September 12, 2012
VAIL, Colorado – Ray Dixon’s recumbent bike rolls at the speed of enlightenment.
Dixon isn’t trying to change the world with his bicycle. He isn’t trying to raise money or awareness. He just loves to ride.
So he got on his bike in Bellingham, Wash., and is riding back to Vail.
It’s what he likes to do, so that’s what he’s doing.
“I like seeing the West. North America is one of the most beautiful places in the world and I like seeing it at this pace,” Dixon said.
He was riding a bike up Teton Pass when we caught up with him. Not literally. We called his cell phone and he’s so relaxed he answered it.
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He moves at the speed he moves, and after a few hours roll by he’s somewhere else. He stops and chats with people, who have been unfailingly pleasant.
“Everyone has been so nice and polite. They give me room on the road, even people who aren’t paying that much attention. In the Tetons you aren’t looking at the road, you’re looking at the scenery,” Dixon said.
His aunt and uncle live in Bellingham, Wash. His uncle gave him a recumbent bike, and he pointed it toward Colorado and started pedaling.
He had a general route in mind when he left Washington state. He wanted to hit Yellowstone National Park, the north Cascades, Missoula and some other sites.
He plans his route the night before, setting a goal for the next day. Usually he makes it. Sometimes not.
“If I don’t make a certain point I don’t get that concerned,” he said.
In some spots the routes are 90 miles between services.
“I get up early, pack on a lot of water and start pedaling,” he said.
On a flat with no wind he can cover 70 miles a day, when he feels like it. Throw in a mountain pass and he goes about 50, maybe 40.
He spent a couple days in Jackson, Wyo.. dodging high winds and because he likes the place.
On Tuesday and Wednesday he was headed into Southern Wyoming and a high wind warning. It was the only part of the trip he wasn’t looking forward to, he said.
There haven’t been many miserable moments, except he almost froze a couple of nights. He packed light because it was hot when he left. When he hit 12,000 feet in Montana, it wasn’t.
Three weeks ago he was riding through a heat wave. He woke up earlier this week and people were scraping ice off their windshields.
This isn’t the first time Dixon has hit the long and lonely. In 2008 he rode from Vail to his hometown Muncie, Ind., to visit his mom for Thanksgiving – 1,200 miles through October and November. Flat tires, packs of dogs chasing him and a lost wallet yielded to his mother’s smile when he rolled up in the front yard.
Dixon is a Muncie Central High School grad and earned a philosophy degree from Butler University before heading west in 1998. He earned a law degree and worked odd jobs before landing a gig as a snowcat operator in Vail.
Dixon keeps a blog at raydixon.blogspot.com. Among his observations are:
About Yellowstone National Park
“The human impact on the park is significant. The constant stream of roaring cars and RVs, the crush of people jostling to get a good look at some feature, people throwing things in the pools and springs, human waste on the ground at roadside picnic areas… it can be disheartening.
About the Tetons
“It was a gorgeous day today. In the low 70s, not a cloud in the blue sky. I rode from Flagg Ranch through Grand Teton National Park, where I took a scenic road around Jackson Lake and Jenny Lake. The Tetons were apparently named in the 1820s by French fur trappers. The translation is fairly apparent. It makes perfect sense to me, as frontier fur-trapping was surely a lonely business.”
About enjoyment-impaired bicyclists
“There were lots of bicyclists riding into town all day. Later I heard that it was a race from Logan, Utah, to Jackson, Wyo. 206 miles and 7000 feet of climbing. That is unfathomable. Some people were still coming in after dark. They didn’t look like they were having fun. At all.”
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.