Unlike many of the so-called political experts, Bob LeMier wasn’t surprised by the outcome of the presidential election.
On July 11, the 61-year-old Olympia man hopped on his bicycle and spent 71 days pedaling from the Oregon coast to Yorktown, Virginia.
Once he cleared Eugene, he estimates he saw only a handful of Hillary Clinton signs and “5,000 to 10,000 Donald Trump signs.”
“I’m more liberal, so I tried to remain optimistic,” LeMier said. “I kept trying to believe what I saw wasn’t true, but it was.”
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His 4,052-mile cross-country trip was LeMier’s second — and the second time he made the trip during an election year. He biked the same route with a friend in summer 1980, but had to skip a section because of an illness in his friend’s family.
“I was trying to re-create the experience,” said LeMier, who biked alone this time.
LeMier said he enjoyed the opportunity to tour the country, and to see how much it has changed, as well as to meet people.
“In general, the locals I talked to were very friendly, helpful and inquisitive about my travels on the road,” LeMier said. “They were also very good at pointing out local eateries and points of interest that made the trip so special each time I would enter a town.”
LeMier is co-owner of an Olympia-based remodeling business and took off three months for his adventure. After finishing the ride, he drove to Boston (he had his car shipped to Virginia), where he met his wife. They spent three weeks visiting the Northeast and driving home.
“It was an amazing trip,” LeMier said. “I’m still pinching myself.”
At first, LeMier was so eager to re-create his 1980 journey that he considered using the same style of bike. Then the staff at Old Town Bicycle in Olympia helped him construct a modern ride.
His heavy-duty touring bike weighed 32 pounds and was set up to carry all of his gear, including his tent and stove. The bike was set up so that his pedal power could charge his phone and tablet.
64The average number of miles per day Bob LeMier pedaled during his cross-country bike ride.
In 1980, LeMier had to find pay phones to call home. He camped most nights on the first trip. This time he camped only seven nights. He used his phone to search out hotels along his route.
“I didn’t want anybody to steal the bike,” LeMier said.
LeMier hit the road most mornings about 5 a.m. and rode 15-35 miles before stopping for breakfast. He averaged about 64 miles on the days he rode. He took off seven days.
LeMier seemed to have plenty of good luck on this trip. He fell a few times getting used to his clipless pedals, but he never crashed. And he didn’t get any flat tires.
During his 1980 trip, he had three flats on the first day and 14 for the trip.
He lost 24 pounds during the ride.
“I wasn’t in the best shape when I started,” LeMier said. But he’s in good shape now. He said the men in his family have died by the age of 54, so getting fit was an important part of the trip.
So was seeing the country and meeting people.
“It’s so amazing to see what the country was like then and how it is now,” LeMier said.
One thing that hasn’t changed, he said, is that, regardless of politics, “people are generally friendly.” Sure, there were occasional incidents. A driver in Kentucky blew thick, black diesel smoke in his face. But for the most part, the interactions were positive. He said he had enjoyable conversations with people while visiting their towns.
In Virginia, he stopped at Wyant’s Store, a small shop he remembered from his previous trip. A group of men were sitting out front just as there was 36 years ago. LeMier chatted with the men for awhile and just before he set off, the owner gave him a banana for the road.
“You should make time to do something like this,” LeMier said of his trip. “Besides having kids and being married, it might be the best thing I’ve done in my life.”
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