BY DOUG PHINNEY
Community News Service
In April of this year, Scott Luria, a retired physician from Williston, began an epic journey. He set out on his bike with two goals in mind: to ride across the country and to visit the high point of each state along the way.
His aim is to finish within a year, although he acknowledges that the barriers, like weather and the physical toll of a ride of this magnitude, that stand between him and his goal may prove insurmountable. As much as Luria would love to complete this journey, he says that simply having the opportunity to take a trip like this and enjoy the experiences along the way are reward enough for him.
“The likely outcome is that I’m not going to succeed in going back and forth across the country and doing every high point, or going to the beginning of the ones I’ve already done. And that’s OK. I’ve already come to accept that that’s okay. I don’t like it, but I think it’s going to be a great trip, even if, and when, I don’t succeed,” said Luria.
On this night, Scott Luria is calling from Iowa. At the time of the interview, he was already 3,468 miles into his journey. On a more straightforward cross-country ride, this mileage would be more than enough to have already completed the journey. But Luria’s added twist of attempting to visit each state’s high point means that he still has a lot of road left to cover.
This added goal is something Luria has been wanting to do since college. If he’s able to complete it, he would join a club of people known as “Highpointers.” But as far as he knows, Luria will have been the first person to reach each of these high points under his own power — either on his bike, or by hiking to the points not accessible by bike.
“I have been involved with this somewhat silly activity since I was 19 years old, only one year into college. Me and my best friend have been in kind of a mock race to do them all,” says Luria.
So far, Luria has reached 29 high points. Many of these high points are seemingly underwhelming, like Illinois’ Charles Mound, which stands at 1,235 feet. But as Luria explains, these numbers can be deceiving, and even the lowest high point can still present a challenge.
“And even though many of the (highest points) are ridiculous, the trip to get there winds up going up many thousands of vertical feet, up and down and up and down and up and down, so that each one of them was a challenge,” Luria said.
When one imagines a ride of the scale of the one Luria is attempting, amazing vistas, beautiful small towns and isolated roads may come to mind. But Luria said, while the views are amazing, it’s the people he’s meeting along the way are by far the most memorable part of the trip. Luria’s route is peppered with friends, family, former co-workers and patients, along with many now-former strangers he has befriended along the way.
In one of his blog posts, Luria describes a breakfast at Berean Bean in Canajoharie, N.Y. After spending some time chatting and getting to know the owners of the restaurant, Luria was ready to leave and pay. The owners explained to him that the restaurant was run on a donation only basis, and insisted on treating him.
“Just another demonstration that while bike touring, it’s the people who are the highpoints,” writes Luria.
Along with the cross-country trip and the highpoints, Luria is making it a personal goal to try to stop at as many “Easter egg” locations as possible. Locations include the sight of the assassination of President McKinley in Buffalo, N.Y., Bob Dylan’s childhood home in Duluth, Minn. and the baseball field and farmhouse from the 1989 film “Field of Dreams” in Dyersville, Iowa.
Luria says stops like these really stand out and arriving by bicycle makes them much more intimate.
“Well, only going 10 mph, it’s easy to be intimate,” said Luria.
During his stop at Bob Dylan’s childhood home, the current owner saw Luria taking a photo out front and invited him inside for a personal tour.
“There’s been little ‘Easter eggs’ like that scattered everywhere. And that, plus the people, are the real thrill of this trip,” says Luria.
Much like the topography Luria is navigating, life on the road has its ups and downs. There are entire days defined by high heat and brutal headwinds, where Luria says he’s lucky to go 10 miles without needing to stop. Cell service is spotty, which makes running a blog difficult, and cheap hotels or campsites can be few and far between.
But sometimes luck strikes, like it did when Luria was riding into Chicago.
“I rolled into the lobby thinking I’ll get some probably little one bedroom — a tiny place on the first floor or something. But I always ask if (they) have any upgrades, and he gave me the penthouse suite on the 46th floor. Five rooms,” says Luria.
The unexpected moments, the hidden gems of small-town America and the people Luria has befriended along his trip have made for an unforgettable experience, regardless of the ultimate outcome.
“I fantasize about making a book from this information,” says Luria.
For now, Luria keeps a detailed blog of his trip, including daily updates and photos, which can be found at www.scottluria.org.