An Inside Look on the Transamerica Trail

It’s been two weeks since Dad and I finished the Transamerica trail. I do not feel any different than before we started except for the new leg muscles.

I started back into my running routine again, but my legs haven’t gotten used to that motion. So, I need to start over again. Slowly, but surely.

During these weeks, I have come to think about what I did a lot. I biked across the whole country. But more- I thought of my reactions along the way and the reactions and questions I received from others. Here they are:

Where are you biking to/from?

This question came in different ways, but the meaning was the same. The answer, however, changed as we progressed. At first, it was hopefully Oregon. Then it changed to eventually Oregon. As we got closer, we had to say we started in Virginia because at the Idaho/Oregon state line, saying you are going to Oregon is not that impressive.

You biked from Virginia?!?!

This question is always the follow up. Yes. At the end, it was like a game. Wait for it….there it is. Always the same facial expressions and disbelief. It was comical.

Of course, now that we are home, people’s reactions are not like they were.

And no matter where we were at-

Oh, you have a lot of climbs ahead….or…it’s going to be hot!

Though these aren’t questions, these are frequently stated. It didn’t bother us until almost halfway. But as we got closer to Oregon, and have done numerous climbs and rode in major heat, all we could do was internally roll our eyes and nod.

It’s always hot. And there is always a climb. As much as I dislike them, they are there.

We received this a lot from the East bounders who just completed the Rockies or were halfway through. At this point, we had done the Appalachian mountains, the Ozarks, and a little of the Rockies. We were not overly receptive to their comments.

Did you train at all for this?

Nope! Didn’t even own a bike beforehand. I hope this encourages people to start being active and perhaps bike tour. You will be surprised at what your body can do.

What do you do that lets you do all this?

Well, me…I just graduated aka I have no job. However, most of the people who I saw do this are people like me or retired people. Which makes sense as we have no commitments at home. Mainly men of both segments. Come on ladies!

How long will/did it take you?

We took three months, literally 90 days exact, but people do it faster or slower, it depends on how much time in the saddle in want to invest. 3 months translates into averaging about 55 miles a day with a rest day every 7 days.

Did your butt hurt?

A very common question. If you have the right seat/saddle…but alas, if you do anything for a long period of time you will hurt eventually. My wrists hurt more than my bottom.

Would you do the Transamerica again?

No. Not because it was bad or terrible, but because I already did it. In fact, doing any cross-country bike tour doesn’t appeal to me because I already went across the country. Some trails, like the Pacific Coast is nice, I wouldn’t mind doing that one. But as for a recommendation, I think for all aspiring bike tourers, travelers, historians, etc, doing the Transamerica is great. You get to experience America on a different scale.

You get to absorb everything a lot more because you are moving slower. The road kill smell, the cows mooing, how hot the wind is….but also talk to generous, kind people and follow a similar path the settlers followed.

How was going West? Why not go East?

This was a big question especially among the other bike tourers. They were asking about the prevailing winds as it blows from the West towards the East. This might be true for planes, but so close to the surface, we did not experience a lot of headwind. I don’t recall winds being an issue in the East until the Mid-West- the flat lands of Kansas. Here, it was mainly a cross wind. Occasionally there was some head, some tail, but always cross. Winds played more of an issue in the West, but not consistently. The only time we had head wind every day for several days was close to the Oregon coast. It does appear that the prevailing wind of North to South is true for the surface as well as for planes.

This being said, my recommendation is to not plan your trip based on the “prevailing winds.” I preferred going from the East as I felt like we followed history’s progression. Don’t let the wind stop you!

I’ve never seen this America before.

This has bee phrased in so many ways that I’m not sure if there is a common one. Many of the bike tourers we came across have said something to the affect that their eyes were open in some way. Some saw it, but chose to remain firm while others had their minds changed about America.

