Guest Blog by Beth Heller, M.S. Wello, Strategic Partnership Manager
Thirty-five days and 1,456 miles into their 7000 mile cross-country tandem bike ride, Peter and Tracy Flucke faced a tough decision. Tracy, who was still under a year out from major knee surgery in August of 2018, was feeling the wear and tear of the beautiful but aggressive west coast mountain terrain. In addition, road work and summer traffic demanded peak performance and awareness from the experienced cyclists. When they looked at the big picture, the national cycle safety experts knew going further simply wasn’t smart…or safe.
It was time to call this ride. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t achieve their goal. Wello caught up with Peter and Tracy to ask them how it felt to have to take their own advice and head home:
How did you feel about wrapping up early?
Peter: Before we set out we know there’s a difference between a plan and what actually happens. Setting up for a ride like this you make meticulous preparations based on the information available. Once Tracy and I get underway, the success of the trip depends on our ability to be flexible, to assess situations as they unfold and to make adjustments. In this case we had to be flexible in the face of the reality on the ground.
Tracy: When you set out, you assume best case scenarios and know that there will be some situations where you don’t have the best of conditions. With my knee, the terrain, road work and dangerous traffic patterns, we kept running into too many sub-par scenarios. That’s one of the hardest parts of being an expert – you have the training and experience to recognize when you’re compromised and sometimes have to deliver bad news to yourself!
How would you say this trip lived up to your goal?
Tracy: I knew going into this trip it would be challenging because I was actively rehabbing up until the time we left. For me, though, it’s not about the 7000 mile goal, it’s about the beauty of the countryside, the fellowship on the road and a sense of adventure. Biking keeps me real – and in many ways having to call the trip off was a pretty “real” experience. We were disappointed but also very excited by what we achieved.
Peter: One of the reasons Tracy and I bike is to make sure we’re staying in touch with the elements of our work that make it a purpose rather than a job. Wello talks a lot about well-being. We bike to stay physically healthy, of course, but we also bike because it breaks everything that keeps us healthy down to its essence. It’s a physical, mental, social and community activity that connects us to life and allows us to play a role in shaping our environment through our advocacy.
What advice do you have for people who want to tackle an audacious goal?
Peter: Plan, but be willing to roll with reality on the ground. Tracy and I set out on a 7000 mile trip but it turns out that 1400 was what the trip actually needed to be. We enjoyed so much, worked really hard and came home healthy. That’s a total success for two people who are interested in and motivated by learning experiences.
Tracy: There are big, aspirational goals that tell the grand story and there are the everyday goals that give us purpose. Don’t ever be afraid to set the audacious goals because there are many ways to achieve them – and sometimes that may mean honoring your gut and heading home with lessons learned for next time!
Interested in learning more about Peter, Tracy and their company, WE BIKE, etc.? Check out their their awesome book Coast to Coast On a Tandem!
We wanted to share some of the videos from our trip. We were not able to upload on route due to limited connectivity. To review the blog from the day we made the climb – click here. Enjoy! (More videos to come).
Greetings from Reno, Nevada.
We want to let you know that we have decided we have had enough adventure for a while and are putting our bicycle trip on hold to rest, recover, and plan our next move.
We are both tired and Tracy’s knee is sore, but we are otherwise fine. Our bicycle, on the other hand, would need some love before we could continue on the “Loneliest Road in America,” highway 50. The rear hub is loose and there was no bicycle shop in Fallon, where we ended our ride.
We now are in Reno, spending time with family and making travel plans. Thanks to Amadeo Flores for coming to pick us, and the bike, up in Fallon. We are staying with Amadeo and Holly at their beautiful home in the Reno foothills. After exploring the area a bit, we will rent a car and head home. Our plan is to follow much of the route we were going to bicycle.
This has been an incredible experience! Although, we are sad to be suspending the trip for now, this is the best choice for us both physically and mentally. Pushing on would not be a positive, or safe, choice at this time.
Taking stock of what we have done thus far, we are incredibility proud of our accomplishments.
-1,456 miles ridden
-35 days on the road
-Numerous mountain passes scaled and descended
-Visited three national parks (Olympic, Crater Lake, and Lassen Volcanic)
-Experienced numerous national forests
-Met many incredible people, including some amazing Warm Showers hosts
-Shared our adventure through hundreds of blogs, podcasts, and social media posts
-Inspired countless followers
Thank you for all your support and encouragement. We will be in touch again once we get settled back in Green Bay.
