Riding the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail — the story of Timothy Oracion
By Christina Stock
On Jan. 5, we started the story of local cross-trainer Timothy Oracion with a look into his background, and him sharing his adventure on the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail for his 60th birthday. For those who missed the beginning, it is available for free at rdrnews.com/category/news/vision.
After learning about preparations and the first challenges, Oracion’s story stopped with him describing the dangers of a grizzly bear attack that happened to another camper in Cooke City, just outside of Yellowstone National Park. Without a host or hotel that he could reach in time, he had to put up a tent in a field that was only protected by a fence.
Before continuing, let’s go back at the beginning of Oracion’s endeavor, and how his wife reacted when learning about his plans that would take him away from her for an extended period of time.
Donna Oracion knows her husband — of course, it wasn’t his first long adventure. He had bicycled the Pacific Trail in the past, which he described as much easier because he only had to orient himself on which side the ocean was.
Oracion counted on being gone for 40 to 60 days, he said. He knew that he would have no time to worry about anything while living his adventure on the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail. This, however, would not be the case for his wife, family and friends back in Roswell.
Oracion said that the first reaction from his wife was that he shouldn’t do the tour.
“My wife, she is working, and in the evening she’s thinking, ‘How’s he doing?’” Tim Oracion said. “I had a heart-to-heart talk with her: ‘This is not something that I have to do. I would like to do it, but if I die not having done the Transamerica Bicycle Tour, I’ll be fine.’
“So I left it to her and I said, ‘If it really causes you that much stress and anxiety and worry, it’s not worth it to me.”
Asked about Donna Oracion’s reaction, she wrote, “When Tim told me that, I knew that I couldn’t let my worry prevent him from completing this journey. I knew he was more than capable and prepared to do it. Our lives on this Earth are too short to not take advantage of opportunities to fulfill our goals and dreams while we are able. I am just so grateful he came home safe.”
“I knew she would say that,” Tim Oracion said. “But I didn’t want to just throw it out: ‘I’m going to do it, whether you like it or not.’ I certainly wouldn’t have done that.”
According to Tim Oracion, the husband and wife team had been together for 30 years. “We’ve been married 13 years. We ‘dated’ 17 years. We didn’t want to rush into anything. As I like to tell people, she just wore me down,” Tim Oracion said and chuckled.
It does take a lot of trust and understanding to let one’s partner go on such an adventure with the possibility of unknown dangers. “I really give her a lot of credit,” Tim Oracion said. “To do something like this, I really needed her help. That support, it has always been there and she’s my No. 1 fan. Toward the end of the trip she texted, ‘I am really proud of you and what you’ve done.’ She’s very fit, we go out and exercise and hike. She is not a long (distance) bicyclist, and she wouldn’t like to do this, but she understands that I do and she supports me. It’s good, I am aware of that and I feel blessed. I thank her for it.”
Oracion said that he took his wife to his starting point, near Seattle, which is the same starting point as for the Pacific Tour. He had not been able to explore the Olympic Park then because the park is more designed toward hikers, not bicyclists. “I said, ‘Why don’t we fly out together? We can hike the park and then you can fly home and I’ll start peddling.’ So we did that, we hiked the Olympic Park, spent eight days and had just a wonderful time experiencing the gorgeous park, with beaches and whole rain forests and all that. It was a really neat way to spend some quality time together. Then she flew home,” Oracion said.
For those who are planning a trip as Oracion’s, where he would be at times out of reach, he advises not to put it on social media for anybody to see.
This is solid advice in our day and age, encouraged by law enforcement and insurance companies, to never advertise on social media that you will be gone at a certain time. It is safer to share adventures after the fact, so robbers can’t take advantage.
However, Oracion kept up with the family and his wife, per a private family Facebook group page.
Now, let’s continue the adventure, did Oracion encounter a grizzly at Cooke City? It was the 10th day of his tour. He had started Aug. 28 and would finish on Oct. 16 in Bar Harbour, Maine.
Lucky for Oracion, no grizzly bear or other large predator tried to get into his tent that night, he said. He was just very cold.
