Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Riding the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail — the story of Timothy Oracion, part 3
By Christina Stock
Today, we continue Timothy Oracion’s adventure on the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail. The first part was published Jan. 5, with a look into his background. After learning about preparations and the first challenges, Oracion’s story describes the dangers of a grizzly bear attack that happened to another camper in Cooke City, just outside of Yellowstone National Park. On Feb. 2, Oracion talked about the support that he had from home and the people he met. We left off when he had just found shelter with a member of his bicycle group Warm Showers in Sioux City, the night before the city was struck by three EF-2 tornadoes.
For those who missed the beginning, it is available for free at rdrnews.com/category/news/vision.
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Oracion remembers the scary moment when people were heading into shelters or secure windowless rooms to wait for the storm to pass. “We went to an interior room for a couple of hours,” he said. “Fortunately, his neighborhood wasn’t affected. But the next morning when I got up and left town, there was some standing water, some flooding and I learned on the news that there had been some structural damage. I told my wife, ‘yeah, I got into Sioux Falls just in time to get killed by a tornado. Here I am bicycling across the United States.’ Fortunately I wasn’t tent camping that night.”
Of course, a marathon bicycle tour as Oracion did is not for everybody. However, he does recommend picking up this hobby around one’s home.
“It encourages families to go bicycling together, even if you put your kid in a carrier. In doing so you are instilling in these children at an early age the joy of the activity, the get out and smell the roses, so to speak. Where we live right here, we have such opportunity to go out almost every day of the year and walk or hike or bicycle,” Oracion said.
However, he said that parents have to lead with a good example, starting a simple routine. “Think about it — when the weather is conducive — why don’t you walk down to the park, walk down to the ice cream shop, why not walk to the store and if you don’t walk, bike. Now you are doing things as a family, you are probably going to talk, visit. When you get home for the evening and you feel a little tired, you think, ‘Wow, I had a good day and the reason why I am tired is I had some fresh air and got to see some outdoors.’ It’s never too late, just start today from this point on. It is a really good stress reliever.”
Returning to Oracion’s adventures, one question is obvious. How did he managed to be gone so long on the TransAmerica Trail? “I am retired, that does give me the opportunity to pursue something like this, but even when I worked, I was able to do it,” he said. “If you are working, there is no reason not to get out. I’ve done many, many five-day tours, weeklong tours, something that fits into a vacation-type of a setting. These long months, it requires much more planning and not everybody is cut out for it.
“I like to travel by myself when I do this, my wife was saying, ‘Why don’t you go with someone?’ It really would take away from what I was wanting to experience. In fact, when I was doing the first Pacific tour, the reason — probably the strongest — was to see how I would handle not knowing where I was going to be every night. How would I handle situations where I would need to make quick decisions? Because when I was working, I was a financial advisor; I was working for Morgan Lynch and Morgan Stanley. I was a stockbroker, everything was so organized, structured. How would I handle the unknown? When I completed that tour, I felt very good. I felt like there were things that came up and I dealt with them, even surprised myself, staying in strangers’ homes. There were times that I couldn’t make it to a campground, but yet it was dark, so I did what they called stealth camping when you get off of the road far enough, you put your tent up and then you break camp before anybody even knows that you were there,” Oracion said.
“Things like that, when I laid in my bed, I was thinking did I really do that and I felt good — if I needed to, I could rise to the occasion and at least be able to survive,” Oracion said.
When Oracion did the Pacific Coast Tour, it took him 37 nights and 2,500 miles, he said. He camped out 30 nights and stayed with the Warm Showers hosts five nights and in motels two nights. He had expected the ratio being similar in the TransAmerica Tour, but there was a change of plans because of the individual people he met along the way. “When I arrived — actually starting in the Washington area — I stayed with a Warm Showers host right on the coast for the first night. They were very friendly and helpful in doing some route planning outside of the Seattle area. I enjoyed the visit with them. I ended up spending more time with hosts than I planned on, less tent camping and that really was the highlight of this trip,” Oracion said.
“I had some really neat experiences,” he said. “Several times I would be having lunch, I would be eating, there’d be a table next to me, and I would be dressed (in his bicycle gear) with my bike and that would start the conversation. Then I would get ready to leave and they’d say, ‘your meal has been taken care of.’ That was really something. The thing that still surprises me — because I don’t know if I would be comfortable with it — with these Warm Showers, you would talk to somebody and they would say, ‘I am not home right now, but here is the code to get into the house. I even had people who would say, ‘You don’t have to leave in the morning by the time we have to get to work. You can just pull the door closed.’
“I was thinking wow, you watch the news and you lose faith in the morality in people. This really instills in you that there still are good, kind, trusting people. That is the thing that was nice to experience. I personally couldn’t do it. I would host them, but not leave my house.”
Asked about the reason why Oracion wouldn’t want somebody on the tour with him, he said, “I do not have to take anybody else into consideration, I feel like a hundred miles today; or I feel like I am taking a day off; or I feel like camping. You don’t have to worry about somebody else.”
Oracion had several interesting stories to tell about his tour. Here is one of them:
“The day I did 140 miles, I was on the bike until 11:30 p.m. and had full lights. In Montana and South Dakota, you can ride on the Interstate. In most states like in New Mexico, you can’t be on a bicycle or as a pedestrian on the Interstate, but they do allow it in those states, I think because they have not a lot of alternate routes. That day, I started off not planning to ride the Interstate, but as the day grew longer and I did arrange with a host that would put me up in Mitchel, South Dakota. I kept him posted, ‘It’s going to be later, don’t wait for dinner.’ They had a lot of rain. Everywhere I looked, there was standing water; there were mosquitoes, I couldn’t even stop to answer the phone, I would be eaten alive. Even if I wanted to camp, I couldn’t find a spot where I could put my tent and I would have dove in to get away from the mosquitoes.
“About 11 p.m., I got my lights going and I see lights coming up behind me and it’s a state trooper. He comes walking up. I look back and turn my light off to not blind him. He says, ‘First of all, you are not breaking any laws,’ which I knew that I could ride on the Interstate. Then he goes, ‘You know, it’s not good for you riding out here — it is dangerous,’ it’s listed at 80 miles and most of the trucks were doing 85. It had a wide white shoulder, but still, it was busy and he goes on, ‘If I had a way to put your bike on, I don’t have any room.’ I said, ‘I know, this is not a good idea, I hadn’t planned on this and I joked with him, ‘Don’t tell my wife.’
“So, we had a few words, ‘I am getting off as fast as I can, I appreciate it, thanks for your concern.’ That was one interesting encounter with law enforcement.”
Oracion didn’t encounter many days of rain, but on another night, it was pouring down. “I was fully decked out with my rain gear. I decided to take a shorter route between point A and point B and happened to be on a highway, again on a shoulder, and I was riding and then I have that state trooper coming, against traffic but he had his lights on, he is coming right up to me on the shoulder, ‘You can’t be on this highway.’ Turned out to be limited access highway. It wasn’t an Interstate, which you couldn’t ride. I didn’t see the sign, that was partly because I had too much rain in my face,” he said and chuckled.
This state trooper was rather firm with him telling him to get off the highway at the next offramp. “At that moment, he says, ‘What’s your name, where are you from?’ And then he goes back to his vehicle. When he comes back, he says, ‘I ran a check on you.’ I was, ‘Yeah, like I’d be a fugitive and am trying to escape causing all kinds of havoc on a bicycle. I hope I am a little smarter than that. I can’t outrun everybody.’ So we laughed and I went on my way.”
To be continued.