Tracy and Peter
Guest Blog by Beth Heller, M.S. Wello, Strategic Partnership Manager
Two weeks ago, Green Bay made history when the Safe Walk & Bike Plan was approved by the Green Bay Board of Education and the Green Bay Common Council without a single dissenting vote. The plan actively identifies ways to help adults and kids of all ability levels make walking and biking part of their daily routines, It’s a major step forward that prioritizes infrastructure and projects that will provide years of health and economic benefits for the community.
Like anything worth doing, the Plan require the time and effort of many different groups including Green Bay Area Public Schools, the City of Green Bay and Wello. Luckily, too, our community is home to amazing experts like the Fluckes who have turned their passion for active living into a community asset. Together with Tool Design Group, WE BIKE, etc. Tracy and Peter served as consultants on the project, patiently putting expert eyes on piles of information in order to help build necessary consensus around the importance of building an active, connected community.
On June 19th, as the press conference unfolded, and the media stories multiplied, we wished Tracy and Peter could have been with us to enjoy the moment. But instead they were cruising the lovely scenery of the Pacific Northwest so, in the end, we couldn’t feel that bad for them, LOL.
But we do feel deeply grateful for such amazing community partners. Thanks WE BIKE, etc.
Wello thinks you two are the bomb!
Day 34 (July 4, 2019)
Silver Springs, NV (Lahontan State Recreation Area) to Fallon, NV – 35 Miles
Total Miles: 1,456
Weather: 80 degrees, sunny, tailwind
Today was a short day for a couple of reasons, it was either go short or way too long. We choose short due to the hot weather and mountain passes to come. We also have been having trouble with the rear wheel. Peter has tried a few things to fix it but thinks it might be the hub. We need to find a bicycle shop, unfortunately there is not one in Fallon.
Last night, the campground was a tough place to be. Between the illegal fireworks going off over our tent and the competing sound systems, we did not get much sleep. Morning came too soon.
The day started early at the Lahontan State Recreation Area Campground. The campground is operated by Nevada State Parks. We were shocked by how dirty and overrun the campground was. It appeared no one was taking care of it. The bathrooms were filthy and out of toilet paper. The campground does not have any designated campsites and allows people to camp wherever they want. There were massive amounts of RVs literally a few inches apart. There were just too many people in too small of a space. We can’t imagine what it will be like at the campground tonight, glad we will not be there.
Our ride to Fallon was uneventful. There were very few cars on the road. We suspected everyone was to where they were going already. We rode Hwy 50 most of the way with the last 15 miles having a nice wide shoulder.
We got to Fallon about 2:00 pm, checked out the town, and looked for a hotel room. There were lots to choose from, Fallon is evidently not the hot spot for the 4th of July. We hope wherever you are you have a Happy 4th of July.
Day 33 (July 3, 2019)
South Lake Tahoe, CA to Silver Springs, NV – 70 miles
Total Miles: 1,421
Weather: Cool start, 50 degrees, 83 degrees late in day, sunny, strong tailwind
We started early this morning at Motel 6 in South Lake Tahoe. We have not stayed at one of these for years. It was nice, the room was really clean and we had everything we needed. The staff was friendly and accommodating.
Peter picked up breakfast at the Grocery Outlet across the street. We ate, packed up, and hit the road. We had lots of miles to cover today in a new state.
We crossed into Nevada at the little town of Stateline (pop. 842). We stopped and took some pictures of the state line sign and then continued on our way. We were still traveling along Lake Tahoe and had some great views of the lake. We had the pleasure of seeing Lake Tahoe from the west, south, and east. Beautiful from all directions.
We arrived in Carson City, Nevada after a long climb to the top of White Hill (elevation 7,651 Ft.) and an amazing 35-40 mph descent of ten miles into the city. The descent was fun for Peter, but Tracy just hung on and tried to relax. The descents are wearing on her, they are just too intense.
We stopped in Carson City for lunch at the Red Hut. It was very good, and definitely filled us up for the rest of the ride. The Red Hut has been around since the early 1900’s.
After lunch, we got back on Hwy 50, which has four lanes and a really nice wide shoulder, ten Ft. It was easy to ride on and we did not have to worry about the cars coming up behind us, we both had plenty of space. The road was great, until we ran into the construction zone. One lane each way with barricades along the lanes. The side we had been traveling on was all torn up. This was not a good place to be on a bike!
