Searching for answers on the open road

Story and photo by Brian McKim

Last Wednesday morning, while sitting at my desk in the office, I received a phone call from Coach Louis Fritz. Always eager to talk to Coach, I picked up the phone for what is always an exciting conversation. But it was even more fascinating on Wednesday than I could have guessed. He was south of town when he drove past something he considered interesting. So, he turned his car around and started a conversation with a man on a bike, pulling a trailer down the road. I could hear the excitement in Coach’s voice when he said I needed to meet this guy. An hour or so later, I pulled into the laundry mat to begin an interview with a person that I knew nothing about.

You’ve heard the song “I’ve Been Everywhere” by Johnny Cash. Well, Tony Adams has been everywhere (almost), but he’s done it in the seat of his recumbent tricycle. The tires are bald, but he finds new ones from time to time to swap in and out.

After introducing myself, we quickly moved inside so Tony could sit down and relax a little out of the heat. He had a couple of loads of laundry to do, so he graciously gave me a few minutes to answer some questions.

Tony informed me that his travels consist of anywhere from seven to eleven hours of day on the road. “I may average between 22 and 30 miles a day,” said Adams.

Between the tricycle and the pull-behind trailer/camper he built, he’s going down the road at 760 pounds.

“Last year, I spent my stimulus check on rebuilding the trailer,” said Adams. “It’s on the same frame but a different body every two to three years. I built the trailer in 2011 and bought the bike in 2005.

Tony has taken many cross-country trips but has no idea how many miles he has amassed over the years. “I don’t keep track of mileage, but I keep track from television, newspapers and one radio station.”

His goal initially entailed “knocking out” the lower 48 states.

“This year, I came up with the idea of getting into the Guinness Book of World Records. Thirty years after we die, we’re not remembered for who we are. So, if I put 50 years in, I’ve done 23, got 27 left to go.”

His journey began in 1995 when his father was ill and asked him to find Tony’s older brother and bring him home before he died.

“I hopped on a 10-speed bicycle and traveled for 30 days from Oregon to California to Las Vegas, Nevada. First time in Vegas and I’m supposed to find a brother who’s living on the streets and I need directions to a homeless shelter. I walked across the street to ask for directions and tapped a man on the shoulder; it was my older brother.”

“It’s gotta be him,” Tony said, motioning to the sky. “There is no other answer other than he (God) put me there.”

It had been 19 years since Tony had seen his older brother.

In 2000 his brother took him to Fort Collins, Colorado, for work. Four months later, Tony was on a 10-speed bike with a single-wheeled trailer, riding for 36 days and landing in Niagara Falls, New York.

“I did 20 states in four months on a 10-speed,” quipped Adams.

His current trip is taking him to the East Coast, specifically Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Tony has traversed the Continental Divide 21 times, above 10,000 feet six times, five times across the Rocky Mountains and has been hit by a car on four separate occasions.

In 2005 Adams ditched the 10-speed and bought his current bike in Cortez, Colorado.

“I paid $1,020 and it was made in Miami, Florida.” 

The trailer is 12 years old and looks a little run down, but Tony calls it home.

“During the winter, since I run with the homeless people in Fort Collins, I can fit three adults in my trailer. I can make coffee in there; I have a frying pan to make eggs. It’s sustainable year-round.”

His answer was quite simple when asked about his favorite part about traveling the country as he does, “Planet Earth, you can’t just pick one place.”

Along the trip, Tony doesn’t necessarily have destinations picked out, but he knows where he can and can’t stay for the night.

“In small towns, I can use city parks; in bigger towns, Walmart parking lots, truck stops, even gas stations. I’ll ask the owners if I can mark my bike and trailer, with me in it, for the night so that I’m secure.”

Adams hopes to return to his “base” in Fort Collins between November and February.

Adams has places to work along the way to earn some extra money, a warm meal or a place to stay for a week or two.

“In Rossville, Indiana, there are some German Mennonites that I’ve worked for, either painting or tree trimming, and I’ll go back and work for them.” Some even offer to load up his bike and trailer and take his 100 miles down the road in exchange for work.

“One hundred miles, that’s a week’s travel,” said Tony.

As far as the terrain goes, Tony prefers flat roads. However, the mountains have a pleasant outcome, according to Adams.

“If you’re going up the mountain,” he pauses. “There’s gotta be a downhill somewhere.”

Adams has reached speeds of 66 mph in Montana on Interstate 90 and 72 miles per hour in Idaho, heading toward Pocatello.

He’s had to be careful towing his trailer, even at low speeds. Rocky roads, missing asphalt and crosswinds are all his nemesis. Fourteen times he’s had his trailer/camper overturn on him as he trekked down the road.

He sometimes struggles to remain awake as he cruises down the road, especially between 2-5 p.m., but he refuses to follow a strict schedule.

“I just turned 58; now that I’m 58 years old, I’m not going to get up early; I’m going to sleep in. I’m going to enjoy sleeping in.”

Tony has everything he needs in his tiny trailer to get by. He purchased a seven-inch TV in a pawn shop in Grand Island in 2010 for $55, but he hasn’t watched it in two years. Tony mainly uses his phone for movies but is currently constructing an antenna to attract better stations. He also uses solar panels to store energy to power his phone. He carries a 12-inch DVD player, an AM/FM radio, a Bluetooth speaker, and a weather radio.

“This is for life,” said Tony. “I’ve never had a vehicle, a license, a wife or kids.”

People always ask Adams when he is going to settle down and stay in an area. His response was a little sad but made perfect sense.

“My father grounded me to my bedroom because the older brother kept getting in trouble. To prevent me from going out and getting in trouble with the law, I was grounded to my bedroom for seven years.”

He did that for seven years and now he moves from town to town, state to state, and doesn’t have to be grounded in any one place.

“I’ve still got hundreds of people to meet. I tell people I’m searching for answers to questions you haven’t asked. Where’s God taking me and who are the people I’m supposed to learn my wisdom from that I haven’t met yet?”

Social Media