Sport: The Freewheelers

As every look-ma-no-hands schoolboy cyclist knows, the shortest distance between two points should never be a straight line. Take the 3,000 miles across the country, and this week 2,000 bikers are doing exactly that. Instead of pumping along in the breakdown lane of some Cartesian interstate, they are savoring a cyclist's delight, a 4,250-mile route that meanders through two U.S. parks (Yellowstone and Grand Teton), five major historic sites, 25 national forests and just about every one-air-pump hamlet from Astoria, Ore., to Williamsburg, Va.

This orgy of organized peripatetic pedaling is Bikecentennial '76, the dream fulfilled of a young Missoula, Mont., couple,...

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