We got off at the first place we could, a convenience store/gas station and tried to figure out how to get through the construction. It was going on for the next twelve miles and the guy at the gas station said it would be unsafe to be out there on a bike. We agreed. Peter pulled up google maps and, with the help of the attendant, we were able to figure out a way to at least get out of the worst of it. We found some side streets we could travel on for about 4 miles. We would then have to get back on Hwy 50. We hoped the construction would be done by then or at least we could bicycle through it away from the cars. Luck was on our side. When we had to get back on Hwy 50, the construction was still going on but, all of the cars were on one side in single lanes, and we could bicycle on the closed side. The closed side had not been torn up yet and had no construction vehicles working. We had the road all to ourselves with a great tailwind and made good time to our exit. Thank goodness!
We were heading to the Lahontan State Recreation Area, Silver Lake Beach Campground. The campground is on Lake Lahontan which is a reservoir for the Lahontan Dam. The lake is 17 miles long and has 69 miles of shoreline. It was being used for all types of water activities. The lake is probably the largest body of water in the area, so everyone comes here to cool off.
The campground was packed for the holiday. We found a spot near the restroom/shower building and set up our tent.
Day 32 (July 2, 2019)
Truckee, CA to South Lake Tahoe,CA – 53 miles
Total miles: 1,351
Weather: 50-70 degrees, light winds
Our idea last night was to get up this morning at 6:30, which we did, and leave our host’s home by 8:00, which we didn’t do. Instead, we hung around and chatted with Kim until 8:30 when she had to leave for work, and we finally rolled out about 8:40. We were planning to leave earlier to beat some of the holiday traffic, but we were just having too much fun talking with Kim.
Every night before we go to bed we review our rout for the next day, and then we do it again in the morning just before we hit the road. This is a good system for us, and it almost always keeps us form getting lost.
We headed south on Hwy. 89, downhill toward Truckee. At the first roundabout, we continued straight on Hwy. 89. At the second roundabout we went straight again which immediately put us on Hwy 267 and across the Truckee River, Away from Truckee. Nuts, we took a wrong turn. We pulled over to the side of the road to figure out what went wrong. Should have stayed right at the second roundabout. No worries. We continued straight on Hwy 267, turned right at the traffic lights, recrossed the river, turned left and we were back on route (Hwy 89 toward Tahoe City).
Hwy. 89 was much better to ride on today than it had been several days earlier to the north. Even though there was lots of holiday traffic, the road had a wide shoulder which allowed us to cruise along unencumbered.
We met up with the Truckee Bike Trail a few miles north of Tahoe City. This is where we got our first views of Lake Tahoe. (Now we know what all the fuss is about. Beautiful!) The trail was nice at first, and it was good to be away from the motor vehicle traffic, but eventually the twists and turns of the trail became too much for the tandem and we returned to riding on the road.
We stopped in Tahoma for lunch.
Our route to this point had been a steady climb and then mostly flat. That was about to end. From Meeks Bay we climbed hard back up to almost 7,000 Ft. The road skirted Emerald Bay at sometimes dizzying heights. We would have stopped to admire the views but the road was too steep, narrow, and clogged with tourist traffic. Despite this, the climb went well. At Inspiration Point we finally were able to pull off the road and see what all the fuss was about. Wow!
The descent from Inspiration Point was crazy, exhilarating and terrifying all at once. (Mostly exhilarating with a working drag brake.) The road started out on a ridge with steep drop offs on either side and then started to drop, twist and turn. There were plenty of switchbacks, two of which had a maximum speed of 10 mph. We did them at 15.
At Fallen Leaf Road we left Hwy. 89 and turned right. The road was narrow and in poor repair, but we were off of the highway. That is until we realized we were on the wrong road. or more precisely, the wrong map. Nuts again! We were heading to South Lake Tahoe for the night but the road we were on wouldn’t take us there. We were supposed to make a map switch to start heading east toward home, but we forgot and instead were heading south. Not the plan. We backtracked to Hwy. 89 and within thirty minutes we were at the Motel 6 in South lake Tahoe and done for the day.
We got a snack at the Grocery Outlet across the street (five lanes of holiday traffic) showered and headed to the Cold Water Brewery & Grill for dinner. The Google ad for the brewery said that the brewery was very similar to the Great Dane Brewery in Wausau, Wisconsin and Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon. They weren’t far off. Both the food and beer were great.
Back we went to our motel to blog, do laundry and sleep.
Day 30 (June 30, 2019)
Quincy, CA to Truckee, CA – 66 miles
Total miles: 1,298
Weather: 60 degrees, sunny, tailwind later in day
Our destination for the day was Truckee, CA, 66 miles away. We had a Warm Showers stay scheduled and were planning to take a day off to rest, recover, and explore the town. We only had two concerns, the distance we needed to travel and the climbs. Normally, 66 miles is an easy day for us, but lately we have only been doing 40’s and 50’s due to the climbing involved. Also, we are getting tired. We haven’t taken a day off in six days, we have been at it now for over a month, and Peter has what he believes is a slight case of tendinitis in his left knee. We know we can make it, but at what price.
