along the way, we met good, supportive people. There were times when it was difficult, like the frigid, snowmelt Kootenai River in Idaho, or the really hot day in New Jersey. But most days were wonderful and we learned a lot about what this beautiful country is made of.
That was then, this is now. I’m glad to be done with that stuff. But at 87 it is great to have memories.