Des Moines man bikes TransAmerica Trail to commemorate life milestone

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DES MOINES, Iowa – Chad Terrell’s idea of a big way to commemorate turning 50 took him several months and 4,500 miles to complete. He had long wanted to ride a bike across America and when he was 46 he started preparing to do it. And the goal of completing the TransAmerica Trail while he was 50 kept him pedaling from Oregon to Virginia.

Terrell says the he learned he wasn’t as fit as he thought he was but the route took care of that for him. By the time he was in Idaho he was enjoying the hills and described meeting a man who offered him a cold drink at the top of a hill as a “Trail Angel”. “A Trail Angel is someone who offers you help or a small good while you’re on the trail. Just someone you run into,” said Terrell. The man had a beer with Terrell as they sat on rocks and talked and enjoyed the view. “That was trail magic,” said Terrell.

Terrell points to the simplicity of life on his ride as being a special experience. He ate, slept and rode his bike most days and rested about one day a week. After a rough day, sore and tired, it would only take a couple hours back on his bike the following day to once again enjoy that simple act of riding. “It would feel like I was on a nice, sunny, Saturday morning ride.”

Terrell began his ride on July 6 and finished on October 23. He rode his bike to meet me on November 3 and said that was his first time riding since returning to Des Moines.

Terrell’s advice to others considering a long ride like this? Do short camping trips and learn what works for you in terms of what to ride and what to bring along. Keep building up the distance and days camping and learn as you go. He admits he overpacked for this ride and ended up sending about 20 pounds of stuff home as he went.

He also said he learned that, in spite of the divide in this country now, when dealing with people one-on-one, the divide disappears. “When you get in front of a person you talk about what you have in common, not what sets you apart,” Terrell said.

His bike? A Specialized AWOL with a generator hub to power his lights and a Rohloff hub with a belt drive instead of a tradition chain and derailleur. He describes the bike in more detail in the video below.

Terrell hopes to do more long rides in the future, like the Great Divide Route from Canada to Mexico. He says, ‘Some people call this a once-in-a-lifetime trip but I’ve got more in me.”

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