Grand County man rides across the US on a bike
March 21, 2017
The ancient Chinese philosopher and founder of Taoism Lao Tzu famously said, "A journey of a thousand miles beings with a single step."
For Grand County local Grady Boomer, however, the old saying could use an update. Boomer is currently working his way across the US on what will eventually become a 3,000-plus-mile bicycling tour of the southern states. His journey began in late February on the Pacific coast and will end in early April after the 41-year-old Minnesota native dips his bike tire into the Atlantic Ocean.
On Sunday Feb. 26 Grady Boomer began his journey with his wheels resting in the salty surf of San Diego on a cold drizzly morning. The starting line of the ride was the culmination of a multi-year preparation process for the small business owner and his family. Over the last few weeks, Grady has ridden roughly half of his total distance.
The bike ride is essentially a one-man show, with Grady riding alone on his Focus enduro road bike. His wife Heather and two kids, 11-year-old Kylee and nine-year-old Eli, are making the trip with Grady as his support team. Heather and the kids are traveling by vehicle, leapfrogging Grady on each road section to wait for him when he arrives in a new town.
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Grady was in Bastrop, Texas when I spoke with him, just a short distance east of Austin and had just finished riding for the day when he called to talk. "I started today about 40-miles west of Austin," he said. He has been following the Adventure Cycling Association's Southern Tier Route. From his starting point in San Diego, Grady began climbing up and out of the low land coastal regions on his way towards Phoenix.
From Phoenix, he headed east to Globe, Arizona and then southeast down to Las Cruces, New Mexico and on down to El Paso. After leaving out of El Paso, Grady headed across west Texas and into the central Texas hill country before reaching Austin. Grady said the Southern Tier Route has been good so far and beyond the first two days he's encountered good weather and few setbacks.
"The Southern Tier keeps you off the interstates and kind of more on county roads and rural highways," he said. "Stuff that is paved good."
From Bastrop, Grady will ride on into Louisiana, over the Mississippi into the State of Mississippi and then through the Magnolia state into Alabama. Because Grady will be traveling so close to the Gulf of Mexico, he will never cross into Georgia. Instead, from Alabama, he will cross into the panhandle of Florida and then head the remainder of the distance east to St. Augustine along the Gulf coast.
For his ride Grady is shooting for an average of 85 miles each day. "I have had three days where I did over 100 miles, but I only do that if I really have to, if a destination is still a ways off or if I have a nice tail wind or a nice downhill slope." According to Grady's math and the route he has planned, he should be able to finish the Southern Tier Route in 40 days if he can maintain a pace of 85 miles a day. That plan allows for a few rest days or down days from weather as well.
Grady's first days on the road were the toughest, especially day two. His first day out of San Diego was filled with the unbridled excitement one can only feel at the beginning of a long unknowable journey. But the ethereal magic quickly dissipated as Grady got his mind focused on the 60-mile, 6,000-foot climb he had to make to get out of the coastal city. The second day was even harder. "The second day was the toughest day I have had," he said. "It was freezing cold, super windy, rain was coming down in sheets. It was a drizzly cold wet day. I had to quit a little early that day."
According to Grady, the first week on the road was an adjustment period for his body. "I had a successful first day. That helped calm me down," he said. "But I didn't know how well my body would adapt. For the first week I was nervous about my physical fitness. I got pretty sore or a while, but I got over the hump and I'm in a groove now. I have been able to reach my goal each day." Grady said the second day of his trip was the only day he has not met his distance goals.
Grady grew up in the Minneapolis area where he spent long periods of his youth on his bicycle. He got into mountain biking in college and was on the University of Wyoming Cycling Team. "I wasn't the best out there, but I had a lot of fun," Grady said. "I stopped racing when I was about 25 and just rode for fun." After moving up to Grand County in 2001, Grady became more involved in road cycling and found himself gravitating towards long distance rides.
"A number of years back one of my buddies who I cycled with talked about doing a race called Race Across America and was talking about putting a team together," Grady explained. "That didn't work out but I thought it would make for a great adventure ride. I wanted it to be a family trip."
Grady realized that if he could get his wife and kids to come along for the journey as his "support crew" he wouldn't need to carry nearly as much gear on his bike. He also relished the idea of providing his family with a relaxed vacation opportunity to see the small towns and often forgotten historic sights of the southern states. "I figured they would get to see the southern part of the US and experience the small towns and the little museums that aren't necessarily big tourist attractions."
For the past two years, the Boomer family has earnestly tried to get the cross-country trip off the ground, but various work hiccups and the realities of family life forced the Boomers to postpone their plans until this year.
Grady owns and operates Grand County Landscaping. Because the winter is his business's slow season, Grady was able to leave things in the hands of some trusted employees for the few weeks he is out on the road. His wife, Heather, was able to secure an extended leave from her work, and officials from the East Grand School District worked closely with the family to plan a working vacation for the kids, with organized study charts and school plans.
"My wife and I study with the kids," Grady said. "I do the math, Heather does everything else," he said with a chuckle. But even with the schoolwork requirements of the kids, the Boomer family has been having a relaxed vacation.
"There are no worries out here," Grady said. "We don't have to worry about cleaning the house or going to work the next day. The daily stresses are gone and we just get to play. This has been family fun time."