Sep 01, 2016
At some point, most everyone creates a wish list of things to experience in life – commonly known as a “bucket list”. A number of years ago I added riding my bicycle across the USA to my list. Earlier this summer, I was fortunate enough to fulfill this dream!
At first, it seemed quite a lofty goal, but once the research began, we quickly realized it was anything but unique as there are a few hundred people riding across the country each year. And, they all have one thing in common: they all love bicycling. The Adventure Cycling Association provides detailed maps that include route and service information for each town along the way, detailing lodging, detours and other traffic concerns as well as topographical information.
Our adventure began in Washington DC, as Amtrak had recently announced “roll on” service for bicycles. This allowed us to easily transport our gear to the East coast rather than shipping it separately. The journey was self-contained; we carried everything needed for the next 9 ½ weeks (including a tent, cooking gear, tools and clothing). We each would carry between 30 to 40 pounds of gear until arriving at our final destination of Anacortes, WA.
Riding across the USA at 11 MPH is an amazing way to see the country! We rode the historic Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (C&O towpath), crossed the Potomac River via ferry, rode over the St. Lawrence, Laurentian and Great Continental Divides and found ourselves at the peak of 6 mountain passes! The landscape varies drastically from one region to another; steep hills of the Allegheny Mountains, farmlands in the Midwest, open plains in North Dakota and Montana, mountains in western Montana and a desert in northern Washington. Our trek took us through 3 national parks, 12 states and a multitude of national forests. Some of the changes are gradual and take a couple days to take full effect while others seem to occur instantly, as was the case when we crested a hill and found ourselves fully immersed in the Badlands.
If I had to pick a favorite sight, it would be Glacier National Park’s incredible “Going to the Sun” road. We diligently climbed for over 4 hours to reach the peak, though constantly rewarded with breath taking views! The trip down, while fast in comparison to the climb, also gave us a full view of beautiful Lake McDonald and its pristine blue waters.
The scenery itself was enough to make the journey worth the effort, but the people we met along the way made the trip invaluable. We met cyclists who went out of their way to lead us through areas that would have been a lot more cumbersome without their assistance and there were folks across the USA that hosted us; not only did they provide food and shelter but welcomed us into their families. More than a few times a person saw us riding through town and offered us everything from water to energy drinks and power gels. I can honestly say I cannot remember one person who was unfriendly.
While the scenery was amazing and the people we met were incredible, the feeling of accomplishment was the crème de la crème. I would encourage everyone to put in the effort to create their own bucket list and to accomplish their own adventures.
A shout out of gratitude goes to World Trend Financial for allowing me the time to realize this dream, as well as to my co-workers, who covered for me. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience I will not forget.