Petaluman pedals across the United States
In June 2012, Petaluman Doug Sanders attended a San Francisco Giants baseball game with then friend and now wife, Jennifer. What they saw was a dream — Matt Cain’s perfect game. In July, 2019 Sanders completed his dream — riding a bicycle across country.
Now back home and settled back into running his painting contracting business, he said his dream was similar to watching Cain complete his dream game. “It was all the steps leading up to the great finish that made it special,” he explained.
Simply put, for him, to finish was great, but the story was in the journey.
“It was a thousand times better than I thought it would be,” he said. “It is something I’ve wanted to do ever since I was a little kid, and I was better than I ever imagined.
“It is the best way to get to know small-town America. Riding a bike on average 80 miles a day, you really get to see America. To see the country from the plains and desert to the Great Divide was awesome.”
He recalled one stretch in Colorado where he rode through an area with sheer cliffs on both sides of the road. About 10 in the morning, he stopped at a little store in the middle of nowhere. “I looked at the clear blue skies and looked around. There was just beauty on all sides.”
Of course, not all was beauty. “There was a lot of flood damage,” Sanders said. “We had to divert our route in some areas. At one point in Missouri the road was completely washed out, and we had to carry our bikes.”
The journey was grueling, but for avid bicyclist Sanders, 62, who is in excellent shape, presented few physical problems.
“Other than pain in two toes on my right foot, it wasn’t too bad,” he said. Sanders did note that his hands sometimes pained from continually pressing the bicycle brakes during prolonged downhill stretches.
Of course, even for experienced riders, being on a bike for 6 to 8 hours a stretch through hills, valleys, mountains and deserts is no ride around Petaluma, and Sanders acknowledged that at the end of each day he looked forward to relaxing in the pool at a pre-arranged motel.
The ride was coordinated by America by Bicycle, a company that made the arrangements and provided daily support, including two vans that were with the riders at all times to carry baggage, water and supply support, including all-important tire repair.
“We did get our fair share of flat tires,” Sanders noted.
The riders tended to be toward the senior-citizen side. “Most were my age or older,” pointed out Sanders. He explained that most were retired, which allowed them to make the nearly two-month time commitment. The other factor is the cost (well over $10,000).
The 14 riders (plus four staff members, who alternated riding and driving the support vans) came from all over the country, including five obviously experienced travelers from Great Britain. “They were amazing. None of us could keep up with them,” Sanders said. “We became good friends,” said Sanders. “I still exchange texts with some of them.”
The Petaluman is still working, but, because he runs his own business, he was able to take time off for the adventure.
The journey started with the traditional dip of the back tire in the Pacific Ocean at Ocean Beach and ended with the equally traditional dip of the front tire in the Atlanta Ocean in Portsmouth New Hampshire, 3,829 miles and 52 days later.
Riders took a break every 10th day, and for Sanders it worked out perfectly as he had a chance to spend a day with his sister (and do some laundry) in Salt Lake City and visit with his niece and watch her daughter play basketball in Indianapolis. He also spent an evening having dinner with his brother and nephew in Buffalo.
Now that the dream has been lived and Sanders and his wife have had a few days extra in Boston, including a visit to Fenway Park, the rider said it is time to get back to normal, including back to work.
He doesn’t see a repeat ride in his future. “Nobody wanted to do this trip more than me, but once is enough,” he said.
That doesn’t mean things will stay routine in his future. He is much too active for that to happen. He has no firm plans, but he would like to see a baseball game at Wrigley Field in Chicago, visit Europe again, go whitewater rafting … the list goes on.
For now, his off-work plans are “To lay on the couch and watch the Little League World Series.”