The Route: Where and Why?

HWWLT Logo on yellowI want to ride my bicycle to all 48 contiguous United States. I don’t know why. The idea lodged in my head a few years ago and the itch just keeps growing.

Bicycling across country is noteworthy but hardly unique; hundreds of people do it every year. I’m striving for more. There are limits to the adventurer in me. Cycling from, say, Barrow, Alaska to Tierra del Fuego is beyond my capabilities. But trying to pedal through 48 states is a worthy goal: an improbable, though not impossible, accomplishment. There’s a fair chance that life’s circumstances or personal health will intervene and force me to return to Cambridge. But there’s also a fair chance I’ll complete the journey.

Rolling my wheels cross 48 states is the overarching parameter. Beyond that, there are thousands, millions of routes. How do I choose which roads to travel and which towns to visit?

150327 Route Map

First, I want to visit everyone I know. My family is strung out across the country. Besides four sibliings, I have lots of nieces and nephews who live their own. I plan to drop in on them all. Then there are my friends. Childhood friends, high school friends, college friends, adult friends. I don’t know how they wound up living in Boise, Idaho; Slaton, Texas; and Sanibel, Florida; but I plan to see where life landed them. I’m particularly keen on visiting Sanibel, which is both flat and warm in winter.

Next, I want to see cool architecture. The new glass pavilion in Corning, New York; Calatrava’s museum in Milwaukee, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin, E. Fay Jones’ chapel in Arkansas, the Getty in L.A. But I also want to see my own architecture – the buildings I laid my hand upon during my career. How does my first hospital, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, hold up after 25 years? Is my very first project – 24 units of housing for folks with cerebral palsy – still standing in Norman, OK?

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I want to visit places that reflect the pulse of America, past and present. I’ve always been enthralled with nineteenth century utopian ideals, so I hope to visit Oneida, New York and Amana, Iowa. I want to visit ‘enlightened’ company towns like Columbus, Indiana and Racine, Wisconsin. And I’m keen to visit places on the cutting edge of American life. That includes the usual glamour spots like Silicon Valley and Nashville, Tennessee, but also the places where change is challenging: Dearborn, Michigan; Williston, North Dakota; and Ferguson, Missouri.

What became interesting, as I spun blue ribbon around my destination pushpins, were those features of our country without immediate appeal. My initial route map doesn’t highlight any national parks. It’s also rather empty through the South. This reflects my prevailing interest in images-3how we live and what we build, over nature, as well as knowing less about the South than other part of our country. I am anticipating that both of those predispositions will change. On the road, I may be so inspired by our natural beauty that I want to visit natural wonders. In the South, I hope to be captivated by its legendary hospitality and charm.

The only thing I know for sure is that the route I have mapped out will not be the one that I take. Who and what I want to see will change. It’s so easy to turn my bicycle in a new direction when something interesting beckons.

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About paulefallon

Greetings reader. I am a writer, architect, cyclist and father from Cambridge, MA. My primary blog, theawkwardpose.com is an archive of all my published writing. The title refers to a sequence of three yoga positions that increase focus and build strength by shifting the body’s center of gravity. The objective is balance without stability. My writing addresses opposing tension in our world, and my attempt to find balance through understanding that opposition. During 2015-2106 I am cycling through all 48 mainland United States and asking the question "How will we live tomorrow?" That journey is chronicled in a dedicated blog, www.howwillwelivetomorrw.com, that includes personal writing related to my adventure as well as others' responses to my question. Thank you for visiting.
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4 Responses to The Route: Where and Why?

  1. Barbara Costa says:

    Wow, Paul, it sounds amazing. To connect with the many people, places, and structures that mean something to you is an incredible and rewarding journey to make in one’s lifetime. Or even part of the way, if events bring you home sooner. But I look forward to hearing/reading about your journey. If I think of questions, I’ll pose them! Not awkwardly I hope….

  2. Kim says:

    That is so wonderful Paul!! I wish you good luck and health on your journey!!!

  3. Mike Golan says:

    10 years after getting my Course 2 degree at the ‘Tute I got an MS in the equivalent of 6-3 and one of the most interesting problems I recall is that of the traveling salesman. Just recently I came across an article related to that problem that may also apply to you. The difference is that the author has a focus on national parks instead of architectural landmarks. But maybe you’ll get some interesting ideas here: http://www.randalolson.com/2015/03/08/computing-the-optimal-road-trip-across-the-u-s/
    When you get to Sanibel you absolutely must go to http://www.ilcielosanibel.com Tell the host or hostess that you are a friend of Aunt Janet and Uncle Mike. Long ago you met the pastry chef at Il Cielo – my niece catered the Club PDT reunion we had in Hudson. She has moved on quite a bit from panzanella and grilled chicken. Her husband is the executive chef at Il Cielo and he’d be thrilled to meet you, although the bikes he is interested in have engines instead of pedals. Ann works mother’s hours doing all the pastry prep during the day but her assistant does plating during dinner service. Perhaps your friends in Sanibel have been there already, they are also welcome to mention Aunt Janet and Uncle Mike, it drives the host station crazy.

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