BUCKFIELD — From snow in Montana to a missile silo in North Dakota, two men have plenty of memories from the cross-country bicycle journey they recently completed.

Art Hladik, of Buckfield, and Jonathan Potter, of Norway, rolled back into the Oxford Hills last month after setting out from Anacortes, Wash., in June.

Hladik has worked with His Place Teen Center in Oxford since 1995 offering week-long bike treks, and Potter suggested last year that they take a transcontinental route.

“Really, it just started as a joke,” Potter said. “Like, ‘Hey Art, let’s bike across the country.'”

The timing of the suggestion was perfect. In February, Hladik retired from the U.S. Postal Service after 31½ years, and Potter graduated from Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in June. Hladik said he invited others to join them, but no one else was able to make it. They took a train west two days after Potter graduated.

Hladik also knew of a bike route that would take them right back to western Maine. Since 2000, he has owned Agape Acres Bike Repair and operated it out of a converted sheep barn at his home. The shop is listed on the 4,316-mile Northern Tier route from Anacortes, Wash., to Bar Harbor suggested by the Adventure Cycling Association. Hladik has done repairs for people riding the route.


Hladik said he and Potter averaged 50 miles per day. After an early start, they would ride through the day, stopping for lunch and in the late afternoon to set up camp. However, Hladik said there was never a truly typical day in the route through 15 states.

“Every day was an adventure,” he said. “Every day was an unknown.”

Potter said he and Hladik met a group of six cyclists from Kansas after five days of riding, and the two groups accompanied each other for about 40 days until the Kansas group ended their journey in Fargo, N.D.

“A couple of them are going to be lifelong friends,” Potter said.

Though downpours plagued his home state during the ride, Potter said there were only three days where he and Hladik had to ride in the rain . . . plus one day in the snow. Potter said Glacier National Park in Montana, which had some of the coldest weather on the trip, was also his favorite area.

“I was seeing things that I had never seen before,” he said. “Biking up a mountain has no comparison to this. I have no idea how to describe it.”


Hladik said North Dakota was his favorite state along the route. He said people along the Adventure Cycling Association route are accustomed to cyclists coming through, and will often offer food or a place to sleep. One North Dakota resident even loaned him his Cadillac.

“It was just amazing how accommodating people were, and interested in what we were doing,” Hladik said.

“People were so willing to help you out,” Potter said. “I’ve never really experienced that before, where people are so willing to go out of their way to help you.”

The duo was also encouraged to take in the local attractions, and would do so if they had time, Hladik said. The sites they visited included the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Minnesota, a missile silo museum in North Dakota, and a baseball field in Iowa that was used in the movie “Field of Dreams.”

They also recalled the highs and lows of the food on the trip. One general store they visited in the Wauconda Pass in Washington sold all of the ingredients for sandwiches except bread, Potter said.

“We ended up sitting at a picnic table, eating lunch meat and cheese on Wheat Thins,” he said laughing.


Hladik said the pair often stopped at local stores and restaurants to eat, and the offerings were mostly unforgettable.

“The homemade pies and turnovers were unbelievable,” he said. “You may not remember the name of the place when you start biking on, but you remember the taste of it.”

At Fort Ticonderoga in New York, Potter’s father joined the pair to ride the rest of the way back to Maine. The Potters finished their trip in Norway on Sept. 13, while Hladik, after a five-day rest in Buckfield, went on to finish in Bar Harbor on Sept. 24.

Both men said they would miss the sensation of going to new places, but probably won’t do another cross-country expedition.

However, Hladik said he plans to build a small cabin at his home to house cyclists riding the route, and both he and Potter were looking forward to other, briefer excursions to do in the future.

“I’ll definitely continue biking. That’s a given for me,” Potter said.

To read the blog Potter kept along the route, visit http://ridingacrossamericawa-me.vox.com.

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