almost a week two years1 since I finished the entirety of the TransAmerica Trail Bike Route, and it’s finally sunk in that it’s over (see the bottom of the post for a brief recap of what the trail is, and some of my statistics during it). During the ride I often fantasized about what it would be like to finish: I thought that I would cry, or be over the moon. It didn’t really end up being like that. I was excited and incredibly happy to see my brother and sister, but nothing like what I’d imagined. As I wrote on the final post of the trip, the best way I can described the feeling is contentment. I felt content and satisfied with what I’d just done, and at the same time glad to be off the road, at least for a while. There were a million things swirling through my head that all combined to create this more muted feeling, some positive some negative, and I want to discuss each of them in turn.
These are the things that were amazing about the journey which I will miss when I’m not riding
- People: the people of America are good and kind. It is easy to forget this if you’re constantly bombarded by news about the evil in the world but if you go talk to a random person on the streets the overwhelming odds are that they will treat you with kindness and respect. In a lesson that’s all the more poignant now in a time of general anger in the country it was really important to me personally to be reminded that we all live together, in the same country, and all want the same thing: to create a good life for ourselves and our families. I had people buy me meals, take me in for the night, help me out when I was having issues, and hundreds of other acts of kindness. I hope that I can give back to the world and repay the kindness I was shown. I especially want to call out the other people I met doing the ride. Without exception these people were all fascinating and kind and they made the trip what it was. Theres a certain kinship that is shared between riders that’s hard to describe. It’s like since we’re all in this together, we’ve all shared the same trials and tribulations, and know what each other are going through. It also seems to naturally attract interesting people, which is a bonus.
- Adventure: this ride was the biggest adventure I’ve ever gone on. It was hard and it was beautiful, sometimes on the same day. I learned that I am capable of doing difficult things, something that I didn’t think myself capable of before this ride. I saw things that I never knew existed, and I saw things I know I will never see again. It really just felt like pure adventure. Even though the route is well traveled and it wasn’t really solitary (ultimately I was following a line on a map and wasn’t all that remote usually) it still felt like I was exploring. Maybe I discovered that for me, exploring just means seeing new places, and it doesn’t matter whether other people have been there before me. Conversely, I think I learned that a good way for me to start feeling down is to stay in one place without some exploration in my life. I think this is an important lesson to keep in mind. Meriwether Lewis called this a desire for rambling, I think I feel the same.
- Simplicity: I enjoyed the simplicity of the ride. Every day I would deal with very basic things: find food, find shelter, and travel to that shelter. I traveled with about 25 pounds of gear and felt like I still had too much stuff. When I get home I plan to sell or donate the majority of my belongings and try to maintain that simpler life that I have lived: I plan to keep only a computer for work and my bike repair tools.
These are things that were difficult about the ride, that I’m glad I don’t have to deal with usually.
- Cars: By far the worst part of the ride was the cars. The adventure cycling route took me on dangerous roads with no shoulder and fast traffic. Most drivers were respectful, but unfortunately, it only takes one bad, angry, distracted, or drunk driver to bring an end to my ride. I was likely passed by 10,000+ vehicles and given that the odds are not entirely in my favor. Luckily, nothing happened on this ride, but I did have close calls. I had a logging truck almost hit, I had people pass in entirely unsafe locations (and run me off the road in the process) and I had people try to scare me (driving right at me, getting close on purpose, etc. I think that the route I took was more dangerous than other routes: it was created in 1976 and since that time many of the roads have not changed, but the cars have gotten bigger and more numerous. There’s no getting around the fact that every time you get on a bike with traffic there’s a chance you won’t come back. Luckily, it’s a small chance, and everything we do in life involves risk, and in my opinion the risk is worth the benefits.
- Hardship: Some days were incredibly difficult. The major obstacle was heat. Eastern Kentucky and Missouri in particular stand out as hot and humid. When paired with insane amounts of climbing that heat could get legitimately dangerous. Some days would involve dangerous or scary riding on roads that I had no choice but to take. Every day though, I was able to get up and ride a good distance despite these difficulties. I managed to push through fear and anxiety in pursuit of a goal. The feeling of completion at the end, knowing that I went through these seriously hard days made it even sweeter.
The Transamerica Trail, and bike touring in general, is something that I wasn’t sure I could do. There were hard days, and days I wanted to quit, and amazing days that made me want to do this forever. In the end, this ended up being the adventure of a lifetime, honestly. I’m not sure I’ll ever do something as wild and out there. I met amazing people, saw amazing things. I want to thank everyone who read the blog and commented and let me know you were enjoying the trip and posts. I wouldn’t have continued to write them if people hadn’t consistently read them!
Because of how much I enjoyed the ride, I have a bit of an announcement! Rather than return home I’m going to keep riding the East coast. My current plan is to head north to Washington DC and sightsee for a while. After that, if I have time, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York OR Pittsburgh, I’m not sure which, or how far I’ll make. I’ll do my best to write up reports like I’ve been doing for this ride, but expect them to be a little less frequent: they take a lot of time and energy and since this is more of a ‘relaxation adventure’ than the TransAm was, I may be more lax about putting them up. We’ll see. Today was actually my first riding day, though I only did 10 miles into Richmond. I expect a full day tomorrow. I only have 1 week before I return to work full time, so at that point I will be working during the week then riding only on weekends which will slow me down a lot. We’ll see how the riding is at that point. This didn’t happen.
As always, thank you for reading, and goodnight!
- Days: 72
- Distance: at least 4158 (likely between 4300 and 4400)
- Climbing: close to 200,000 feet
- Longest riding day: 130 miles
- Shortest riding day: 15
- Rest days: 3
- States: 10 (Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Virginia)
- Accommodations: 60% indoor (cyclist hosting, hotels, hostels), 40% out (campgrounds, parks)
- Most common accommodation type: camping
I felt weird about posting this for unknown reasons at the time I wrote it (a few days after finishing the tour). I’m posting it now because I think it’s a good recap. ↩