Seeing America from the seat of a bicycle

by David M. Gustafson

David Gustafson on a bicycle

Last summer I checked off from my bucket list the goal of riding my bicycle across America. I had this goal for several years. I had completed shorter trips in previous years, such as tours from Moline to Minneapolis and back. Last summer, I saw America from the seat of a bicycle.

I rode from east to west, in part, to get a sense of the westward expansion of the United States and to follow the path of immigrants who traveled in that direction. I began my trip in New York City, near Battery Park where Castle Garden served as the location to welcome and process my Swedish ancestors. I rode up the Hudson River, and west on the Erie Canal to Niagara, Canada. I then went along the southern shore of Lake Erie through Pennsylvania and Ohio. I rode across Indiana and Illinois to the town of my birth, Princeton, Illinois. I continued through southern Iowa and Nebraska, entering eastern Colorado, visiting my children in Boulder. Then my ride turned northwest, as I rode through five national parks: Rocky Mountain, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier, and North Cascades. I finished my coast-to-coast ride in Anacortes, Washington. I traveled 3,001.9 miles over a period of 65 days.

I camped along the way, as well as stayed with family and friends. This adventure was truly among the top experiences of my life and gave me a sense of what pioneers and immigrants endured to travel westward. I was welcomed by strangers who fed me and offered me lodging. I saw eagles, deer, coyotes, foxes, hawks, and antelope. I saw a bear and a moose. This trip gave me a greater sense of what it is to be an American and to appreciate our great country even more.

From the mountains, to the prairies,
to the oceans white with foam,
God bless America,
my home sweet home.