Riding Into Springtime – FAQ
Who am I?
I’m Bill Pierce, a 69-year-old guy with an idea for a bike ride and a book. I was born in Detroit, grew up and went to school in Michigan, and lived in a total of 10 different U.S. sates for 55 years. I’m currently a Canadian resident (and dual U.S.-Canadian citizen), making my home in Burlington, Ontario, since 2003.
What am I trying to do?
I want to follow spring north by bicycle, from Mexico to Canada, roughly through the center of the U.S. Spring moves northward at an average pace of about 19 miles per day (a little less than 1 mile per hour), so I am leaving the Rio Grande Valley about February 1, 2017, and finishing in Winnipeg about May 15.
Along the way, I want to meet and talk with people, letting them tell their stories of where and who they are. And I want to write a book about the experience, the title of which is Riding into Springtime.
What exactly is the route?
For those who follow maps, the route is basically US Highway 77 from Brownsville to near Corpus Christi, Texas, and then north on Texas Highway 35 to Houston. The great majority of the trip is almost entirely on US Highway 59, one of the less traveled continuous north-south routes (or south-north in my case). In Canada this becomes Manitoba Highway 59 to Winnipeg. There may be occasional deviations due to construction, local conditions, shortcuts, personal interests and merely for the sake of doing something different.
Why did I choose this route?
I wanted to do this in the middle of America, country often flown over and ignored by those who live and travel along the coasts and major cities. And I wanted to start at the southernmost point of middle America, where the Rio Grande flows into the Gulf of Mexico, and finish in a “middle Canadian” place.
The only truly major metropolitan area of the trip is Houston, discounting Brownsville/Matamoros at the U.S.-Mexican border, and Winnipeg in Canada. Otherwise there are some smaller cities and a lot of small towns, with wide-open spaces in between. That should give me numerous opportunities to talk with people in “forgotten America.”
Why “forgotten America”?
Almost every day we hear about major American cities: New York, San Francisco, Chicago, etc. But what do we know of Mena, Arkansas, Shenandoah, Iowa, or St. Malo, Manitoba? The odds are that few of us have been to these places, including, other than the odd coincidence, myself as well. These are the locations for the stories I want to discover and tell. Moreover, smaller, rural places are more aware of and in touch with the annual rebirth spring brings to the land.
Why a bicycle?
Originally I wanted to make this a walking trip, but a hard look at the map reveals the route has some places where there are as many as 50 miles between towns where I could stay. That’s too far for an old man—or almost anyone—to walk in a day. Furthermore, at an average of 19 miles per day I would be mostly walking nearly every day, and I would miss the opportunities to stop and smell the roses, and meet with people who are equally as important—probably more so—than the places they live.
I’ve been a bicyclist since early childhood, and serious about it since I was in my mid-20s in the 1970s. As best I can estimate, I’ve ridden more than 125,000 miles, including a nearly 15,000-mile tour of Europe in 11 months back in 1985-86. And for 38 years I’ve ridden on RAGBRAI, the week-long group ride across the state of Iowa. So I’m comfortable traveling on two wheels. Besides, what would be the point of driving? That could be done in three long days, and I’d miss the important dimension of the progression of spring as it moves north.
Why a book?
I am a writer, for more than 50 years now, although it has only occasionally been my profession among the several I have had. For a long time I wasn’t sure I had a book in me. The basic idea came nearly 10 years ago, and it’s taken me that long to realize that at some point—now—I need either to forget about it or make it a reality.
Am I worried about the trip?
Sure. I’m not a young man, and I have some health issues, but I don’t foresee any major complications. There is always the security risk of being vulnerable as a solo bicycle traveler. However, I partially grew up and spent a lot of time in rural and small-town North America, and I suppose I’m convinced of the basic decency of people in these places. And I’m a believer that reality more often than not rises to its expectations.
How does someone follow the trip?
If you’re reading this for some reason, you’ve found my website: http://www.ridingintospringtime.com. I’ll post occasional blog entries (two or three times a week) and photos as the trip progresses. But the site will hardly be a complete record of my experiences. I still need time to ride and meet people, and if I covered the entire trip here, there wouldn’t be anything left for the book.
How does someone contact me?
If you really want to contact me, you can send an email to Bill@ridingintospringtime.com. And I have a mobile phone number (716-545-0416 while in the U.S., 905-399-4951 while in Canada) for calls and texts, with voice mail if I happen to be where I can’t answer a call. I’ll do my best to respond at least briefly.