“They’re baaaack.” That’s right, the same guys that spearheaded the RAA I (“Ride Across America I”) three years ago, Bob McCullough, Joe Geivett and Carl Forsberg are headed out on RAA II, this time the Northern Route across America.
As you may recall, in August 2018 this group rode from San Diego, California to St. Augustine, Florida over 27 days, with a rest day in Austin, Texas. RAA I was about 3,055 miles. RAA II (who’s idea was this anyway, Bob?) is from Anacortes, Washington to Bar Harbor, Maine, our route is 4,251 miles. One never has an appreciation for how much wider America is on its Northern border than its Southern border – until you map a bicycle route. Due to scheduling considerations (the “vocation” as opposed to the “avocation”), we will ride from Anacortes to Minneapolis, Minnesota this year and pick back up in Minneapolis and ride to Bar Harbor this time next year. (We hope to get a spectacular “New England Fall.”) The first leg of RAA II is about 1,937 miles. We will (hopefully) complete this route in 17 days.
After scouting the route over three days this spring and selecting our September 7 start date, the day after Labor Day, we determined that the first day, Anacortes to Ross Lake Overlook (an approximate 104-mile leg with about 5,000 feet of elevation gain – most of it in the last 10 miles!) should be ridden early, to avoid any leftover Labor Day traffic. Thus, we completed the first leg of the RAA II on August 10th. This early first leg also allowed us to break in our new equipment and our new driver, Steve “Scuba” Miska, a very good friend of ours from up at the lake. Steve graciously agreed to be this year’s (and next year’s? C’mon Steve, it will be fun …) driver. We are again using Joe’s supremely outfitted Mercedes Sprinter Van, which has a few more miles on it since RAA I, as Joe regularly allows others to use the van for ski trips, day hikes, bicycle tours and “Hey I’m 21, pub runs.” We will miss our RAA I driver, mechanic, barber and counselor, Keenan Leary, but it would not be prudent for him to take a long break from his new job in San Francisco just to console us at the end of a long day’s ride.
Our first day’s approximate 104-mile trek up to the Ross Lake Overlook was scenic and a leisurely ride after dipping our back wheels in the Pacific Ocean in Anacortes, Washington at about 7:00 a.m. On August 10 we avoided most of the early morning traffic (less traffic we fear due to the pandemic) and after riding through several very picturesque neighborhoods with immaculate landscaping, we set about a brisk pace onto Hwy. 20.
We were blessed with absolutely no mechanicals throughout the day and except for temperatures that were a little warmer than normal for this time of year, 85°, with no headwind, the weather was also perfect for our day one RAA II ride.
For those of you who followed us on RAA I you will recall we kept a “Baptist Church count” across the Southern route of America. We decided to keep a Baptist Church count after first previewing the route by a car about six months before riding the route. We were truly amazed at how many Baptist Churches we saw on the Southern Route, after Austin, Texas. In some small Southern towns, we saw two Baptist Churches at an intersection! (Literally opposing Baptist Churches kitty corner to one another.) We remarked at how many Baptist Churches we were passing and so we determined that we should undertake a “Baptist Church count.” So, for the Southern RAA I Route, we ended up with a final Baptist Church count of 204, that is 204 Baptist Churches from Austin, Texas to St. Augustine, Florida. And those were just the Baptist Churches on the cycling route we chose across the Southern portion of America. Amazing!
Now to the point for recalling the RAA I Baptist Church count, one of our Day 1 photos is prophetic. As we were riding through one of the small towns outside of Anacortes we passed by this Baptist Church, that’s right folks, it literally says, “First Baptist Church.” From this sign we determined that our decision to undertake RAA II had divine intervention. Thanks for following Bob, Joe and Carl’s next epic adventure.