August 22, 2023 | As I write this, we are waiting for our flight home. The bags are packed; the bikes are in boxes and are somewhere in Southwest’s luggage process; and we are tired. It was a great trip and we obviously feel accomplished. But our bodies are physically tired; no amount of sleep or rest these days seems to dull the ache. We need some downtime.
We have had several donations to MD Anderson come in the last few days (Thank you!) and have made our goal. If you still want to donate to a good cause, it is not too late. One common theme on this trip has been the number of people we have met who have had cancer, have friends or family with cancer or lost family members. It is more common than it should be.
It has been a great trip and it will take us a while to digest it all. I have thousands of photos (I am planning a time lapse video), and looking through them brings back some good memories. Lauren was a great riding partner and we had no major mechanical, weather or health/fitness issues that seriously delayed the trip. The bikes are filthy, need some mechanical love and attention, and Lauren’s seat is falling part. I threw away my bike shoes in the last hotel. We survived the climbs of the Cascades and Rockies, the heat of the Great Plains, the humidity of the Midwest and east, potholes in Minnesota, killer bees and hordes of unionized mosquitos, and some questionable bike trails.
But we also saw all that the U.S. has to offer: great scenery, some epic climbs (and descents), hospitality and kindness of strangers, wide open spaces, good weather and some nice small towns. Many things could have gone wrong, but they didn’t. I was concerned about the smoke from the Canadian wildfires but we missed that. We only had a couple of days of rain and no other issues. In the end, it was pretty simple; we just had to keep pedaling.
So the big questions and answers:
Would I do it again?
Yes, in a heartbeat. And I would do it with Lauren (I think she would agree, despite my snoring!). And I would encourage anyone who is thinking about something like this to just get out and do it. There are many shorter rides that do not require 46 days. If you want to go and see the country, just do it :). It was good to have a goal and a destination; we had to get done by the end of August so Lauren could get back to school and we had a set goal of the Atlantic Coast. Goals are good.
That said, I can cross the coast-to-coast off my to-do list now. There are other rides and treks to do (the West Coast; the Colorado Trail) that would not require nearly seven weeks but would still be epic.
What was the best part?
I think Lauren and I both enjoyed the western states the most and the mountains. Yes, we had some big climbs but also some great descents and fabulous scenery. Plus camping at altitude in the dry and cool air is the best. The mountains at night are truly epic as well. While camping at Macgregor Lake in Montana, I got up at 2am to go to the bathroom. It was a perfectly clear night and you could see the Milky Way across the entire sky. That was worth the trip.
The U.S. is a big country but also seems slightly smaller now. After all, we just biked across it using nothing but our own legs, so how big can it be? And there are more similarities than differences across the country than is apparent from a plane or even a car.
Which part was the hardest?
Eleven days of headwinds from the middle of North Dakota to the middle of Wisconsin. That was demoralizing. The other thing is just how hard it was to get good food that was not burger and fries in some places. Small towns are declining (including in the east - this is not a problem confined to the western states) and many did not have a decent grocery store. Getting fresh fruit was harder in many places than we expected.
What is next?
Lauren and I both have to go back to work! Plus some serious downtime and home-cooked food. Really, I need a vacation :)
How much weight did I lose?
I weighed myself before I left and after I got back on the same scales. I lost about 30 pounds (nearly 14 Kg); you can see it in my face, shoulders and around the middle. And I feel skinny. But I am not sure I can do more than five push-ups or a single pull-up :)
How much did we raise?
One of the best decisions we made in planning the trip was to raise money for MD Anderson cancer research. They provided a lot of support for the fundraising and have been great to deal with. But the main thing was motivation; knowing we were raising money for charity kept us going through the head winds and those days when you really did not want to get on a bike or climb that next mountain pass. We could not stop, knowing we had set the fundraising goal.
As of today, we have raised over $26,000 for MD Anderson. When I say ‘we’, of course I am really including all of you who have been incredibly generous. Thank you!
What were the ending statistics?
My bike computer said 3,085 miles; Lauren’s said 3,111. We will go with 3,085 miles. We took 46 days to complete the trip, so that is 68.5 miles a day (accounting for the one rest day we had in Minneapolis). The longest day we did was 90 miles (into Lagrange, OH). And we camped out 18 of the 46 days. Our sleeping bags need some time in a washing machine!
Actual ride time was 253 hours and 15 minutes (this is actual time pedaling and moving), so that equates to 12.2 miles per hour average. Not bad considering we carried all our own gear for the entire trip. Total feet climbed was 87,363 feet, which is 344 feet per hour :). Yeah, we are tired.