“There was frost on the tent,” Oracion said. “I was prepared for winter conditions — not hard winter conditions, but I had some thermal gloves and of course, rain gear and some Thermo Gear. I remember that morning, when I broke camp, my fingers were cold and my toes were cold and I was trying to get to the first place to get coffee.
“When I did the Pacific Coast, I had a little stove, but this time I didn’t because there were enough of towns that had services, so I made it to the little restaurant/diner in Cooke City, to thaw out a bit and have four or five cups of coffee,” Oracion said and laughed.
The weather was a consideration for Oracion, just as much as finding each day the next place that permitted setting up camp, or to find a motel or a host.
“I did find out that Cooke City is generally the cold spot in Montana,” Oracion said. “But I thought, here it is the 28th (August) and it’s already getting cold in the morning. Maybe I need to rethink this a little bit.
“When I was in Cascade National Park in Washington — probably about the third day of the trip — I met up with some who were probably in their 20s from New Jersey, and they were just finishing up (bicycling the TransAmerica Trail.) They had started on the East Coast and one of them said, ‘Boy, you’re getting kind of a late start, aren’t you?’ So when I had that Cooke City experience I thought maybe he was right,” Oracion said.
However, as everything he did, there was a reason chosing the later date. “I didn’t want to travel in the summertime because of traffic, vacationers,” he said. “I was hoping a lot of the insects would die-off — that was not the case. I still encountered a lot of mosquitos. All the way through Michigan I got eaten up by mosquitos. For the most part, the timing of my trip was ideal. Being in Roswell, I’m accustomed to warm weather, but warm and humid weather is different, and I didn’t experience that in Washington State. There were a couple of passes, Cascade Mountain, Washington Pass, Sherman Pass as well. Those I remember were 90-degree days and 90% humidity. It was hot.
“I was welcoming it when things were cooling off a little bit. The timing was good when I got around to Bar Harbour, Maine. Of course, days were shorter, I could probably peddle until around 9:30 p.m. with daylight. When I got to Bar Harbour at around 5 to 5:30 p.m., it started to get dark, so that changed. I did notice that the mornings were cooling off. Now we’re talking middle of October. The nights were cooler when the sun went down.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to be on the tour much longer than this was. Weather-wise, I was fortunate, I did run through a spell in Michigan and then I went up from Michigan to Canada to drop down back in the United States to Niagara Falls on the Canadian side and dropped into Upstate New York. It probably was about a 10-day period where it was pretty much raining every day, not heavy rain. Only a couple of days where it was our typical Roswell-sheets of rain coming down. Not too bad, but I was prepared for all weather with rain gear,” Oracion said.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Sept. 10, 2019
Oracion is a member at warmshowers.org. “It’s a website and is made up, generally, by other bicyclists. Some of them are doing long tours, others just like to bike,” he said. Members of this website also offer to host long-distance bicyclists, solely long-distance bicyclists according to Oracion. “If they are home and they can put you up, they say sure, and will host you,” he said. “A lot of times, if they have room in their house, they have a bedroom or bath, or share a bath. If they have no space, they say, you can put your tent up in the back or front yard, or take a shower. In a lot of cases, they’ll prepare a meal for you and you get to visit with them. And you can get laundry done.
“I was staying with a real nice couple in Sioux Falls,” Oracion said. “The gentleman came out, and he met me on the outskirts of town and we rode to his home. They had a really nice trail, called Sioux Falls City Trail. He was instrumental in helping with it, so he was really proud.
“They prepared a home-made dinner and we got good conversation,” Oracion said. “At 10 p.m. that night — while we’re visiting — all our phones start buzzing off — that was the night Sioux Falls had the tornados.”
According to the National Weather Service on Sept. 11, Sioux Falls (population 176,888 in 2017) was struck the night before by three EF-2 tornadoes — EF stands for Enhanced Fujita scale, which rates tornado intensities in the U.S. Two of the tornadoes were measured with winds of about 125 mph while the third had winds of 130 mph. The tornados touched down in the populated part of town.
To be continued.