ZKC Member Bikes from California to Florida
Friday, May 17, 2013

Dave Bennett, above, and also on the right in the two photos below.

Kansas City Center (ZKC) Member Dave Bennett has always been a runner. He’s completed 25 marathons, five Ultra-marathons, four half-Ironman triathlons and one full Ironman. But when he heard his friend and retired ZKC controller Scott Willson talk about bicycling across the country, he jumped at the chance.

In October 2012, Bennett and Willson bicycled from San Diego to Jacksonville, Fla. Here is a summary of their trip, in numbers:

    28 – the total number of days it took.
    2,533 – the total number of miles.
    61,000– the number of feet they climbed throughout the trip (the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest twice).
    738,000 – the total number of bicycle pedal rotations.
    8 – the number of states they biked through (CA, NM, AZ, TX, AL, LA, MS, FL).
    32 – the number of flat tires they had during the trip.
    $5,000 – the approximate amount of money it cost Bennett to take this trip.
    95 – the average number of miles they biked per day.
    147 – the most miles they biked in one day and.
    25 – the least numbers of miles they biked in one day.

Bennett and Willson prepared for the trip about a year and a half in advance, with detailed maps of their routes and planned miles per day. On September 28, 2012, they packed their bikes and flew to San Diego. When they landed, they put the bikes together, shipped the boxes to Kansas City, and started to ride.

After the first two days, the ride was so hard that Bennett and Willson realized they couldn’t follow through with their planned route and mileage. Their plan changed so that each night they would map out a route for the next day and figure out how far they would go, based on how they were feeling and the services provided along the route, such as grocery stores, rest stops, etc.

Bennett kept a diary of the trip. In it, he wrote about the first day of the trip:

“September 29, 2012: First real day of riding, 5,800 feet of climb, very, very hard day… Had to walk my bike twice up hills … Hopefully this is the hardest day because I cannot do this day 30 more times. Camping at Cleveland National campground for the evening.”

The two men stayed at hotels, motels, campgrounds, RV parks and even slept on picnic benches if they couldn’t make it to a place to lodge for the night. They originally planned to camp out at least six or seven of the nights of the trip, but they quickly learned that after a day of riding the last thing they wanted to do was put together a tent.

Though the beginning of the trip was tough, Bennett says the toughest jam they got in was in the desert in California; the temperature hit 110 degrees and they were out of water. Luckily they made it to a local grocery store right before it closed and bought as much food and water as they could pack. Another tough time they had was when they ran out of tire tubes. Throughout the trip they had 32 flat tires and had to patch the tubes themselves, which was something Bennett had to relearn, as he hadn’t done it in about 25 years.

Bennett says the worst place they rode through was West Texas, because it was desolate. He says they would ride 300 to 400 miles without seeing anything or anyone. He says the best place to ride was through New Mexico because of its wide-open spaces and gorgeous views.

Bennett and Willson only took three days off throughout the entire trip. And no, they didn’t stop to rest. They stopped in Beaumont, Texas, so they could rent a car to drive to New Orleans. From there they flew to Philadelphia, rented a car and drove to Atlantic City so they could run the Atlantic City Marathon. Then, they did the trip in reverse to get back to their bikes and continue riding.

Along the way, Bennett says the people they ran into were always curious to know why the two men were cycling. He says when they told people about their cycling trip, people were very encouraging. They even inspired another bicyclist to do a similar trip.

“October 27, 2012: … After crossing into Florida we saw another biker… He was on a training ride for the Southern tier route himself. He does not own a car, he rides his bike everywhere. His plan was to start the trip next week … He was so excited he said he would not be able to sleep tonight and might start tomorrow.”

Bennett said the trip was overall very fun, and while there were times when they would get “spooked,” they never really felt like they were in any danger.

Upon completing the trip, Bennett wrote:

“October 31, 2012: Trip is done. Was absolutely great. Very, very pleased we not only finished but started … Was a very short month, or it seemed that way afterwards. Looking forward to my own bed. Never been away from home that long.”

In the end, Bennett says he would “absolutely” do another bicycle ride like this one. The only thing he would do differently is wait until he’s retired so he can take his time. He says he felt this trip across the country was rushed because he had a plane ticket for a certain date and he had to get back to work.

He’s thinking about possible trips, perhaps a ride through California and another just around Kansas. He says he and Willson are already talking about their next trip – they’d like to start in Seattle, so they can ride through Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Minnesota and go around the Great Lakes.