By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

Katie and Jim Young’s stories about their long-distance bicycle rides are peppered with visits to friends and family across the country.

And that’s how they ended up in Baker City on their way to finish riding historic Route 66 from Texas to California.

Katie’s sister, Nancy Johnson, lives in Baker City. The Youngs spent a few days here, bikes mounted to the back of their Honda Odyssey minivan, before heading south.

Katie, 82, and Jim, 81, live in Milwaukie, Oregon, just southeast of Portland. Since 1985 they have criss-crossed the country on multiple bicycle trips of several thousand miles each.

“We’ve biked in all 50 states,” Jim said.

It all started in 1984 when Jim went on a bicycle trip to the San Juan Islands with some friends. One talked about riding across the country, and that sparked Jim’s interest.

A high school teacher, he decided a bike ride was a perfect way to spend his sabbatical.

“I came home and told Katie ‘I know what I want to do on my year off.’ She said, ‘Do I get to go with you?’ ”

The answer was yes, so both started training to log miles in the bike seat.

Their first trip in 1985 went from Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine.

“A total of 5,000 miles. And five months,” Jim said.

It was a self-contained ride, meaning they carried everything they needed. His pack was 60 pounds; hers weighed in at 40 pounds.

In 1995, they rode from Corvallis to Washington, D.C. They spent the winter on the East Coast. The next year they bought a tandem bike and rode from Boston to Great Falls, Montana.

“I hated the tandem,” Katie said. “I couldn’t see anything.”

(Jim is quite a bit taller than his wife.)

“It was interesting going across the country after 9/11,” Katie said.

In San Francisco, they weren’t allowed to ride bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge. Instead, they were shuttled to the other side.

“Security was tight everywhere,” Jim said.

Their bike rides have been more frequent in the last decade. In 2008 they rode the Lewis & Clark Trail from Astoria to Missouri. The 2013 adventure included the Underground Railroad starting in Ohio and heading south.

“Mississippi was terrible,” Jim said.

When planning a trip, they make use of maps distributed by Adventure Cycling in Missoula, Montana.

“They tell you elevation, what bike shops are out there,” Katie said.

Maps are available of bicycle routes around the country. One side features the full trip and the reverse breaks it into 30-mile sections. Jim folds these to tuck inside his bike bag’s clear plastic sleeve.

Katie retired from long-distance riding after the Underground Railroad trip. Now she drives Jim’s support vehicle, although she still brings her own bicycle to pedal around towns along the way.

“I just enjoy it,” she said. “I love the small towns, to go through and see neighborhoods.”

See more in the Sept. 10, 2018, issue of the Baker City Herald.