For example, someone who has always lived in a big city in a certain part of the country experiences small, and I mean small, town life in a different part of the country and still insists that city life is the best. Neither is better than the other. It is good to understand how people could enjoy small town life even if you don’t agree and not make comments about that way of life. Seeing these small towns after living in several big cities helped me understand the United States and it’s people a lot more.

Another example is someone believes a certain aspect of America then realizes that he was fed false information and that he was wrong in judging Americans. I really enjoyed talking with fellow bike tourers about this as the media often corrupts perceptions of Americans in the United States and abroad. This just shows that before you judge someone or a country or culture, one needs to go and experience it themselves.

I have traveled, by car, around the United States, and this trip still opened my eyes. It opened my eyes to the dying coal towns of Kentucky where people just abandoned their homes, leaving it to ruin, but at the same time, the people would give you the shirts off their back even when they have so few regardless of ethnicity or nationality. It was eye opening to the fact that things were not conveniently placed or not there like a simple FedEx office. Some people had to drive 2 hours to the nearest Walmart.

I imagined a small town to be several thousand people and some of my friends today try to tell me their town of 20,000 is small. After this trip and seeing towns of 300 people, a “town” of 20,000 would be a metropolitan. If it had a McDonald’s, it was a “booming town.” If it had more than one fast food restaurant or more than one restaurant in general it was like the town was New York City.

Did you meet any strange people?

Some would say WE are strange! I met many wonderful people on this trail. There were some “strange” people such as a man covered in Jimmy Buffet tattoos who never stopped talking and another man who was riding on a makeshift bike for Jesus, but everyone bounded together as we were bike tourers. We were doing something pretty crazy. We would stop along the road and talk to each other before continuing on our respective directions. We would wave and we would ask the same questions of each other.

We had great conversations with people that we will probably never see again. Many people from the Netherlands, well Europe in general. Some from Australia. Some from within the United States. All of these great individuals made my experience so much more enjoyable. Meeting new people and talking with them was definitely a highlight and my favorite part of the trip.

We were privileged to bike with several great people for multiple days.  We started with a bike touring bionic couple from New Zealand in their 70’s who helped us get our feet wet and gave us advice. Then they kicked our butts and zoomed by us. We then biked with a new friend who has done many small bike trips and gave us great conversations and lots of laughs. Finally, we rejoined an old acquaintance, and became great friends, finishing together.

So yes, I met strange people just as strange as me. And I enjoyed everyone and I wish them all the best.

Why are you doing/did this?

I still don’t know why I decided to go. Maybe it was something to do after I graduated. Maybe it was to be different from my peers. Maybe it was for achievement. Maybe it was for all of the above.

I came across several people biking for awareness- homelessness, different illnesses, Jesus, etc.  I also came across those who raised and donated money to a charity to planned the whole trip for them such as Bike the US for MS or 4K for Cancer.

Whatever it takes you to go out and do it, do it. But I’m glad I didn’t do it for anything. I am happy that I don’t know why I did it. In that way, I did it for me. I motivated myself. No cause or organization motivated me. I kept myself from quiting, especially since the beginning was difficult. It was me myself and I.

I would like to say I had deep philosophical thoughts while I was riding, but alas, most of the time I was complaining, cursing bad drivers, and trying to avoid Frosty the Snowman song, which somehow got stuck in my head the whole trip. Yes, 3 months of singing about his magic hat and button nose. I would like to say also that, since I’ve been home, he has left the building.

Did I change the world in some way? I highly doubt it. But, though I don’t feel different, I know the Transamerica has changed me.

I can’t believe you did it!

Did you think I wouldn’t? Now that I am home and have finished, many of my friends have messaged me saying congrats and how unbelievable it was. They couldn’t believe it. I can’t believe it and I did it!

The Adventure Cycling Association, the one who comes out with different bike routes and maps has several stickers that say different slogans. One, I really like:

I ride, therefore, I transam.

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If you would like to read more of my bicycling adventures, be sure to check out Insights into Bicycling Alaska!


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