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.