Viki Brown's bike and trailer take a break in Grand Teton National Park in June 2011.

Crossing america

Some people dream of adventures; others make their dreams come true. Viki Brown made hers a reality last summer when she bicycled 4,046 miles across the country — from Virginia to Oregon — in 70 days.

The Vibrant, healthy, 59-year-old Brown began considering the tour a few years before she retired in February 2011 after 20 years as manager of Jackson County Public Health. She commuted to work on her bicycle for most of that time, so she wasn't a cycling newbie.

"First, I rode from my home in Gold Hill to my job in Medford then, for the last nine years, from my home in Eagle Point. I rode more than six months out of the year, skipping days in winter due to bad weather or darkness."

Like most kids, Brown bicycled a lot in the town where she grew up — in her case, northern Wisconsin.

"But I really got into cycling as an adult when I worked as a nurse in the VA Domiciliary in White City. Another employee and I cycled with patients as part of a treatment plan. We liked it so much we just kept on riding. I did Cycle Oregon with friends for the first time in 1987 — an annual 500-mile tour covering various parts of the state."

Since that time, Brown, who is secretary of Siskiyou Velo bicycle club, has ridden Cycle Oregon eight times, plus other tours in Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming and Wisconsin.

Because Brown already was in pretty good shape from her years of riding, her planning revolved around choosing a route and deciding what to pack. Brown chose to pull a single-wheel trailer to carry her camping gear, clothing and basic bike-repair tools.

"One thing I carried that people thought strange was my hair dryer, but to me a necessity."

Brown favored the TransAmerica Route mapped by Adventure Cycling because it is the longest established route and covers territory she hadn't cycled.

"They provided information about campsites, churches and hostels that accept riders, along with maps and information about sites of interest."

On May 3, 2011, following cycling tradition, Brown dipped her rear wheel in the Atlantic Ocean in Yorktown, Va., and began pedaling west. She started with a cycling companion who brought a dog, but after a month he dropped out, leaving her to continue onward by herself, but not necessarily alone.

"People liked to talk to us, either because they dreamed of adventure or just out of curiosity to hear our stories," she says of people she encountered on the way.

"We met many more riders from other countries than from the U.S. — and more men than women. Our vast spaces and varied terrain have great appeal, maybe because European countries are relatively small. They also have more vacation time to take a longer tour."

Despite averaging 63 miles per day, Brown and her diverse, new friends made an effort to experience the history and culture of each area, stopping at many historical and scenic sites: Lincoln's Kentucky birthplace, museums and numerous state parks.

"Yellowstone was a wonderful highlight, although it snowed while we were there. In fact, so far as weather, we had 22 rain days. But people who tour are used to all conditions."

Seventy days after leaving the Atlantic Ocean — and after crossing 10 states — Brown dipped her front wheel into the Pacific Ocean in Florence. It's worth noting that she experienced no mechanical breakdowns or flat tires on the trip.

And the odds are very good, Brown says, that she has another adventure or two in her future.

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