Route99 FAQ
Table of Contents
  1. Why are you doing this?
  2. What is the significance of "Route 99"
  3. "Links Across America"??
  4. Why are you going East if American history moved West?
  5. Why not use bike trails instead of roads?
  6. Isn't it dangerous/Aren't you scared?
  7. Where will you be staying?
  8. What kind of bike are you using?
  9. What about Y2K?
  10. So what else can you do?

Why are you doing this?
1. From an early age my family traveled back and forth across the continent by car (see Dedication page). This is where I developed my love for this country.
Somewhere when I was a kid we passed a touring bicyclist in Colorado, and that's where I got the idea. It's stayed with me ever since.

    2. To connect my students in some way with this land of theirs, even if vicariously. I believe young people who get connected with their geography will become better citizens.
    3. To raise money for causes I care about. (see Fundraising page)

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What is the significance of "Route 99"?

    1. I work for Community School District 99, Downers Grove, Illinois*, which includes both Downers Grove North and Downers Grove South High Schools, a combined student population of over 5000 students.
    This trip is as much an educational venture as it is a personal adventure.
    (*Downers Grove is a western suburb of Chicago, about 20 miles west of the Loop, population about 45,000.)

    2. I'm making the trip in the summer of '99.

    3. The concept of "Route" conjures images of the old two-lane coast-to-coast highways of our past. These two-laners are the roads that bicyclists look for and are most comfortable on. These are the roads we travelled across the country on when I was a kid.

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"Links Across America"??

A. We've tried to combine the concept of the bicycle chain (links) with the fact through our student projects we are really linking the nation together, one county at a time.

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Why are you going East if American history moved West?
    (and you call yourself a history teacher!!!)

    "Eastward I go only by force, but westward I go free"
                                        - Henry David Thoreau
                                                        (as quoted in our history book, The Americans, p. 264)
    "Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way"
                                 - attributed to several, including Horace Greeley

    "Westward, ho!"
                                        - Lorne Greene

    Fine for you, guys, but you weren't riding a bike. And the prevailing winds in this fine nation tend to blow from west to east. Ya notice how all those cowboys looking into the sunset are windburned?
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Why don't you bicyclists stay OFF the roads and ON the beautiful bike paths that are being thoughtfully provided more and more by developments like this one in the fantastic new money center, Cantera of Warrenville?

Bike Trail

Oh, that we could.

Abrupt End of the Trail

How often does this happen to you in your car? Well, it happens a lot to us on bikes. Property ends, bike trail ends. So we tend to be forced onto the roads unless we're only traveling, say, five hundred yards. Thank you again, Cantera and Warrenville, for your obvious dedication to bicycling.

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Isn't it dangerous/Aren't you scared?
    (These are the two questions that my students ask the most.)

1. In answer to the first, the greatest danger will be that one driver whose  concentration lapse occurs two seconds behind me. So, in fact, my biggest risk by far will come in the training I do between now and June 8 in my county of over 1 million in population (and at least that in SUV's). There will be very few places on the entire trip where traffic will be anything like here.
    (I've been hit once by a car. Actually I hit it as it pulled directly out in front of me without stopping from a side street. Funny thing is, I thought I'd made eye contact with the driver. I hit the driver's side, flew about four feet straight up in the air, according to a witness, and landed on my butt. I was lucky. And... I believe I did more damage to the car than the car did to my bike (or me). Only a bent fork on the bike and a bent attitude for me.)
    In addition, Lois and I took our bikes to Europe in the summer of 1998. We biked Milan, Florence, Rome, Paris, Rouen and London. If you can bike those cities, you can bike anywhere. (I've also done downtown Chicago numerous times.)

(Lois with the bikes on the Italian Riviera, waiting for the train to Nice)

    I've biked the California coast (Rte. 1)...

Golden Gate Bridge, 1976

and have biked the Colorado Rockies on three separate occasions.

Independence Pass, Colorado, 1991
Look closely - no mountain chain ring.
I was in pain.
(But it was a GOOD pain)
I forget the elevation. It's not one of the highest passes.
(I took the helmet with me, but I could never put it on.)

    I will be wearing a helmet for the first time in my life (I'm still not convinced of their value*, but it's a role-modeling must, even if they are the dorkiest-looking chapeaux known to man), and my bike will sport a flag.

    *Please don't email me with your safety statistics. Send them directly to OSHA. Thank you.

2.  In answer to the second question, "No." Respectful, yes. Scared, no. I've done enough bike touring and camping to know the difference. From my years in the ocean and on mountains I've learned a great deal of respect for the power and whimsey of nature. Regarding mankind, a friendly demeanor and a confident attitude go a long way. (And you pray that the few real nuts don't find you.)

