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Bicycling Across America

This program is rebroadcast from March 28, 2014.

Biking coast to coast. It’s on a lot of bucket lists. Bruce Weber did it. He brings us his tale of 4000 miles.

Bruce Weber biked across the United States. His new book, "Life is a Wheel," narrates that journey. (Marcus Yam)

New York Times obituary writer Bruce Weber biked across the United States. His new book, “Life is a Wheel,” narrates that journey. (Marcus Yam)

If you’ve dreamed about bicycling across the United States, get in line.  It’s on a lot of wish lists, bucket lists, to-do lists.  Of course, most people don’t.  Coast to coast is a long way.  There are mountains and very wide prairies and wind and rain and eighteen wheelers out there.  But still, every summer, people do it.  Bruce Weber did it.  He’s an obituary writer.  And one day, all the writing about death and sitting around to do it just got to be too much.  He pulled out the bike.  And rode.  Four thousand miles.  Coast to coast.  Sweating.  Searching.  This hour On Point:  Life and death and bicycling across America.

– Tom Ashbrook


David Howard, executive editor at Bicycling magazine. (@davehoward99)

Bruce Weber, obituary writer for the New York Times. Author of the new book, “Life is a Wheel: Life, Death, Etc., and a Bike Ride Across America.” Also author of “As They See ‘Em: A Fan’s Travels in the Land of Umpires” and “Savion! My Life in Tap.” (@nytbruceweber)

Ellen Russell-Gage, dispacther in the Liberty County, MT Sheriff’s Department.

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times: One Man, Two Wheels, 4,122 Miles — “A man in the grip of a midlife crisis often gets himself a new set of wheels: a Porsche or a Jaguar or a Mustang convertible. But at 57, Bruce Weber, the author of the memoir and travelogue ‘Life Is a Wheel,’ opted for a different vehicle, a shiny red custom-made titanium bicycle, which he resolved to ride from the Pacific Coast to the Atlantic.”

Charlotte Observer: Book review: ‘Life is a Wheel’ — “Unlike most of you, however, Weber has no spouse, no kids, no place of worship, no ball-and-chain cramping his style. A confirmed New York bachelor, he enjoys freedom to take an adventure most of us can only dream about: a four-month-long, coast-to-coast bike ride. Weber’s travel diary, ‘Life is a Wheel,’ originally appeared as a series of blog posts for the New York Times, where he has worked for more than 25 years. Not merely a chronicle of a 3,600-mile bike ride, it’s as much an exhibition of the cyclist’s emotional state, booby-trapped with lifelong anxieties.”

Minneapolis Star Tribune: REVIEW: ‘Life Is a Wheel: Love, Death, Etc., and a Bike Ride Across America,’ by Bruce Weber – “The title itself has kind of a rambling feel to it and aptly reflects the tone of the memoir. There are no revelatory scenes or great surprises along the way. There is equal space given to the cycling details of the ride, Weber’s reflections on his family and his life in journalism, and daily scenes of the United States, where he finds his sense of patriotism fired up. ”

Read An Excerpt Of “Life Is a Wheel” By Bruce Weber

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  • Sarah Jacqz

    I’m a 19 year old girl and thinking seriously about starting a cross country ride this August. My parents are convinced that this trip is the most dangerous thing I could possibly come up with- not just becase i am a young girl solo, but because of serious bike crashes. It’s hard to really know how risky it is (not so much great data),and I’m struggling with whether to let their concerns deter me.

    • malkneil

      I rode the Trans-America trail in the summer of 2000. I think there is an inherent danger for any cyclist riding on the road. Not sure if there’s any way to mitigate that other than being aware and obviously having mirrors. We thankfully had almost no significant brushes with traffic, but I’m sure there are other people who could tell stories otherwise.

      As far as riding on your own; by and large I found people to be friendly and accommodating, but you might consider hitting up message boards online to try and find another person to tackle the trip with — even if it means meeting up with them part way through. We met people en route and ended up pairing up with a guy in Kentucky who rode with us the rest of the way.

    • HonestDebate1

      I once hitch-hiked from Albuquerque, NM to Gainesville, FL but that was in the 70′s. I would recommend against it, I think your parents are right.

      If you do choose to do it be careful. I would certainly think if you are going to expend that amount of energy then you should try to achieve a result that is bigger than yourself. Raise awareness for a cause you feel strongly about, write a book, or something to make the task worthwhile. But again, it’s dangerous.

    • fun bobby

      look into “RAAM” the race across America, you might be able to hook up with a team and they would have support vehicles and such for improved safety. Cycling is very dangerous, just look at all the guys getting knocked out of the tour de france but so are most things most 19 year olds do so just tell your parents you are deciding between a bike ride and base jumping or becoming a single mother and I bet they will offer to sponsor your ride.

      • JS

        I dont think RAAM is for 19 yr olds who havent got the experience and stamina to ride almost non stop across the USA.

        • fun bobby

          I don’t know whether she is qualified or not. if she is a serious cyclist perhaps she is. are you saying its just for 40 year old guys with something to prove?

          • JS

            Do you really know anything about the RAAM?


            From the website:
            “Race Across America (RAAM) is one the most respected and longest running endurance sports events in the world. RAAM is seen as a pinnacle of athletic achievement not only in cycling circles but the greater sporting community as well.”

            Its a non-stop RACE across America, not a “lets see the country” RIDE across America. The RACERS go around the clock, see absolutely NOTHING of the country because they are half delerious half of the time, race through the night, etc.

            Her quote “It’s hard to know how risky biking is” seems to imply that she not a competitive cyclist, which you would need to be in order to race RAAM.

          • fun bobby

            I know all about it, that’s why I did not have to look it up on their website. what neither of us know is anything about the young lady in question. you seem to have a lot of assumptions about her and I. you know what they say about ass-u-me

          • Ramdoride

            Please go the website and read about RAAM. It is not just for 40 year old guys with something to prove, but it is for very experienced cyclists. It also costs a lot of money to do it (yes, I have a friend who did it). Pippa Middleton (Prince WIlliam’s sister-in-law) was on a team this year.

          • fun bobby

            why would I go to a website and read about RAAM?
            so you are saying that you don’t think this girl is as fit as pippa middleton? what do you base that on? do you think a 19 year old NPR fan planning a bicycle excursion comes from poverty?

    • disqus298

      Much better advice: Take a look at maps published by Adventure Cycling http://www.adventurecycling.org … take advantage of their “companions wanted” listings or consider joining an organized, supported tour. It’s more fun when you can get somebody to go with you.

      • Ramdoride

        disqus298 is right on. Adventure Cycling can hook you up with someone however, you probably are too late for this August. Another option is to look for an outfitter to ride with. I did the Southern Tier with WomanTours in 2007. Trip of a lifetime! Good luck and don’t be deterred from this dream.

  • fun bobby

    I know a guy who does it every year, he has huge thighs, it called the race across america

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