Mark and Kim Thackray didn’t just imagine riding a tandem bike across the United States; they did it.
During their 35-year marriage the Corvallis couple has always ridden bikes, with their two sons or by themselves. In mid-June they biked to Seattle to visit relatives, stopping in Astoria on their way back home.
They also recently spent 11 days touring southern Spain. Last year, the retired couple took about four months to ride a bit more than 4,000 miles from Virginia to Oregon, allowing them to more intimately view their travels.
“Riding bikes allows us more flexibility in our jour-ney,” Mark says. The flexibility lets the couple see more of an area. “If it’s cold and rainy we can just hang out. We can find a coffee shop and hang out meeting people and experiencing the atmosphere. It’s more of an adventure cycling. It allows us to smell the flowers and suffer from the heat. We meet more people and get a different perspective of the culture,” of each area.
“It makes it easier to stop and see an amazing butterfly or wildlife or wildflowers,” Kim adds. “We don’t have to look around to find a place to park,” allowing us to experience nature and the sights more easily. “Once we were climbing a hill and a lady offered us water. It allowed us to get to know her and provided us with a delightful interaction.”
The couple has biked all over Oregon and parts of Washington. Early in their married life, before kids, they biked the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Before they retired, they took vacations on bikes, often with their sons. Mark says riding a tandem allows them easy communication and the ability to ride together.
“Tandem allows us to question and/or comment and provides better communication,” Mark says. “Kim can point things out to me and we are together so we don’t have to wait for the other one to catch up.”
Their 4,000-mile U.S. trek began in May when they dis-assembled their tandem bike removing the rear rack, fenders and some pedals. They lowered the seats and twist-ed the handlebars in order to fit the bike into a box to ship it to Williamsburg, Virginia.
They had decided to ride from east to west. This allowed them to start each journey early when the weather is cooler and to finish in early afternoon keeping the sun from blaring into their eyes.
After planning, packing and shipping, the couple began their trip in Virginia with “the traditional dip of the real (tandem) wheel in the water.” Their first stop was on June 20 at the Grace Episcopal Church guest-house.
The first 50 miles took the Thackrays from Revolu-tionary War scenes to the Civil War period moving through Virginia. Their trip led them to farm and fruit stands. They were biking through 90-degree temperatures.
Their route took them through 10 states using 12 maps. Each map offers panels covering 30 miles. They rode about 45 miles daily allowing them to cross into Kentucky in early July. There they saw Lincoln’s birthplace and met a number of friendly people, including cyclists.
By mid-July, the couple crossed the Ohio River into Illinois and did a few house-keeping chores such as bike maintenance and laundry. They had ridden 1,100 miles and completed about one-fourth of their journey. In Chester, Ill., they crossed the Mississippi and moved west toward Missouri.
The couple had crossed five states by Aug. 4 taking them through 2,206 miles and one tornado warning. Riding through the Ozark Mountains kept them on a roller coaster, riding up steep hills and sharply down the other side only to climb steeply again. Along the way they met a number of cyclists from various other states as well as Italy and Australia.
In Kansas they passed through oil wells, soybean and wheat farms along with fields of cattle. They also toured an exotic animal farm with giraffes, kangaroos and ostriches. Plus, they went through Dodge City and toured Boot Hill Cemetery.
In Colorado, the Thackrays crossed their third mountain range, the Rockies, after the Appalachians and the Ozarks, hitting the highest point of their journey at Hoosier Pass at 11,542 feet. They crossed the Continental Divide twice — at Hoosier Pass and again at the 9,683-foot Willow Creek Pass.
Moving on, they reached Wyoming, which was the seventh of the 10 states they would ride through. They viewed the Grand Tetons and lots of prairies going over the same ground as pioneers taking the Oregon, Mormon Pioneer and California trails as well as Pony Express riders. Traveling into Montana they encountered heavy smoke from for-est fires in Idaho.
They even viewed the back roads of Wyoming’s Yellowstone Park. Another cycling couple told them they could rent a small car allowed on the park’s roads.
On Sept. 3, Mark and Kim rode into eastern Oregon on the Oregon Trail near Baker City where they took some time off due to frigid rain. On Sept. 12, they met their son Grant in Eugene for dinner. They finally reached the Pacific Ocean for a ceremonial dip of the front tire. Mark then lifted the bike over his head for tradition.
Although they used their tandem for the cross-country trip, the couple has seven other bikes. They used to have two tandems, one for their sons to ride with them.
Mark and Kim have lived in the Northwest most of their lives. Their married life began in Vancouver, Wash., where he worked for Hewlett-Packard. They moved to Barcelona, Spain, again working for HP, finally moving to Corvallis about 15 years ago. Kim worked part time in the chemistry department at Oregon State University. She also has worked at the Soup Cycle where she organized soups and salads for delivery and managed a Thursday delivery route.