GREENVILLE, PA. Collections add up in cross-country ride

More than 2,000 donated books were collected in conjunction with the ride.
GREENVILLE, Pa. -- Almost anyone can ride a bicycle across the United States, according to a local resident who made the trip this summer.
"I think anybody can do it if they just make up their mind to do it," said Bob Shaffer, who cycled with his son, Matthew, and his son's friend, Brian Sheldon, both of Boston, Mass. "My son started off with less than 400 miles on a bicycle [in his lifetime], and he made it," Shaffer observed.
Shaffer, a retired tool and die maker, turned 65 during the two-month trip across 15 states from York Beach, Maine, to Anacortes, Wash. The trio averaged about 73 miles a day over the 3,545-mile trip.
The three cyclists were accompanied by Shaffer's daughter, Rhonda Maloney of Cranberry Township, Pa., and her children, Leiah, 4; Katie, 9; and Emerson, 6, who traveled in a camper.
In conjunction with the ride, Maloney conducted a "Biking for Books" campaign, with a goal of getting one new or gently used book donated for every mile the cycling trio rode.
To date, she has amassed more than 2,000 adult and children's books along the route and in collection boxes in the Cranberry and West Middlesex areas.
The books will go to a preschool, public library and shelter for abused women, all in Cranberry. Some $530 in cash collected during the campaign will be divided among public libraries in Kinsman, Ohio, and Cranberry and Sharon, Pa., for book acquisition.
The most difficult part of the trip was in North Dakota, Montana and Washington, where the cyclists encountered extreme heat, with temperatures of up to 106 degrees, the older Shaffer said. The steepest grades were in Vermont; the Rocky Mountain grades were not especially steep, he said.
The most scenic parts of the trip were along the Mississippi River in Minnesota and in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state, he said.
One of the finest examples of local hospitality on the route was in a small Indiana town, where a man mowing grass in the town park allowed the cyclists to camp there, opened the park's pool and showers to them and went home to get a long extension cord to permit the camper to be hooked up to electricity.
One of the cyclists' worst experiences was in Iowa, where some motorists shouted obscenities, cut in front of them and ran them off the narrow, bermless roads, forcing them to detour north to Minnesota.
"Ninety-nine percent of the people are really friendly to you. It's just that 1 percent that gives everybody else a bad name,'' Shaffer said.
Shaffer, who cycles up to 10,000 miles a year, said his eventual goal is to ride the entire perimeter of the lower 48 states. He said: "I've got the northern side done. Now, I've only got to do the east, the west and the south."