Spring of 2009 came around and I was frustrated with my job, my long term relationship was coming to end, and I felt like I needed a fresh start. So when one of my coworkers asked me to join her and a few others on a bike trip across the United States, I said "Sure, why not?" and signed myself up.
Never mind that I had never ridden a bike longer than 22 miles before, clipless pedals were brand new to me, and I had only seen panniers in photos. At 23 and lost in the world, things like biking across the country with no preparation sound like a good idea. Honestly 10 years later sometimes they still do.
I did at least have the common sense to realize that carrying a full DSLR rig across the United States was probably going to be a struggle, especially considering I had no training and would already have to carry my tent, sleeping bag, pad, stove, clothes, and food 4000 miles across the country and up and over the Appalachians, Ozarks, Rockies, and Cascades. So I bought myself a Canon G10 and a Gorillapod and set off with three friends on the adventure of a lifetime.
The trip was not without its struggles and (literal) ups and downs. I almost died a few times and cried more than that. I learned a lot about myself, my friends, and people in general. We met incredibly kind and interesting folks every where we went. If you ever lose your faith in the human race, bike across America.
We saw the beautiful diversity in landscapes, cultures, and that which makes this country what it is, including pockets of America that no one sees when driving by car or flying by plane. On a bike, you move slower and so your environment seeps into your bones and being gradually. You have more time to think and more time to feel. There is no roof to shelter you from sun and rain, no AC to soothe the heat, no music on the radio to dim your thoughts or games on an iPad to distract you from 50 miles of nothingness on a Kansas highway. You create your own entertainment, and find yourself present, intentionally or not, wherever it is you happen to be. Biking across the United States, I feel I like I truly experienced America the Beautiful for the first time.
109 days after we began, Dave and I would dip our tires into the Pacific and call our trip complete (we had split from our two other riding companions on day 20, due to different deadlines and priorities for the trip). We had traveled over 4000 miles from Yorktown, Virginia to Florence, Oregon, propelled by only our legs, a simple machine, and tire rubber. It was the trip of a lifetime, and although it was one of the hardest things I have ever done, I would do it all again.
Thank you to my riding partners, Dave, Jenny, and Justin, the folks at Town Cycle of West Milford, NJ for getting us set up for the trip, my friend Sven for sending cookie money, and to all the people who provided us food, water, shelter, entertainment, stories, and memories to make our journey one that I will never forget.
Photos by me were taken with a Canon G10, and are a combination of jpegs straight from the camera and raw files processed in Lightroom and/or Photoshop. Photos by others are credited where appropriate.