BANGOR, Maine — For 65-year-old Ted Brush of Bangor, a 3,100-mile, cross-country bicycle trek was the perfect opportunity to catch up with the friends he made while in the Philippines when they were teachers with the Peace Corps in the mid-1960s.
It also was a way to stay fit, visit places he has always wanted to see and experience aspects of a vanishing rural America, largely along its back roads, Brush said Tuesday in a telephone interview from California.
“We saw some really interesting things along the way, but I’m anxious to get home,” Brush said. He said he took his 28-gear Cannondale touring bike to a local bike shop there, where it will be disassembled and shipped back to the Ski Rack in Bangor, where he bought it. He said he’ll pick it up when he gets back to Bangor around May 10.
The journey began on Feb. 27 in St. Augustine, Fla., with a ceremonial dipping of bicycle tire wheels into the Atlantic Ocean. It ended Monday, when the group ceremonially dipped their tires into the Pacific Ocean in San Diego, Calif.
The five bicyclists, who dubbed themselves the East Coast Retreads, are each at least 65 years old, Brush said. He said he met three of the bicyclists while in the Peace Corps and the fourth, who is an architectural photographer, on the trip itself.
According to Brush, the group made friends with fellow bicyclists with whom they swapped tales and tips about various roads and places to stay or eat. They also met strangers who invited them for meals and became friends.
“There’s a lot of camaraderie out on the road. People were very open,” he said.
“I would say to anyone who has interest in doing it, go for it.”
“It’s such a wonderful way to see America. We got to see a whole other side of America,”
he said. “We’d go days without seeing a McDonald’s or a Wendy’s or any fast-food franchise.”
Although the group shared the roadway with motorized vehicles, there were only two or three incidents of road rage along the way, Brush said.
“We were lucky,” he said. “We had no accidents and very few flat tires. I had only one flat during the entire trip, which was pretty good.”
Brush said he trained for the cross-country trip by riding a stationary bike a couple of hours a day at the Bangor Y. He also rode a bicycle and walked in Bangor’s City Forest, he said.
By beginning the trip in relatively flat Florida, the bicyclists were able to build up their strength before they reached the hills and mountains they had to climb in Texas and beyond.
During the trip, Brush said, the group rode at least five hours on most days, averaging at least 50 miles a day, depending on wind and weather conditions.
Members chipped in and bought a support van, which they took turns driving, so that they could carry camping gear, tools and equipment, provisions and other things they would need in places where there were no stores, restaurants or motels.
Brush said that although he consumed about 5,000 calories a day during the trip, he lost about 10 pounds.
“Now what am I going to do when I get home?” Brush said with a chuckle, adding that he’ll likely have to scale back his intake.
Though they spent most of their days on the road, the Retreads planned their trip to include about half a dozen “rest days” during which they would visit the plantations along the Mississippi River and in Texas, and a mountaintop observatory. They also took time to enjoy the Austin music scene.
Though he was born in Philadelphia, grew up in upstate New York and spent much of his working years in Europe and Asia, Brush’s Maine roots run deep. His family has been in Washington County for at least six generations. He spent summers Down East as a child. His family still owns land on Petit Manan Point, where his great-grandmother Eleanor Denniston built a small, rustic chapel that still stands there.
One of the things Brush is looking forward to most is seeing his wife, Laura, and enjoying some of her home cooking, especially her chicken curry.
To see the Web site that the East Coast Retreads developed for the trip, including a map of their route and photographs taken along the way, visit www.jambl.net/biketrip.