PAC Tour, Southern Trancontinental 2006

At 6:40 AM on September 10, I mounted my bicycle in the parking lot of our hotel in San Diego CA and recorded my first pedal stroke. 26 days, 2943 miles and 101,000 feet of climbing later I unclipped my right foot and coasted to a stop into the welcoming arms of my wife and daughter in front of our hotel in Tybee Island GA. The trip averaged of 113 miles and 3885 ft of climbing per day.

Along the way I met new friends and experienced an astonishing variety of places in a way that only the seat of a bicycle can provide. Compared to other travel its reduced pace and unobstructed visibility allows sights to be fully absorbed and appreciated. Smells are raw and uncolored. Exertion measures the opposing forces of gradient and wind. Road texture comes alive under narrow high-pressure tires. There is the warmth of the sun your back while a self-generated breeze cools the chest. Profound exposure to element heightens awareness of weather sometimes adding excitement and urgency.

Why a fast bicycle tour across America?

In 1986 as I watched Pete Penseyres set a new world record in route to winning the Race Across America (RAAM) on a special edition of ABC's "Wide World of Sports", the farthest thing from my mind was doing something remotely similar. In fact, I didn't even own a bike.

But I was intrigued by the multiple dimensions of this sporting achievement. On one hand, it profoundly tested a person's physical, mental and emotional limits; yet the man himself was insignificantly small compared to the continent he crossed in record time. Most sports are bounded by a small playing field and complex scoring. However, this event played-out in a globally-scaled arena and was profoundly simple: start at the Pacific Ocean and cycle along a specified route. Stop, eat and sleep whenever you want. Reach the Atlantic Ocean first and you win. But yet, it was more than sport. It was also an exploration of a country and one's own internal reserves. Slowly this settled into my subconscious.

I bought a bike and within a year I was riding in 100-mile charity rides. They were challenging in their own way, but didn't quite satisfy. I tried short distance races with some success, but that didn't grab me either. However, having a love of travel, it seemed natural to combine traveling and cycling. So, I organized a 360-mile bike tour from Melbourne FL to Key West; at the time this was the by far the hardest physical challenge I had ever attempted. In the weeks of planning it I often thought about how I would feel at the finish.

End of the road in Key West FL.
Carl Westergren, John Corriveau, and I
(Nov 25, 1988)

On the afternoon of the 3rd day as we approached the oversized concrete buoy at the end of South Street marking the southernmost point in the continental United States I felt a range of emotions. Sure there was the expected joy and satisfaction of a mission accomplished, but also: Humbling relief from an aching body welcoming a respite for healing to begin, Camaraderie of a rich shared experience with measures of hardship and pain / triumph and pleasure, and Sadness at the inescapable truth that as I touched the buoy, this event was now official over never to be recreated with all its nuances.

As I gazed south over the 90 miles of open water between us and Cuba, I wondered what new adventure could provide an even greater challenge and have a similarly elegant and natural end point. Remembering Pete Penseyres' epic Race Across America victory, I found my answer: a Pacific to Atlantic transcontinental expedition across America. It became my 'Holy Grail'.

Fanciful aspirations, however, have a way of getting brushed aside as other more practical matters of life intervene such as: years of nighttime grad-school, building a career, getting married, raising a child, etc. As a result I rode less and less, and my fitness declined. In January 2004 I was diagnosed with a heartbeat irregularity and aerobic exercise was prescribed. I dutifully dusted off my (now aging) bicycle and began riding again. As my training volume steadily increased, I looked for a goal to push on to the next level. Thinking back to earlier days, and with the support of my wife and family, the time now seemed right to resurrect a dream. Full Article


I dedicated this tour to my lovely wife Janine and daughter Holly. Their continued support allowed this dream to become a reality.

I also dedicated this ride to my friend Anne Marie McSweetney who tragically died in an auto accident just 3 months before the start of the tour. She would have accompanied us and was dearly missed. In her honor I carried a small change purse of her's from coast to coast. She used it on her transcontinental crossing the year before and I returned it to her parents at tours end. We were in Paul's Valley, OK on what would have been her 45th birthday September 23, 2006.

Tour Stats

Compared to the Tour De France...

Item PAC Tour Southern USA Transcontinental Tour de France 2005
Distance, miles 2928 (4711 km)
my actual: 2943 miles
2242 (3608 km)
Riding days 26 21
Rest days 0 2
Average, miles/day 113 106.8
Longest day, miles 157 (253 km) 149 (240 km)
Avg. speed, mph 17.1 (27.5 km/hr)
25.9 (41.654 km/hr)
Lance Armstrong
Deserts crossed Sonoran, Chihuahuan none
Mountain Ranges crossed 4: Coastal Range and Sierra Nevada (CA),
Rockies (AZ and NM),
Ouachita ("wah-shi-tah", Ark.)
2: Pyrenees, Alps


PAC Tour 2006 Southern transcontinental

Daily Journal

The following table has links to pages describing each day of this unique adventure. Click on each of the destination towns below to see what happened.

