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The latest bicycling adventure by the Fluckes

By Rich Palzewic
Sports Editor

ASHWAUBENON – Peter and Tracy Flucke are no strangers to long-distance bicycle trips on their tandem.

The couple has completed three cross-country trips: Northern Tier – 2014 (4,362 miles); Mississippi River – 2015 (3,052 miles); and Historic Route 66 – 2016 (2,603 miles).

Their book, “Coast to Coast on a Tandem,” is based on their Northern Tier adventure.

The Fluckes recently completed a 1,500-mile trip in the Sierra and Cascade mountains this past summer.

“We set out to complete our goal of cycling in all of the lower 48 states on our latest trip,” said Peter. “The 7,000-mile journey was to take us through our final 21 states we hadn’t cycled yet.”

The Fluckes had good intentions to be away from home for almost a half a year, but a bicycle/car accident involving Tracy July 1, 2018, derailed the duo’s plans to complete the whole trip – or at least for now.

“It was a quiet Sunday morning, and I decided to go for a bike ride,” said Tracy. “I was on a route I’ve ridden hundreds of times a few miles from our house. I came to an intersection, and I had the right-away. A car coming from the right had a stop sign, but the driver went straight through and hit me.”

Tracy said she landed on top of the car and slammed to the ground after.

“I was so close to the car on the ground, I could reach up and touch her bumper,” she said. “I had a helmet on, and it cracked. I had a concussion, whiplash and my right leg was pinned between the car and my bike – I had lots of soft-tissue damage. About a week later, my other knee was still hurting. It was discovered I had torn my meniscus. I had surgery and did the rehab, but I’m afraid it’ll never get back to full strength. The driver told me she never saw me, but ironically, her two boys in the car with her told the officer they saw me.”

Peter took it one step further.

“Tracy has 100,000 miles of documented, crash-free cycling under her belt,” he said. “There was nothing else she could have done in the situation. It’s a shared responsibility – we all have to pay attention to the road. The woman in the car and her kids are not going to suffer physically as Tracy has. The benefits of riding are still worth it, but you do everything you can to prevent such things from happening and still feel vulnerable on the road.”

The Fluckes still held out hope to complete their latest adventure about a year after Tracy’s accident.

“We did lots of biking to prepare for the Sierra/Cascade trip, riding 70 miles at a time here in the area,” said Tracy. “The knee was improving and felt pretty good, but we were riding on flat terrain and not with a fully-loaded tandem which weighs 425 pounds. The doctors gave us the go-ahead to try the trip but mentioned the mountains/climbing might be tough on my knee.”

Tracy said if the couple wasn’t so intently interested in long-distance cycling, her knee – except for some reduced strength and arthritis – is fine for most of the riding she does.

“Doing more cycling wasn’t going to damage the knee further,” Peter said. “It was a question of reduced strength and pain tolerance, but that leads to longer days on the bike and shortens the number of miles we can travel in a day. Tracy has a high tolerance of pain, so I knew her knee was bothering her.”

As painful as the climbs were, descending was equally as difficult, but for other reasons.

“These descents were the most difficult, scary and technical we’ve ever done,” said Peter of California Highway 88 through the mountains. “There were tons of trucks and recreational-vehicle traffic with steep, 2,000-foot drop-offs and hairpin turns. The wind coming down into the valleys would knock us around six feet at times. You can only be hyper-stimulated for so long – it got to a be grind. We never got enough of a break for Tracy’s knee or from the traffic during the 300-mile stretch of that road.”

When the couple thought about having to travel through the high desert of Nevada on Highway 50 (called the “Loneliest Road in America), often with lots of climbing and no signs of civilization for miles, they decided to pack up and head home.

“One of our friends told us to carry a sign on the bike that read ‘water,’” said Peter. “With at least three days planned of riding 90 miles with lots of climbing in the high desert, we had to think about our plan. If we got desperate, everyone traveling the road carries water with them. I was like, ‘No way.’ We were already compromised with Tracy’s knee. To do that as a safeguard is one thing, but to do it because you might depend on it was silly. We talked about it and needed to take our own advice and stop the trip. The hardest decision to make was the right decision.”

The Fluckes said they were glad to get back home.

“You don’t know if you made the right decision until there’s no going back,” Peter said. “Tracy’s doctor had her take a month off and do nothing. It was absolutely the right decision. We had a great summer in Green Bay doing events.”

The duo isn’t ruling out another attempt someday.

“It was hard to stop,” admitted Tracy. “We did three trips successfully, so to have the fourth one not go as planned was difficult. We had sponsors and people following us through our blog every day – we didn’t want to disappoint them. With all the other trips, I never once didn’t look forward to riding every day, even if it was pouring rain. On this trip, I had anxiety from the start riding on Highway 88. It was beautiful, and we met lots of great people, but it was the right decision to stop.”

Editor’s notes: WE BIKE, etc. is a national bicycle and pedestrian consulting business based in Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin. Send questions to [email protected].

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