Wyche bikes 4,750 miles

Published 12:01 am Saturday, August 25, 2012



It was a scene straight out of an old western movie.

The late afternoon sun blanketed Hudson, Kansas — a town smaller than Andalusia — and resident Guy Wyche walked into town looking for something to eat.

All stores were closed because it was Sunday afternoon and after the lunch hour, until Sally Bauer, who owns Wheatland Café came calling.

Bauer, in her kindness, loaded Wyche and his good friend of many years, Joe Culpepper, with a pan of cinnamon buns after feeding the bikers a solid meal in her restaurant.

This act of kindness from a stranger is what Wyche said made his bicycle trip from Yorktown, Va., to Astoria, Ore., on the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail, something he’ll never forget.

“It was just a wonderful thing,” Wyche said.

Wyche and Culpepper, both retired, trekked some 4,750 miles, which included an extra loop down to see the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, across the United States on the trail, which was first devised in 1976 to celebrate the country’s bicentennial. The trail is made up of roads, trails and highways.

The Adventure Cycling Association, whose headquarters are in Missoula, Mont., sponsor the trail and produce maps for the bicycle network. Wyche and Culpepper got to visit the association’s headquarters.

Wyche said he carried with him 12 maps for the adventure and when he crossed one state to another, he’d send them back home when he was done with them.

Wyche, 63, said that Culpepper talked him into going on the trip.

“My buddy for 30 years has been taking these bike trips,” he said. “He and I have been friends since grade school. We were really close in high school, and we went to the University of Georgia together.

“I was the best man of his wedding and four years later, he officiated at our wedding as pastor,” he said. “We have a long history.”

Fast forward to the present and after Culpepper’s many biking trips and Wyche traveling with his wife, Pam, on a tandem bike several times, both decided to conquer the “granddaddy” of all bike trails.

“The last couple years I have been riding with him,” Wyche said. “Last year, we rode from Omaha (Neb.) across Iowa.

“He has had this thing of where he wanted to do this (bike the TransAmerica),” he said. “This was his big deal. I had been riding more and more, and it’s just worked out to be a neat thing to do together.”

On May 16, both started in Yorktown and made their way with Pam in tow for about two weeks. After the first two weeks were up, Wyche and Culpepper were on their own.

After traveling a ways, both riders came to Yellowstone National Park.

“That was one of those mystical places you never forget,” Wyche said.

When asked what it was like to bike across the U.S., Wyche said it was an experience.

“It’s about experiencing the country, not just seeing it,” he said. “It just gets to being some sort of a spiritual adventure in that you just see the loving kindness of strangers, the warmth and beauty of creation — all of that stuff is overwhelming at times.

“The trip is the thing,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about. You can just see so much and experience so much on the bicycle. It’s difficult to explain.”

Wyche and Culpepper’s experience led them to riding in 106-110 degree weather, crossing the continental divide six to seven times, experiencing the Grand Teton National Park in Jackson Hole, Wyo. and making 18 mountain passes in the Rockies and Cascades.

Wyche and Culpepper celebrated July 4 in Hoosier Pass, just south of Breckenridge, Colo. He said it was tough to get to that point of the journey because the trail started to go north.

When they got tired, both slept in a tent for 37 nights, stayed in motels, hostels, churches and community centers along the way.

Like Bauer in Hudson, Kansas, it was the kindness of strangers that will stick with Wyche most about the trip, he said.

Wyche said he chose to take this trip with his friend because he had the time to do it and was interested.

“He (Culpepper) has been doing this for many years and I had been riding since I retired and have had time to do it,” Wyche said. “Cycling is rather time consuming when you’re trying to do cub scouts and make a living (as a forester with Rayonier).

“It was something he had always wanted to do,” he said. “Pam and I had taken trips on our tandom bikes and those were week-long trips. We actually took a trip to Utah. You can just build up to the TransAmerica.”

Wyche and Culpepper finished their trip on Aug. 11, and Wyche said it’s tradition to dip the back wheel into the Atlantic Ocean and the front wheel into the Pacific Ocean.

Once they made it where they could see the Pacific, Wyche said it was an emotional experience.

“Of course arriving and getting the first glimpses of the Pacific Ocean was something,” he said. “Then, when we finished in Astoria, that really was a moving thing.”