John Tarlton tackles the Race Across America

As anyone who's flown to California from the East Coast knows, the daytime view of fly-over country west of Kansas reveals the meaning of the term "earth tones." The arid foothills, range upon range of them, seem upholstered in shades of brown velvet when seen from 30,000 feet. It's different on the ground, of course.

By Wednesday, June 11, John Tarlton, president of Tarlton Properties in Menlo Park, should be passing through those brown lands, bicycling rapidly along State Route 78.

To view the race's leader board, click here.

Accompanying Mr. Tarlton will be a crew of nine, two motor vehicles, and two other bicycles identical to the one he's riding and designed for 18 to 20 hours in the saddle, day after day. Mr. Tarlton, 45, is cycling in the 2014 Race Across America.

The race begins in Oceanside, midway between Long Beach and San Diego, and ends 3,000 miles and 170,000 vertical feet of climbing later in Annapolis, Maryland. Accounting for riders of varying ages and fitness, participants have up to 14 days to finish the race, though some are expected to take just nine. Compared with the Tour de France, this race is about 30 percent longer, and racers must finish in about half the time, the site says.

The Race Across America resembles a time trial in that riders race against the clock, but it's without the discomfort of a time-trial bicycle and the continuous full-out effort. There are other discomforts.

Rest, if you want to

Solo riders and team riders check in at each of 55 time stations along the way. The solo-rider race starts at noon, and riders leave individually. Unlike on the Tour, they stay at least 100 yards apart. Drafting the practice of reducing one's wind resistance by closely following another rider is not allowed. "It's all you," Mr. Tarlton said in an interview.

The first time-station is Lake Henshaw, 49 miles to the east, where men under 50 are expected between 6:40 and 8:15 p.m. Then it's on past the Anza Borrego Desert State Park to Brawley, 88 miles away, where they're expected between midnight and 4 a.m. Then an 89-mile trip to Blythe, California, arriving sometime between 6 a.m. and noon, and so on.

Notice the relentless ticking of the clock. This is another departure from the Tour de France. The Tour has a timed stage, but just one. In all the Tour's stages, when the riders reach the day's finish line, they're no longer racing and can go off to their hotels.

In this American race, the clock is running as riders arrive and as they're checking in. It's running as they go to the bathroom and stop to eat. It's running as they sleep. The sooner a rider gets to sleep, the better rested he or she will be and the sooner back on the bike.

Some riders can't get to sleep, Mr. Tarlton said. He's trained on shorter but similar races. A rider will lie down, but if he's not feeling sleepy in 20 minutes, he'll often get up and get back on the bike, he said. "I'm pretty good at falling asleep after I've been on the bike for 20 hours," he said.

The source of his motivation? "I'm doing this to raise money for the Stanford Cancer Institute," he said. Cancer killed his sister and his mother, but both lived considerably longer than their prognoses and both were treated at Stanford. Investigators there are "on the leading edge of primary research in cancer" and by supporting SCI, he hopes to spur more fundamental research and accelerate the race to stop cancer, Mr. Tarlton writes on his website

Mr. Tarlton's crew -- in a motor coach and a van -- will be staying close, maintaining his bikes and keeping him on the assigned route via a receiver in his bike helmet. The motor coach is a traveling dormitory, he said.

Will he be stopping at stop signs? "Absolutely," he said. "We follow every traffic rule." The letter of the law in California says that cyclists are not stopped unless they have a foot on the ground. He's going to do that? "Yup. You bet."

Go to this link for more information, including links covering the race.


Like this comment
Posted by Cool, but...
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 11, 2014 at 4:16 pm

Good luck to Mr Tarlton and all the other riders. The various incarnations of the RAAM have been one of the most wonderfully insane sporting events for years. Think about it: 20 hour days for 9+ days!

But, a technical note: California law does NOT require a foot down to complete a stop sign. The only reference to a foot down requires that a rider be on a machine where s/he CAN put a foot down when stopped. Fully stopping the wheels rotating is legally sufficient just like in a car or motorcycle. Please do stop at stop signs for all our safety but let's keep it straight

Like this comment
Posted by Dave Boyce
Almanac staff writer
on Jun 11, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Dave Boyce is a registered user.

If you have a citation as to where this is specified, I would appreciate it.

A Menlo Park police officer, interrupted in the process of ticketing a cyclist on a stop light violation, told me that the foot has to come down, but that he will not ticket a cyclist who all but stops without an extended foot.

Like this comment
Posted by CCB
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 18, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Dave, there's nothing about putting a foot down at a stop sign in the CA vehicle code. The confusion stems from a section about equipment (see section c, below). You could infer from this that one *must* stop at all traffic signals and put a foot down but that would be flawed logic. One much be *able* to put a foot down, but it doesn't necessarily follow that one must always do so.

21201. (a) No person shall operate a bicycle on a roadway unless it
is equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make one
braked wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement.
(b) No person shall operate on the highway a bicycle equipped with
handlebars so raised that the operator must elevate his hands above
the level of his shoulders in order to grasp the normal steering grip
(c) No person shall operate upon a highway a bicycle that is of a
size that prevents the operator from safely stopping the bicycle,
supporting it in an upright position with at least one foot on the
ground, and restarting it in a safe manner.

Like this comment
Posted by Dave Boyce
Almanac staff writer
on Jun 18, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Dave Boyce is a registered user.

CCB's assertion has been confirmed by the California Highway Patrol.

Officer Art Montiel of the CHP confirmed that the vehicle code is silent on the question of a cyclist having to put his or her foot down to be legally stopped.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

The Saddle Room – A True Friend of Kids
By Laura Stec | 2 comments | 2,060 views

Palo Alto: Pastis owner to open second French restaurant
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 1,212 views

The Four E's--Pope Francis and the Middle Class
By Steve Levy | 3 comments | 947 views

My College Mindset is Intrinsically Motivated
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 1 comment | 817 views

Marriage Interview 9: Make a Date to Have Sex Once or Twice a Week and . . .
By Chandrama Anderson | 6 comments | 691 views