We got up at 6:30, ate breakfast in our motel room, and on the road by 8:00. Right off the bat we climbed from 3,500 Ft. up to Lee Summit at 4,439 Ft. Good morning legs. Fortunately, it was cool, but not cold, so our bodies responded to the climb well. First big challenge out of the way.
Our first rest stop with services was in Graeagle (pop. 737), 24 miles down the road. A cute little resort town, we stopped at a cafe for a second breakfast, not sure what we would find to eat later in the day.
In Sierraville, 22 more miles down the road, we stopped at a convenience store to fill our water bottles and get a snack. As we were parking the bike to go inside we noticed a sign, “No Bicycle Parking.” We parked right in front of it and went inside. No one said a thing.
So far the day had been going pretty well. We were still on Hwy. 89, but the road seemed a bit wider and there wasn’t much traffic. Also, the climbs weren’t too bad and Peter’s knee wasn’t getting any worse. All we had left was one, or two, climbs in the next 21 miles and we would be with our Warm Showers hosts in Truckee.
Almost immediately out of Sierraville, we started to climb. This one was going to be a challenge. Peter was singing “100 bottles of beer on the wall, 100 bottles of beer” in his head. He does this to stay focused during long hard climbs. After the first 100 bottles we stopped for a break at a slow vehicle turnout. Appropriate! When we stopped, Tracy noticed when we pulled over the back tire was bouncy and thought it was going flat.
Peter inspected the rear tire and discovered that the sidewall had failed and the inner tube was starting to bulge out. This is what was causing the rubbing sound. Anytime now the tire was about to explode. It was just dumb luck that we caught it in time. The tire was shot so we changed it there on the side of the road with one of the three spares we are carrying with us. The tire change went very smoothly and we were back on the road in twenty minutes. We needed a break anyhow.
Replacing the tire wasn’t unexpected. We usually get about 1,500 miles out of a rear tire and we had almost to 1,300 miles on this one. Peter had checked the tread on the tire (not the sidewall, oops) the past two nights and felt we could make it safely to Truckee. We almost did.
We arrived in Truckee at about 4:30. Our Warm Shower’s hosts were out on a mountain bike ride but they had given us the key code for the house and had told us to make ourselves at home. Five minutes after we let ourselves in, Mike and Kim arrived.
We all got cleaned up and then Kim took us into town for supplies and to do some site seeing while Mike made Quiche for dinner. The view of Donner Lake from Rainbow Bridge is not to be missed.
Mike and Kim need to work tomorrow but we will sleep in and then head to Town to explore.
It turned out to be a pretty great day.
Day 31 (July 1, 2109)
Truckee, CA to Truckee, CA -0 miles
Total Miles: 1,298
Weather: 70 degrees, sunny, slight wind
We slept in until 8:30, ate a leisurely breakfast, paid bills, checked emails etc. About 11:30 we called Uber for a lift to town. Uber arrived about 20 minutes later and we were off to check out Truckee. First we went to Mountain Hardware to pick up some supplies; stove gas, new stuff sacks and a dehydrated dinner. Starbucks was our next stop. Peter than got a haircut and a shave, he really needed one. We then made the mile walk to the historic downtown area for lunch at Burger Me. They had great burgers which really hit the spot. We wandered thru the rest of the downtown area and then called Uber for a ride back to our Warm Showers host’s house.
Mike got home from work about an hour later and Tracy helped him make dinner, polenta with sauteed vegetables on top. It was delicious and something Tracy will try to make at home.
It was a great day, which ended with getting to know Mike and Kim better and learning more about the Truckee area. We will get up early tomorrow to continue our journey. Lake Tahoe here we come.
Day 29 (June 29, 2019)
Chester, CA to Quincy, CA – 50 miles
Total miles: 1,232
Weather: 60-75 degrees, mostly sunny, slight tailwind to moderate headwind
We enjoyed our stay at the Antlers Motel in Chester, CA last night. It was inexpensive, clean and comfortable, with the minor exception of the plastic cover over the mattress (understandable , but yuck!). The owner was an ex-firefighter so we had fun exchanging rural emergency medical services stories. There was a grocery store across the street so we picked up supplies for dinner and breakfast and ate in our room.
