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Marquette man biking from coast to coast

May 24, 2023May 24, 2023

Aug 4, 2023

MARQUETTE — A Marquette man is bicycling over the river and through the woods — not to grandmother’s house, but from the East Coast to the West Coast of the United States.

This man, 78-year-old Bruce Closser, is taking on the Adventure Cycling Association’s longest trail: the TransAmerica Trail. It’s a 4,200-mile-long scenic route that crosses the contiguous U.S. Taking its travelers through mountain passes, national parks and major cities, the trail meanders and hits almost every conceivable site of beauty in the nation.

The ACA has established many other trails across America for different modes of transportation, various long-distance bike trails and offers a bicycling program dedicated to supporting minority cyclists achieve their goals.

Closser, who started in Yorktown, Virginia, on May 5, has made it over 3,000 miles into the journey. As of Friday, he’s in Missoula, Montana.

With just himself and his bike, Closser has lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle since setting out. Going from town to town, he’s used all kinds of lodging throughout his journey: Airbnb, traditional bed and breakfasts, hotels, motels and even tenting — his last resort.

“Churches in quite a few towns will allow you to just bring your sleeping bag inside and they have a place where you can bed down … that’s fairly common. I wasn’t aware that even existed,” Closser said.

All of Closser’s possessions are in five pouches, two strapped on both ends of the bike and one on the handlebars. Altogether his bike and luggage weighs about 55 pounds — half of that being the bike itself.

“Everything I need to survive is with me on the bike. That’s a neat concept … it’s similar to backpacking in that regard where everything you need is right there,” he said. “You’re a self-contained unit, self-sufficient.”

His main concern at the beginning of this undertaking was what anyone would ask themselves: “Can I really do this?”

“In the beginning I worried about whether I could do this or not,” Closser said. “How’s my body going to respond to this? I’m 78 years old. I’ve done long rides, 100-mile rides, but not back to back to back … I just didn’t know what it was going to be like. Was this something that was even possible for me to do? And it turned out that yeah, I can do it.”

One of the best parts, Closser said, is the slow paced nature of the bicycle ride. He enjoys that it allows him to stop anywhere he pleases to take in the sights.

“Even in the Great Plains, something I just expected I would have to endure, there’s a beauty there when you’re not going 70 miles an hour, but you do at 12 miles an hour … the changing landscape that just escapes you in a car, but you see it on a bicycle.”

Undoubtedly, the most rewarding part of the journey in Closser’s mind is the gracious strangers he meets. “I’ve been struck by the kindness of the people all along the way,” he said. Whether they are other bikers, locals from the region or fellow tourists, he has felt the goodwill of people everywhere he goes.

With the encouragement and help of others, strangers and loved ones alike, as well as his belief in himself, Closser has learned a valuable lesson about commitment.

“There’s a statistic I read. It says of the solo riders that start the Trans-America Bicycle Trail,” he said, “have a 50% chance of finishing. If they get through the first 10 days — 90% will finish.”

To keep up with the tail end of his journey, those interested should visit Bruce Closser’s Facebook page where he posts regular updates.

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