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Where will you be staying?
I will be carrying camping gear and will plan on using it frequently, particularly west of the Rockies. Favorite camp sites are national parks, national forests, state parks, county parks, even city parks. ANYthing but a private campground with blacktop tent pads and a pinball arcade; this is a fate worse than death.
There have been several offers of hospitality from people my students have made contact with in their counties and I am looking forward to contacting each of them and accepting whatever it is they have to offer, whether it be a bed or a place to pitch my tent. This has been a unique and unexpected benefit of this project; I really will feel like we are linking the country together.
Thirdly, I will look forward with great anticipation to towns where I know I have friends and family. Number one on that list will be my home in Naperville. I'm hoping to be home by July 15, our 5th wedding anniversary.
I hope to use hotels/motels only when necessary. In general, physical or mental conditions dictate this. If the weather is absolutely foul, a motel becomes not a luxury, but a logical conclusion. And there may be times when the mental state gets more foul than the weather; in these cases a motel can work wonders. As with restaurants I would hope to avoid all chain motels, but I expect this will be tougher than avoiding chain restaurants. Bed and Breakfasts are the perfect antithesis of 'chain', but sometimes hard to find.

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What kind of bike are you using?

My bike is a GT Force, which is actually a road racing bike. I knew I'd be touring with the next bike I bought, but I just liked the feel of this bike the minute I got on it. I've done many day trips and some short tours with it (several days) and it feels really good. It's very light (aluminum). I bought it at Midwest Cyclery in Wheaton (Il), who said they don't sponsor individual trips, but hurry and make your appointment for your spring tune-up. Thanks, guys.

This will more or less be what the bike looks like on the road. Two front panniers, two rear panniers, handlebar bag, sleeping bag, tent and foam pad. A good air pump is a must. You can't trust those gas station air pumps.

    I'm not a techie. My bike has that finger-tip shift system (I'm sure it has a cool name) that is absolutely fantastic and provides a whole new outlook on changing gears on a steep grade at 4-mph-and-losing-speed. I love the system, but worry about repairing it myself on the road.
    I had some concern (still do) about the skinny wheels (700x23C), but as I said above we did all those European cities without a hitch. Especially in Italy a lot of those streets were last paved about 2000 years ago.
    I've had the bike two years and haven't had a flat yet, including the entire time in Europe. In fact, I didn't even put air in the tires for three weeks in Europe. We couldn't figure out the phone system; you think I was going to take a chance with a gas station air pump? (And then my bike pump got stolen while the bike was locked up outside the Louvre. My fault. The place is crawling with gypsies and I forgot to remove it from the bike.)
    We had an excellent system for locking our bikes. We used two Kryptonite locks to secure our bikes together and to anything they would reach around, and then a long cable lock to secure both bikes again to each other and to something else again. We also covered all the logos on our bikes with black electrical tape before we left to make them look junked up. This was a good move as the average European bike is more or less a junker.

    All over Europe safely, and my last bike was stolen out of my van in NYC, good old US of A. I had bought it for $25 from my friend Joe Hakes who was moving to Tennessee and didn't think he'd be using it. I biked the Rockies twice with that bike. Considered it a friend.
    There will be those who will tell me not to use a racing bike for a tour of this length. Not enough shock absorption, frame too weak, tires too skinny, not enough leg room. Maybe they're right. We'll see.

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What About Y2K? (Official Route 99 Y2K Compliance Policy)

I appreciate your concern. You should know that this trip was originally scheduled for the year 2000. But very real concerns about whether all, or only a select few, bicycles will cease to function properly (or perhaps only sporadically) as of January 1, 2000 forced me to re-evaluate and 'rush' this trip to completion earlier than planned.
I would also like to point out that 'Route 99 - Links Across America' is fully Y2K compliant with the exception of one tiny problem: Because of the unfortunate choice of the particular 2-digit configuration we've chosen to use as our name, and because you have logged onto this site and are reading this now, this configuration is now buried deep inside the hardest part of your computer's hard drive. We do need to inform you, then, that unfortunately your computer will explode in flames at 12:01 A.M. (Singapore time) on January 1, 2000. The only way to avoid this problem is to "de-bug" your computer by disconnecting it before midnight of the 31st and plunging it directly into a barrel of water. (Note: Remember to first disconnect the computer from the wall outlet.)

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Q. So you can ride a bike. What "marketable" skills do you possess?

A. As a teaching professional, I'm offended by this question, but since it seems to be frequently asked, the following picture should clear up the matter once and for all

An extraordinary stunt...

That's right. I can still do a handstand on a skateboard. Who says the 60's was a wasted decade?

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