I grew up outside and on the move. I was going on canoe trips and hiking adventures within the first few months of my life.
A baby in a canoe? Are they crazy?
Six months old? Rock climbing?!
My parents have always loved the outdoors. So, naturally, a strong love for the outdoors was ingrained into my being. I grew up traveling the United States with my parents every chance we could get. America’s national parks were practically my home away from home, and I now know all the roads, grocery stores, and shops in random towns across America just like I know the ones in my hometown. My parents role in taking me to all these beautiful places and teaching me to appreciate the beauty of nature has had every single part to do with defining and shaping who I am as a human being, and I will be forever grateful for that.
Long car rides across the country often bring out the most interesting conversations and topics. While I’m not going to delve into the thousands of various topics covered by my parents and I (half of which can be associated with laugh-until-you-can’t-breathe moments), one topic that has consistently been brought up is “The Bike Trip”.
In 1981, dad rode his bike across America with a group of his adventurous, nature-loving friends. Located in the beautiful and lush Pacific Northwest, they started in Astoria, Oregon and followed the TransAmerica ‘Bikecentennial’ route until they reached Yorktown, Virginia. I mean…it was apparently the thing to do back then. In the summer of 1976, thousands of cyclists took on the adventure of cycling across the country in commemoration of the bicentennial of America’s Declaration of Independence, and cyclists still ride the route today.
There hasn’t been a single road trip that I have been on that “The Bike Trip” has not been brought up. It was always amazing to me that one trip could conjure up so many neat and interesting stories that were able to transcend time. I’ve heard stories about the “ice cream lady”, and stories about the “Ritz cracker exchange”. I’ve heard stories about taking a day off from the saddle to hike up to Lake Solitude in the Grand Teton National Park, and about the time dad’s derailleur broke and he had to ride through part of the Appalachians at 4 a.m. to reach the bike shop before his group woke up and started biking for the day. These stories, regardless of how often I have heard them, never get old. And, to this day, I still hear new stories and wonder why I was never told them before.
Biking the TransAmerica route has always been stored away in the back of my mind. Have I always considered actually biking across America? No. As a teenager, I had always thought it would be neat. Just when I thought I could might possibly somehow muster up the courage and determination to even toy around with the idea of biking across America, I would go ride 20 miles with my parents on a flat, easy-going rail-trail, and would always end up saying, “There’s absolutely no way I could do this all the way across America.” Dad would then proceed to tell me how there were days on “The Bike Trip” where he would be riding in his easiest gear across the flat state of Kansas with strong headwinds in his face. The no-shade-for-miles highway and the 100 degree temperatures were enough to make the toughest men feel defeated, the only water source being from a concrete truck that stopped and graciously supplied them with water. That story was the nail in the coffin. There was absolutely no way I could ever do that, or ever want to do that.
As I got older and traveled more with my parents, I opened my eyes to my surroundings and the people I encountered, and I began to notice more. I noticed people going on backpacking trips in the Rockies. I noticed people carrying their climbing gear and crash pads on trails as they approached nearby climbing routes in Zion National Park. I noticed bike tourists who were loaded down with their gear who just reached the top of a mountain pass in Glacier National Park. I wanted those things: a life of adventure; a life well-lived.
I had begun toying around with the idea of embarking on a cross-country bike tour for a while, but what sealed the deal was when three cross-country bike tourists stopped at my house to stay the night, to shower, and to do some laundry. One of them was the son of a woman who completed the cross country tour with my dad, back in 1981.
The afternoon that the bike tourists arrived, I rushed home from teaching the percussion section at after-school marching band rehearsal. When I got out of my car, I smiled to myself as I saw three touring bikes laying down in the freshly-cut grass. Socks, shoes, t-shirts, and cycling shorts covered the porch. As I opened the door, a strong whiff of “dirty” hit me right in the face, and three long-haired, care-free, hippie-looking bike tourists smiled at me and said hi. We sat and talked with them late into the night, and I loved hearing their stories and trying to understand their bike tourist jargon. I loved watching them study their Adventure Cycling Association maps prior to their next day of riding, and I was dying to go outside to examine their bikes and gear.
A few months later, I told my friend Masherra my idea of actually riding the TransAm. We had nonchalantly talked about it before, and I honestly always thought we would, at some point, actually do the trip. Masherra was always talking me into doing crazy things. First (and the way we became friends), she talked me into training for and running the Iron Mom half marathon with her. Next, she talked me into joining 270 CrossFit, later known as Valor Strength and Conditioning, where I lifted heavy weights and did insanely difficult workouts, which was completely out of my comfort zone at the time. It was now my turn to talk her into doing something out of her comfort zone (who am I kidding, it was out of both of our comfort zones).
But, as the famous quote states, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
My parents will be driving Masherra and I out to Yorktown, Virginia in just over two weeks. Check back for more posts about my gear list, our route, and daily updates on our trip once we start.