Day Date Finish Miles Notes
0 Sat, 9-Sep-06 San Diego, CA 0 Pre-Tour
1 Sun, 10-Sep-06 El Centro, CA 127 Hot, tough climbing
2 Mon, 11-Sep-06 Blythe, CA 104 Hot, Hot, Hot!
3 Tue, 12-Sep-06 Wickenburg, AZ 116 Early rain, mild headwind, not as hot
4 Wed, 13-Sep-06 Cottonwood, AZ 105 Three huge climbs
5 Thu, 14-Sep-06 Winslow, AZ 112 41-mile climb/50-mile screaming decent
6 Fri, 15-Sep-06 Springerville, AZ 122 Brutal headwind last 30 miles
7 Sat, 16-Sep-06 Socorro, NM 157 Huge tailwind, continental divide
8 Sun, 17-Sep-06 Ruidoso, NM 105 Series of steep climbs last 20 miles
9 Mon, 18-Sep-06 Roswell, NM 97 Last of the Rockies, easy rolling
10 Tue, 19-Sep-06 Clovis, NM 109 Big tailwind, shallow grades
11 Wed, 20-Sep-06 Amarillo, TX 111 Entered Texas, tailwind again
12 Thu, 21-Sep-06 Erick, OK 118 Entered Oklahoma with tailwinds!
13 Fri, 22-Sep-06 Hinton, OK 103 Kicks on Route 66
14 Sat, 23-Sep-06 Pauls Valley, OK 111 Perfect weather, rolling farmland
15 Sun, 24-Sep-06 McAlester, OK 100 Comfortably cool in rolling hills
16 Mon, 25-Sep-06 Mena, AR 114 "13% grades next 21 miles"
17 Tue, 26-Sep-06 Arkadelphia, AR 89 Farewell Ouachita Mountains
18 Wed, 27-Sep-06 Pine Bluff, AR 91 Rural South recovery
19 Thu, 28-Sep-06 Lula, MS 131 In Cotton!
20 Fri, 29-Sep-06 Winona, MS 114 Still in cotton, spirited 2nd half
21 Sat, 30-Sep-06 Meridian, MS 130 Brutally rough roads
22 Sun, 1-Oct-06 Greenville, AL 149 Smooth fast roads
23 Mon, 2-Oct-06 Eufaula, AL 109 Rolling hills with light headwind
24 Tue, 3-Oct-06 Perry, GA 104 Long rollers morning, headwind afternoon
25 Wed, 4-Oct-06 Metter, GA 114 Lost! Great roads, gently rolling terrain
26 Thu, 5-Oct-06 Tybee Island, GA 86 We made it!
NA Fri, Sat & Sun Home 0 Post tour wrap-up and reflections

Note: the maps and profiles have been created and added to all of the previous daily pages. Also 3-D maps were added to the Cottonwood and Mena days.

Note2: the total climbing of this tour is 101,000 ft. See this Route Analysis Table and the notes below it for how climbing elevation was determined.

Day 1 Hot! Afternoon high of 104°F is expected (mid September average high at El Centro, CA). This extreme heat, 127 miles and 8500 ft. of climbing make combine to make this the most difficult day to finish in the tour.
Day 2 Hot again! Afternoon high of 103°F is expected (mid September average high at Blythe, CA).
Day 6 The highest elevation of an overnight location, 6978 ft (Springerville, AZ).
Day 7 Longest day of the tour at 157 miles (Springerville NM to Socorro NM)
Day 9 Cold! Morning low of 39°F is expected (mid September average low at Ruidoso, NM).
Day 16 Tough climbing. Climbing elevation 8752 ft traveling 114 miles from McAlester OK to Mena AR is the most of the tour.
Day 22 Long day in the saddle. 149 miles and 6250 ft of climbing from Meridian MS to Greenville GA combine to 167 equivalent flat miles - the longest of the tour.

I choose this PAC Tour expedition because of my great experience at the Wisconsin Training Camp 2005.


Route Analysis Table

The following table shows a day-by-day summary of the tour. Colored cells indicate the most challenging aspects of the tour. Orange denotes the most challenge and yellow a lesser, but still notable challenge.

