Scott: The enormity of what we’ve accomplished has not quite hit home yet. For us, our lifestyle became a knitted string of individual ride days that inched us across the U.S. Yes, we held onto the goal of getting cross country to Bar Harbor but our vision rarely strayed beyond 1 to 2 days ahead. Our life became quite simple – ride, eat and sleep/rest and the tasks needed to support that. That was it. In that context it was not so difficult. Spend enough time in the saddle to achieve our day’s goal and we’d get incrementally closer to our final end point.
Karla: To our great benefit, there are kind and helpful people everywhere. One of our most interesting rides was along a newly paved back road which followed the Mississippi. We found out about it because a man got out of his car to come and talk to us while we were eating outside a convenience store. It was obvious he was in some kind of discomfort as he moved gingerly and held his hand over his abdomen. But he wanted to tell us of this special route he knew about because it had recently been resurfaced and no one traveled it yet. We had the road to ourselves as we followed the winding course of the Mississippi, the river whose headwaters had held a special fascination for Scott.
Scott: This ride was an exercise in being slightly uncomfortable for 3 months. Daily riding 4-6 hours, sleeping on the ground, setting up and breaking camp, questionable campground showers and bathrooms, finding food, finding water, finding camp stove fuel, eating meals cooked in one pot, sore butts, sore backs, sore legs and at least one argument a day all added up to one thing – ADVENTURE!
Karla: This ride was an exercise in navigating a new world. Physical activity for hours a day; sleeping in campgrounds, city parks, motels/hotels, dorms, and peoples’ houses; tasting foods of the regions across the US; talking with strangers and hearing their stories; being completely immersed in a continuously changing biosphere; sharing life 24/7 with my sweetie. It all added up to one thing – ADVENTURE!
Scott: We were shocked that New England presented the hardest riding. We encountered the steepest terrain of our entire trip here. Several 16%, 15% and 14% hills. The 2 largest weeks of climbing were the last two that were in New England at 17708 and 19620 feet. We also became obsessed with finishing so we rode the last 2.5 weeks with no rest. We were exhausted by the time time we reached Bar Harbor. It took us about 10 days to fully recover.
Karla: Expectations lie. I am stronger than I thought. There were more mosquitoes in Montana than Michigan. The trip ended long before I wanted it to.
Scott: Expectations lie. Riding a tandem and pulling a trailer 4600 miles is harder than I anticipated. We had only 2 flats on the trailer and none on the tandem. I used only 4 of the plethora of tools I carried and one was used only for opening bottles of beer. North Dakota is not flat. Wisconsin is very hilly. The ACA maps were far from totally accurate. The trip didn’t end soon enough.
Scott: Along the route that we followed, the small farming communities in eastern Montana and North Dakota are turning into ghost towns. They were largely boarded up with very few facilities and a small population. It appears that the farmers are aging and retiring. Their kids are not taking over the farms and leaving for opportunities elsewhere. With no heirs, the farmers are leasing or selling their land to big agribusiness which requires far fewer individuals to run. As a result, there is a decline in population to such an extent that businesses can no longer be supported in these towns.
Scott: America is up for sale – literally. From the east side of the Rockies in Montana to New York, property was for sale. Land, homes, farms, restaurants, bars, grocery s, all forms of store front businesses had for sale signs posted. Open or closed, it didn’t matter everything was for sale. We were surprised and saddened by this.
Scott: I loved sharing this adventure with Karla. I feel it has drawn us closer together. More so than any other trip we’ve taken. I think the shared experience of “survival” had a hand in that. We also were with each other 24/7. While this certainly abetted some arguing, it also fostered respect, admiration, laughter, joy, fun and love. While communication was sometimes difficult, riding the tandem required that we maintain a continuous repartee that kept us connected. It was probably the best part of the trip for me.
Karla: I thought I would feel an incredible sense of accomplishment once we had reached our destination. In the past I have been a goal oriented person and biking cross country seemed like the ideal measurable goal. But completing the trip did not supply the euphoria I thought it would. The days on the bike did that. It truly was all about the journey. Don’t get me wrong, I am immensely satisfied that I was able to finish what we set out to do. However, I am sure there will not be a day go by that I won’t wish I was back on that bike with a day full of possibilities ahead of me. Thank you Scott for sharing your dream!