Biker Linda Tacke near McKenzie Pass in the Cascade Range in central Oregon. Elevation 5,325 feet. (Photos courtesy of Linda Tacke)
Biking Across America
LANESBORO — The Root River State Trail in Bluff Country is a bicycler’s dream. Connecting Fountain, Lanesboro, Preston, Whalan, Peterson, Rushford, and Houston, this 40+ miles of nicely-paved and maintained asphalt trail offers a ribbon of mostly river-hugging scenic highway.
On it you’ll find all levels of bike enthusiasts, from trike graduates to casual weekend trekkers, from family groups to very serious two-wheel athletes tackling those miles with determined but (usually) friendly ferocity. “On your left.”
Yes, you see all kinds of bikers in this area. And then there’s Linda Tacke.
Linda has lived in Lanesboro since 2008. Now a bit north of 70 and retired from successful careers in business administration, philanthropy, and consulting, she loves (among other things), family, friends, yoga, laughter, and well-cooked meals. Near the top of that list you’ll also find biking. Linda Tacke loves biking.
Want proof? Linda recently finished her third major bike adventure (“epics” they’re called) in less than two years. The first took her across the southern tier of the United States, a 60-day journey from San Diego to St. Augustine, Florida. The second went from Canada to Mexico along the Pacific coast. Her third trip started in Arlington, Virginia last May and—3,800 miles later—ended in July on the Oregon coast.
Linda’s 2023 ‘epic’ bike adventure
“This recent one was my longest trip and my favorite,” Linda says. “I’m a farmer’s daughter so I enjoy seeing the variety of agriculture and topography of the country, the pasture lands, the fields of wheat and oats. We started off on beautiful Appalachian mountain trails, were surprised by all the hills of eastern Ohio.
“We loved visiting Yellowstone, Ft. Collins in Colorado was a highlight, and we biked near the snow-capped Grand Tetons. The rivers and trout streams near Ennis, Montana, were just gorgeous,” she says. “And I’ll never forget the 50-acres of lava fields near McKenzie Pass in Oregon, where Apollo astronauts were sent for lunar training. We also got to pedal for hours on quiet roads which we loved.”
The places of Linda’s most recent epic bike trip elicit great memories. So do the people with whom she traveled. “Thirteen of us went on this trip through Adventure Cycling, along with two terrific guides,” she says. “Some in our group had taken trips like this before; for others it was their first time. Everyone came individually, no married couples or prior friends, even. All were independent, friendly, supportive people.
Not without its challenges–and surprises!
“I ended up having some flat tires—one was changed by a Julliard-trained French horn player, the other by a Ph.D. in prosthetics. We also had a master electrician, some business people, two attorneys, and one woman who spent 23 years on ski patrol in Utah during the winter and guided white water rafting trips in the summer. All of us are admittedly a little Type A, the ones our friends think are a bit nuts! As one of our bikers put it, ‘we’re probably not a good cross-section of humanity.’ It was a chill group, nothing really fazed us, everyone was very supportive. An exceptional group of people!”
Things happened on their trip that were certainly faze-worthy. A pack of dogs chased the group in Missouri, leading to a bite and rabies shots for one rider. A freakish snowstorm near the Grand Tetons sent them scrambling for cover, in contrast to days of 100+ temperatures that found them cooling off in mountain streams at day’s end.
Perhaps the scariest incident? A groundhog jumped into the wheel of one biker. “He immediately crashed and was unconscious when I got to him,” Linda says. “I thought he’d had a stroke and died. An ambulance was called and he did recover.”
Linda’s own mishaps, though she tends to brush them off now, could have ended differently. “In Nebraska a pick-up came from behind and ran me into some railroad tracks. I did a one-point landing on my head and took my own ambulance ride. I was dizzy and probably had a concussion so they made me stop riding for 3-4 days. Time for a new helmet,” she grinned.
“Another time a fellow-biker—a real southern gentleman from Kentucky—saw me hit pea gravel and thought I was going over. He rode up alongside to help me; that’s when I did fall. He ended up running over my hand and felt terrible about it. No broken bones, so soon we were riding again. Oh yes, a huge wolf crossed my path in Montana. It happened so fast I got more scared later just thinking about it.”
In this, her third cross-country bike adventure, Linda has grown accustomed to the daily routines and chores.
“We shared daily cooking duties,” she explains. “My friends know I don’t like to cook, so they’ll laugh when they hear I was considered a favorite chef! I had multiple requests for my potato broccoli soup.
“We slept mostly in biker hostels and churches, with a few tent camps and motels when other accommodations weren’t available. On those really hot days we were up by 5 and biking by 6 to avoid the afternoon heat.”
By the numbers
From the east coast of the United States to the west—quite a bike ride. The numbers themselves are impressive: 72 total days on the road, 63 riding days, 60 miles per day on average, a cumulative climb of 142,712 feet, an average daily climb of 2,265 feet.
One more: by the time she got back home (“not really hurting or feeling pain anywhere,” Linda says), she had lost 2 pounds.
Is there another “epic” bike ride in her future? ”If you ask my daughter, Greta, she’ll say she hopes not,” Linda says with a laugh. “I’ve done three, the southern tier, west to east; the western ride east to west; and the Pacific ride, north to south.
“Bike riders talk about the ‘U.S. Postage Stamp,’ which means riding the entire country in a big square. I haven’t done the last section, an east coast, south to north. It’s something to think about.”
You have to believe that Lanesboro’s Linda Tacke, a person who loves bike riding adventures, will certainly be thinking about that.
Steve Harris, a local freelance writer and the author of the book Lanesboro, Minnesota, is discovering why E-bikes appear to be more than a passing fad.