Things were pretty normal last night, except when Peter went to unplug the bedside clock so he could charge our phone. Flash! POP! The clock goes flying, Peter jumps back, the lights go out, and the room smells like smoke. What the Hell? Upon further investigation, using the flashlight on our phone, Peter discovered that the clock cord, where it attached to the back of the plug had shorted out and blew off the plug. Never seen that before. Our best guess is that the cord was old and after being pinched between the wall and the night stand for too many years finally shorted out. Peter removed the plug from the socket, reset the circuit breaker, vented the room, and all was well.
We were only planning to bike 40 plus miles to Quincy today, we already had a motel room reserved at the Ranchito Motel, and the route was mostly downhill, so we slept in until 7:30 and hit the road about 10:00.
Our route out of Chester was again on our least favorite road to date, Hwy 89. However, early on it was mostly flat, ran along the southern shore of Lake Almanor, and it had a shoulder. Things were looking up.
Our first rest stop was in the tiny town of Canyon Dam (pop. 31), about fifteen miles out. We stopped at a little convenience store that sold wood carvings. It is amazing what some people can do with a chainsaw.
From Canyon Dam we dropped like a stone into Greenville, eleven miles away. We had lost our shoulder again, but at 30-40 mph we didn’t care. Peter just took the lane and the motorists seemed to be content to wait until the road opened up and they could pass safely. It has consistently been our experience that the closer we are going to the speed of the motor vehicle traffic, the more patient the motorists are. Ironic because when we need the most help, and when it is the most dangerous for everyone, is when we are going slow and the motor vehicles are going fast. On these narrow twisty roads, the faster the better for us. Since it was noon already, we stopped and had pizza for lunch.
We arrived in Quincy about 3:00 and stopped at Quintopia Brewing Company for a beer.
By 4:00 we were at our motel. We took showers and then walked over to the laundromat to do our wash again. Laundry day comes very quickly when you only have two changes of biking and street clothes. While the washing machine was doing it’s thing ($2.75),we walked next door to the grocery store and picked up dinner and breakfast.
Time to catch up on social media. Tomorrow we bike to Truckee, CA, about 66 miles and several climbs away where we will be staying with another Warm Showers host for two nights. Time for a well-deserved day off the bike.
Day 28 (June 28 2019)
Lassen Volcanic National Park/Manzanita Lake Campground to Chester, CA – Miles 60
Total miles: 1,182
Weather: 40- 52 degrees, partly sunny, slight wind
We were up by 6:30 to get an early start on a long day and tough climb. Climbing out of the tent was tough it was cold, about 40 degrees, we both put on almost every piece of clothing we had to pack up. After breakfast with a hot cup of tea and coffee we headed over to the Camp Store for a second cup of something warm to drink and to warm up a bit before we hit the road. While waiting for our drinks a young man came in, we saw him arrive by bicycle last night.
Matt was from Poland and was bicycling the same route as us but the opposite direction, he had come over Lassen Summit yesterday. He told us it was a tough ride but well worth it, the views were amazing. Matt said it was very cold and he was happy to get in last night and take a hot shower. We exchanged information and wished each other luck.
As we were getting on the bicycle a young couple stopped over to talk, Annette and her boyfriend stopped over to chat. She is a Traffic Engineer in Salt Lake City , Utah. She was very interested in what we were doing and our business. She told us that providing bicycle and pedestrian facilities on road projects is really a battle and asked if we were coming through Salt Lake City. We said we would be in the area and she asked if we could meet. We gave her our card and she told us she would reach out. Maybe some work in a state we have not worked in yet – cool!!
Finally, we took off for our 30 mile climb through the park. The first part of the ride was downhill to the group camp areas, from there we started to climb. Lassen Park did not disappoint, the views, flowers, ponds, mountains, etc.were all amazing. The road was in great shape, speed limit of 35 mph and there were not many motor vehicles, heaven. It took us about 3.5 hours to get to the summit at 8,500 feet, the last 500 feet seemed to take us forever. We finally made it celebrated and put on more clothes for the downhill ride.
The downhill section was about eight miles to the south visitors entrance, it took us about a half hour with a stop to check out and warm up at the Sulfur Pots. The Sulfur Pots were amazing and truly beautiful. The visitors center was a necessary stop to warm up and get lunch.
After lunch we spend the next 25 miles traveling mostly downhill to Chester. The ride was on Hwy 89/36 most of the way, not our favorite highway. Thankfully there was not a lot of traffic and we did not have to worry too much about pinch points. We made it into Chester about 3:00 and headed over to the grocery store for a snack, dinner and breakfast.
After catching up on our blog, we both were out for the night with warm thoughts of our ride thru Lassen Volcanic National Park.