US 76 cuts east-west across the USA, a vetted trail for long distance bicycle travel. The route and the name both originated during 1976, the USA’s bicentennial year. It was also the year that a dedicated group of cyclists, many of them gravitating around Missoula, Montana, set the goal of celebrating the bicentennial by the not-so-simple expedient of riding across the continent. It was decades before the internet. Even without its networking and research capabilities, they mapped the route and motivated thousands of cross-country cyclists to join in a coordinated start, and the challenge.
US 76 ran, and continues to run, through Buckhorn, Kentucky. That’s where I met author and playright, Jerry Buck Deaton in the Summer of 2018. Jerry was camping at a nearby lake for an extended weekend with a friend, visiting from England. They invited me to pitch my tent nearby, swap stories, and share a meal or two. Jerry was born and raised right there in Breathitt County. He lived in Buckhorn in 1976 when the BikeCentennial was born. Only thirteen-years old he remembers a steady string of bicyclists riding through town, three or four every hour. He spent the entire day watching and waiting for the next rider to appear, daydreaming about what his future might hold.
Information about Jerry’s books, plays, and PBS television productions can be found at: http://jerrydeaton.com/
My time in Buckhorn, Kentucky was another demonstration, that “just saying yes” on a solo bicycle adventure is as important as carrying drinking water, or a tire pump and inner tube. You can never know. It is impossible to predict when, who, or how, you will be rewarded for it. But, you can count on the opportunity.
US 76 has evolved into a well traveled cross-country bicycle route. The core group of cyclists who established the Bikecentennial went on the create a nonprofit that has maintained the accessibility of this route to ordinary cyclists like me; someone with the time and the will to commit to the challenge. Their detailed maps and more about their mission can be found at: https://www.adventurecycling.org