Coming originally from North Dakota, I can understand the subtleties of A Prairie Home Companion, and though I'm not Norwegian I know in my soul the meanings of "uff da" and "you betcha," phrases that will come in handy when we pass through South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. We moved to Oregon. I spent three years as a U.S. Air Force officer, earned a graduate degree at Stanford, where I met my wife, and secured an internship with Newsweek that lasted 23 years. I covered civil rights in the tumultuous South in the middle 1960s, the war in Vietnam, then moved to San Francisco to report on campus violence, the search, capture, and trial of Patty Hearst, and the development of oil in Alaska.
Oil took me to Washington during the Carter Administration to cover energy and the environment. My wife, by this time a practicing attorney and mother of our two boys, became a lawyer for the federal government and then an administrative law judge. I spent the last 13 years of my journalism career writing science and business stories at U.S. News & World Report. During this time our boys grew up. Our older son is a technical developer for The New York Times Online and the younger is an alternative energy expert with Tiax, a research firm, and married to the best daughter-in-law imaginable. They're going to make us grandparents in September.
About 1991 I had one of those strange life-changing events. I was reading Popular Science magazine in my U.S. News office when I came across an article about recumbent bicycles made by a little company called Easy Racers in California. I'd always loved bikes but could never come to terms with their tiny, uncomfortable seats. The bike I saw in the pictures had a big, laid-back seat that looked like it might be easy on my backside. I promptly called the owner who told me that he sold both complete bikes and plans. I sent Gardner Martin $35 for those plans, a neighbor who owned a welder and I built the bike, and I was hooked.
Soon I was doodling bike designs in the margins of news stories I was supposed to be working on. I bought a computer-aided design program, took welding lessons, purchased a second-hand welder, and set about trying to learn how to design and build recumbent bicycles. I had only set the house on fire once with my new torch by the time I had made a serviceable bike of my own design. I began riding with WHIRL, Washington's Happily Independent Recumbent Lovers, the world's oldest continuous recumbent bike riding group. There I met another incipient bike designer, Mark Colliton. We teamed up to make a bike that ultimately became the Dakota model I'm riding across the USA. I gave up the news in 1999, retired, and started a tiny bike company, Barcroft Cycles. Mark teamed up with friends and relatives to start Bacchetta Bicycles, today a premier manufacturer of recumbent bikes.