Once I started searching for long distance cycling or touring information online, I was met with countless blogs, websites and videos. My Instagram feed is full of touring pictures, and they're some of my favorites to explore. It was so inspiring to learn from others' experiences, and it only fueled my enthusiasm in moving up my timeline.
The one thing about all these sites, however, is that it puts what I'm doing into perspective. Yes, I'm going to bicycle a long way from Kentucky to Oregon. Yes, it's going to be hard. Yes, I'm going to drink a lot of coffee. But what I'm doing is not anything that hasn't been accomplished before. In fact, many of the blogs and Instagram users I follow are that of solo or paired riders riding coast to coast, touring the lower 48 states or hopping from one country to another. What they're doing makes me feel my goal is so much more attainable, because at least I'm not riding for the next 9 months, cycling through foreign countries where I may not know how to communicate my needs, or racing from coast to coast in 40 days!
I feel a bit more settled and comforted knowing that I will be fairly close to home (as opposed to across the world!), I'm familiar with navigating my way through the U.S., and I'm going to be giving myself ALL day to ride 50-70 miles.
So, yes, riding to Oregon is crazy far. I will be really proud of my accomplishments when it's all said and done. I'm psyched to embark on what I anticipate will be the hardest thing I've ever done!
But I also find it very reassuring to know there are others out there doing bigger rides, and I'm not doing this all on my own. I have so many resources from which to pull, and I'm so looking forward to using this blog to share it all.
a pic of a loaded bike,
photo credit: Skyler_WA from a bikeforums.net thread
Our neighboring state to the south, Kentucky is the state from where I'll begin my bicycle tour. I've visited Louisville a handful of times and driven through on our way to Florida, but other than that, I can't say I've done much sight-seeing in Kentucky.
I'll be riding about 45 miles each day, as I figure out my stride and rhythm of touring. I anticipate my family driving me down to Berea, where I'll say my goodbyes and climb aboard my bike. From there, I'll be spending the following week riding the hills of Kentucky, heading west. And when I say hills, take a look at the picture of the elevation changes. It actually makes me a bit more nervous that the Rockies, where the inclines and declines are spread over a much longer stretch than the continuous stretch of hills I'll be encountering.
Nine months left before I ride through nine states! Truly, I can't believe it.
Every time I look at this map, I think, what in the hell am I thinking?! And then a second later I'm thinking, THIS IS THE COOLEST THING EVER! I'm not even going to pretend that I'm super fast and fit and ready for my ride. Because I'm not ready...not yet at least.
My plan is to hop on the TransAmerica Trail, a series of mapped routes organized and updated by Adventure Cycling Association. This route, coast to coast, is over 4,200 miles. My trip, however, will begin in Berea, Kentucky and head west to Astoria, Oregon. So, I think I've calculated it's somewhere around 3,400 miles.
Looking through the maps and places to camp along the way, I've planned out about 60 riding days, averaging 60 miles a day. The start of my ride will be closer to 45 miles a day, to account for my inexperience and the hills. I also have rest days scheduled in, along with some extra days tagged on to accommodate any other scheduling needs.
Though looking at the map feels a bit overwhelming, I'm focusing on the many smaller maps that will assist me in my ride. Instead of this one map of the USA, I'll be focusing on riding through about 130 smaller sections, Because if I know I have just one or two sections to ride before camping for the night, I can break down the day into attainable goals. 18 miles until I stop for lunch...37 miles until I move to the next smaller section of mapped routes...2 miles until I'm done for the day. And maybe I'll reach a point where I'm telling myself, just ride one more mile...one more mile...one more mile. And I'm okay with that. I'm okay with taking it one small section at a time.
When I was 20 years old, I signed up for my first bicycle tour. I rode 180 miles, give or take, from northern Illinois to south-eastern Wisconsin over the course of three days. Benefitting the American Lung Association, I joined others early on a Saturday morning and set off, riding the longest I had ever ridden in one day. The ride, CowaLUNGa, was supported, which meant my sleeping bag, clothing, and other items were trucked from one small town to the next, leaving me to carry only my mapped route for the day, water bottles, and camera (this was back in 2000, so I don't even think I had a cell phone). My meals were provided (lunch was on my own), along with snacks and water along the way.
I had never participated in an organized run or tour, and so I didn't realize how energizing it was to be at the Start Line or how amazing it'd feel to pedal through the Finish Line. Truly, my eyes were opened to this new lifestyle of organized events and it was awesome.
I participated in the ride the following year with Jim by my side (Jim being my husband, but back then my high school and college sweetheart). Wanting to ride further and longer, I also rode across Wisconsin in an organized ride (GRABAAWR), this time riding closer to 500 miles over seven days. I spent my days riding, occasionally riding with fellow cyclists, but for the most part, alone with my thoughts and Trek hybrid. Riding into Prairie du Chien with a sore Achilles tendon, I was overwhelmed with emotion. It was by far the hardest thing I had ever accomplished, physically, mentally and emotionally.
I spent the following years finishing up my schooling, working as a school teacher, getting married, moving to Vermont. What was once a memory that had taken place only two or three years prior turned into that story that stayed tucked away, as most of us carry from our youth and younger days.
Being raised in a family that valued cross country travel, I appreciated the experiences one could only have seeing the world traveling at 60 mph. After I got married, my husband and I continued to do most of our traveling via car, flying only if airfare was affordable and schedule required it. With small children, we continued to drive around the country- to Vermont, NYC, Florida, D.C., and Oregon- as we visited friends and family, stopping along the way.
Combining this appreciation for cross country travel with the adventure of cycling long distances, I started thinking about what I wanted to see and do after my children were grown. I held onto this thought of adventure and assumed it would all have to wait until my children were living their own lives and I was much older. At first I thought I might want to hike the Appalachian Trail, but the time to complete the trail in one go combined with the fact that I've never hiked longer than three miles made me reconsider.
This brought me to touring (cycling longer distances, often times carrying one's gear using panniers or bicycle trailer). With a shorter time away from my family, I started considering moving my adventure to 2017, giving myself time to train and acquire gear. I checked out supported rides, where I'd sign up with a company that would provide my mapped route, accommodations and meals, along with carrying my gear from point A to point B (to point C...). The options felt too expensive and too restrictive (i.e., the dates didn't line up with what would work with my family's needs, I'd be riding with a group of riders that may be faster and more skilled, I would be unable to make decisions without consulting the group, etc.). After looking at blogs, Instagram feeds, and the Adventure Cycling Association site, I made a decision...
I WILL RIDE MY BIKE TO OREGON IN 2017!
I bought a bike, rode a handful of training rides (+15 miles) and made another big decision...
I WILL RIDE MY BIKE TO OREGON IN 2016!
2017 felt too far away, and the more I thought about it and planning I did, the more I realized that holding onto my dream for close to two years felt so far away. I was worried I'd lose steam, and from what I have read, you can only train so much to prepare for long-distance touring. It's only the long days of cycling, day after day, that truly get you "ready".
So, here I am, nearly nine months away from leaving on my adventure.
Join me as I prepare and embark on a cross-country cycling tour.