Cyclist takes the long way across the U.S.

5,000-mile bike ride takes her to 50 states in 50 days

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter



Cindi's Blog

"South Dakota: Tough day. Tough day. We got started early, but I knew forecasters were calling for triple-digit temperatures and winds out of the south. We had hills from the get-go. My knees were barking, and no amount of ibuprofen was going to make them happy. … We were basically on Highway 83 south all day. Long rollers with wide expanses of grassland … cowboy country."

Read more at Cindi's blog

Warm Showers

Learn more about the nonprofit group comprising cyclists who open their homes to traveling cyclists at Warm Showers.

Cindi Rauch will pedal 100 miles from Girdwood to Soldotna, Alaska, today to complete her summer adventure: a 5,000-mile bike ride of 50 centuries (100-mile bicycle rides) in 50 states in 50 days.

As Rauch, 60, of Brush Prairie pedaled her bike to her parents' Orchards home Monday, she had just finished her 49th 100-mile bike ride.

"It's been the grandest kind of adventure," she said. "Physical, mental, emotional."

Cindi's father, Bill Rauch, who had waited at the end of the driveway for her, gave her a hug.

She dismounted her bike, drank from a water bottle and hugged her grandson, Torin Rauch, whose family had traveled from Yakima to witness her feat.

After catching up with family and friends gathered there, she was heading to Portland International Airport to catch a flight to Anchorage, Alaska, and the final leg of her impressive journey. She said she planned to assemble her bike when she arrived in Anchorage, then pedal her last 100 miles, or "century" as its known in the cycling world. Then, she planned to spend two days fishing before she flies home, she said.

Rauch began her journey May 22 in Hawaii. She had shipped her bike in a box, reassembled it that night and rode her first century. After that ride, she flew to California and snaked her way throughout the United States. Oregon was her 48th state, Washington her 49th and Alaska her 50th.

Rauch kept a journal of her ride on her blog.

She cycled across the country in 2005 and refers to herself as a "nonrecovering cyclist" who cycles about 10,000 miles in an average year.

Rauch said she spent about a year planning the logistics of this adventure to mark her 60th year.

She assembled a small group of trusted cycling girlfriends to accompany her and to serve as her support-and-gear team. Sometimes, Rauch rode alone, but often one of her team members rode with her. The others drove her truck, and made ice and grocery runs, and carried the food and camping gear, spare bike tires and more. Her team comprised Liz Wakeman and Patty Holt of Vancouver, Laura Schroeder of Battle Ground and Karen Cooper of California's Bay area.

Through a nonprofit group, Warm Showers, Rauch arranged for free camping in other cyclists' yards. Some homes offered just a camping spot and a warm shower, but others offered meals and beds.

"We experienced nothing but kindness from those people. They also looked at my routes and offered better alternatives," she said.

Rauch had only four flat tires on her ride, she said.

When she began planning to ride 100 miles a day, she didn't realize that much of the country would be gripped by a heat wave, she said.

"It was 106 degrees in Boardman (Oregon) yesterday," Rauch said. "But the worst heat was New Hampshire, where it was 97 degrees, but very humid."

Despite the energy-sapping heat, the worst weather element the group encountered was a severe dust storm in Arizona's Monument Valley. The dust was so thick that Rauch couldn't see, she said. But the real cause of the dust storm was the permanent air filter in her truck. By the time they reached Alabama, the truck needed some work. Two mechanics went out of their way to make repairs quickly, so they could be on their way, she said.

Both she and riding companion Schroeder took a spill in South Carolina while crossing railroad tracks slick with rain, Rauch said. People in a truck stopped to help. They had a first-aid kit and bandaged Schroeder's leg.

"We had stuff like that happen every day," Rauch said. And "I would do it again. It was hard in places. Some nights, I didn't get much sleep. But it was a personal quest, something to do before I get too old.

"I want my kids to live large and dream big."