Day Date Start Finish Elev, ft Distance, mi Climbing, ft (PAC est. ) Climbing, ft (Lon's Que Sheet) DeLorme Topo USA Climbing, ft (71.4% of Topo USA) Equivalent Flat Distance, mi Est. Riding Time, hh:mm:ss
0 Sat, 9-Sep-06 San Diego, CA San Diego, CA 51 0 0          
1 Sun, 10-Sep-06 San Diego, CA El Centro, CA -25 127 7,500 7,400 11,358 8110 160 8:56:00
2 Mon, 11-Sep-06 El Centro Blythe, CA 279 104 1,600 1,600 2,489 1,777 109 6:07:00
3 Tue, 12-Sep-06 Blythe Wickenburg, AZ 2063 116 3,430 3,430 4,262 3,043 129 7:13:00
4 Wed, 13-Sep-06 Wickenburg Cottonwood, AZ 3334 105 7,000 8,500 10,877 7766 141 7:55:00
5 Thu, 14-Sep-06 Cottonwood, AZ Winslow, AZ 4864 112 3,000   8,847 6317 138 7:44:00
6 Fri, 15-Sep-06 Winslow, AZ Springerville, AZ 6978 122 3,300 4,350 5,567 3,975 138 7:45:00
7 Sat, 16-Sep-06 Springerville Socorro, NM 4604 157 4,350 3,700 6,017 4,296 162 9:04:00
8 Sun, 17-Sep-06 Socorro Ruidoso, NM 6840 105 5,050 6,600 8,142 5813 131 7:19:00
9 Mon, 18-Sep-06 Ruidoso Roswell, NM 3583 97 3,030   4,071 2,907 98 5:30:00
10 Tue, 19-Sep-06 Roswell Clovis, NM 4275 109 2,000   2,282 1,629 116 6:29:00
11 Wed, 20-Sep-06 Clovis Amarillo, TX 3676 111 1,000   1,196 854 112 6:17:00
12 Thu, 21-Sep-06 Amarillo Erick, OK 2073 118 500   2,634 1,881 118 6:36:00
13 Fri, 22-Sep-06 Erick Hinton, OK 1687 103 2,800   4,021 2,871 109 6:06:00
14 Sat, 23-Sep-06 Hinton Pauls Valley, OK 880 111 2,500   4,916 3,510 118 6:37:00
15 Sun, 24-Sep-06 Pauls Valley McAlester, OK 740 100 3,500   5,030 3,591 110 6:08:00
16 Mon, 25-Sep-06 McAlester Mena, AR 1171 114 10,000 7,250 11,669 8332 158 8:51:00
17 Tue, 26-Sep-06 Mena Arkadelphia, AR 280 89 3,500   4,882 3,486 97 5:27:00
18 Wed, 27-Sep-06 Arkadelphia Pine Bluff, AR 229 91 3,700 1,600 3,107 2,218 96 5:23:00
19 Thu, 28-Sep-06 Pine Bluff Lula, MS 187 131 2,500   1,200 857 135 7:33:00
20 Fri, 29-Sep-06 Lula Winona, MS 386 114 2,000   3,241 2,314 120 6:43:00
21 Sat, 30-Sep-06 Winona, MS Meridian, MS 352 130 3,000   7,995 5708 148 8:16:00
22 Sun, 1-Oct-06 Meridian, MS Greenville, AL 446 149 4,700   8,461 6041 167 9:21:00
23 Mon, 2-Oct-06 Greenville, AL Eufaula, AL 266 109 3,500   6,542 4,671 123 6:53:00
24 Tue, 3-Oct-06 Eufaula, AL Perry, GA 374 104 3,200   6,789 4,847 120 6:43:00
25 Wed, 4-Oct-06 Perry, GA Metter, GA 228 114 2,000   4,389 3,134 121 6:47:00
26 Thu, 5-Oct-06 Metter, GA Tybee Island, GA 17 86 1,000   1,280 914 88 4:56:00
          2928 89,660   141,264 100,862 3,262 182:39:00


The climbing for each day is best determined by entering each route in Delorme Topo USA software then taking 72% of the climbing elevation it reports for each day. Using linear regression, this simple ratio produced the best agreement with Lon's climbing data shown on 9 of his queue sheets (only the top seven days were used - those greater than 2000 ft. of climbing) relative to the data riders on this tour reported from their barometric and GPS altimeters. Using this method the total climbing for this tour is therefore, 101,000 ft (72% of 141,264 ft).

For comparison, three sets of climbing data are shown: The original PAC Tour estimated climbing, climbing shown on PAC Tour's que sheets (it was only indicated on a few), and the Delorme Topo USA 6.0 climbing. All of these are shaded in grey to indicate that they were not used in the Equivalent Flat Distance calculations.

The "Equivalent Flat Distance" (EFD) and "Estimated Riding Time" are computed using this spreadsheet, which is based on the mathematical model described here Climb = what flat distance?. It is the distance that would be ridden on an entirely flat route in the same time as riding the actual (hilly or mountainous) route using the same power profile.

This model takes into account aerodynamic drag, rolling resistance and, of course, gravity forces due to slope. The values shown in the above table were for a typical 170 lb. solo (non-drafting) rider cruising at a moderate touring pace of 135 watts on flat terrain (17.8 mph), 135 watts climbing and 110 watts descending. The climbing and descending distances (used in the calculation but not shown in the table) were estimated to be 35% of the distance travelled each day. Althought the model allows the user to enter headwind or tailwind, a wind speed of 0 was used in the above calculations.

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