“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”
Well, Jet Blue did in 4 hours and 44 minutes what it took my bike and I 66 days to accomplish. I am back on the East coast. I left when it was still summer. I came back and the Red Sox are World Series champions, there’s a chill in the air and the leaves are barely hanging onto the trees.
People are still stepping up and donating to MS now that I have finished. It was a dream of mine to get to $15,000 in donations. We are currently at $14,825. Will we get there? I think so. What an incredible testament to giving. People care. You have showed me that.
I’ve got a couple of things left to do before i let you know my final thoughts on this journey. The first I have been meaning to do for a while now. I have been asked many questions via text, email, phone calls and in person on how this trip came to fruition and what it was like to bike across America. I apologize that it has taken me this long. Before I begin, let me say that if anybody is thinking about doing a big ride or something similar, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need any help or have any questions.
What do you got for gear?
I’m not going to list everything, but I’ll give you the important stuff. I had a very heavy bike due to the fact that I wanted to run the web site effectively, but it was going to take some gear to do it. It doesn’t take this much crap to bike across America.
Bike: Surly Long Haul Trucker (Surly bikes. Steel, strong and dependable). Planet Bike Hardcore Fenders (wouldn’t do fenders again. I had to screw around with them the entire trip). Brooks Flyer leather sprung saddle. Surly Nice Racks on the front and rear (they are heavy, but strong and I could fit a six-pack of beer on top of the front rack). Axiom Aero panniers. 40 on the back. 20 on the front (The zippers broke on the convenient front pockets of the 40′s, but they were good until Kansas).
Camping: MSR Hubba Hubba tent (A large two-person tent that was bigger than I needed, but it was home for two months. Great tent). Big Agnes Air Core sleeping pad (Light. Comfy. stole it from my brother.) Marmot Plasma 40 degree sleeping bag. (Great bag. It just got colder than 40, so I shivered through a few nights).
Web Site: Asus Zenbook laptop (Toooooo heavy). Canon T3i DSLR camera (A lot of people made fun of me for taking such a heavy camera. It was worth it.) Contour Roam2 action video camera (The Trucker Cam. the Go Pro does more, but the Contour was rugged, cheaper and did it’s job.)
Where do you sleep?
I camped about 60% of the time and stayed in a motel or hostel 40% of the time. Camping became more normal. The tent was mine and became the place where I was most comfortable. With that said, I needed a motel once in a while. I would have gone way over budget had I done it too much, so I would pick the opportunities wisely. I made a lot of Sundays motel nights so that I could watch football and use this as extra motivation. I would often negotiate the nightly rates. It helps when you look dirty and exhausted.
How can you afford to travel and not work for 2 months?
I saved $.
What books did you read before leaving for the trip?
Off the Map: Bicycling Across Siberia and pretty much anything else by Mark Jenkins. Riding with Ghosts by Gwen Maka, a story of incredible female courage. The Man Who Cycled the World by Mark Beaumont. Baghdad Without a Map by Tony Horwitz. A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins and Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon, two must-read American travel stories.
What motivated you to keep going?
You. People suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. Donors. Friends that texted, called and wrote nice things on Facebook. People that said I couldn’t do it. The fact that I would never forgive myself had I given up.
What is your least favorite part about biking across the US?
Who inspired you to do this?
My brother Jared. He’s just a good traveller. His adventures haven’t always worked out the way he thought they would, but he is never afraid to do something weird. He will never let you know it, but he is always well-prepared and well-read before he gets into a quest. I was sick of him having all of the fun.
So, are you loving it or what?
Yes. And sometimes no. Waking up feeling like you have been hit by a truck every morning is not that much fun. Pedaling up a mountain into a headwind wondering when the hell is this going to end? is not that fun. I rode for the people that intrigued me, the places that amazed me, and the moments that I will never forget. There were times that I suffered, and quite a bit. But the journey was an incredible experience.
I’m thinking about biking across America, what advice can you give me?
Repeat after me. Yes mam. Yes sir. Thank you mam. Thank you sir. Good manners get you a long way in the US, particularly when you are traveling alone. Also, be positive and enthusiastic about what you are doing. If people recognize that you are doing something crazy and loving it, they will be happy to help. I got a lot of cheap hotel rooms, free meals, and other kindness because people were seeing me suffer with a smile on my face.
Lastly, if any of this seems like fun to you than you already have what it takes to do it. But it is your adventure. Make it what you want it to be. Live your dream. Because everybody rides their own ride.