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About Kaylee Schwitzer
What is your age?
I turned 22 on the trip. :)
What made you want to ride your bike across the country?
I was looking for an adventure and BTUSFMS is a great cause.
Where do you live?
I just moved to NYC.
What is your profession?
I am a designer in SoHo.
What route(s)/year(s) did you ride with Bike the US for MS?
I rode the Norther Tier in 2015.
What was your cycling experience before signing up?
I had down one century ride with my dad. Other than that ride, I didn't have much experience beyond ~25 miles.
Where did you find the most success fundraising?
I was somewhat surprised but my coworkers ending up donating the largest sums of money. My friends parents and parents friends were also huge supporters, while people my age were admittedly a tough crowd to engage.
What was your biggest worry before the trip, and how did you handle it?
I was definitely worried about being on my bike for 6-8 hours every day. I'm not very good at doing one thing and one thing only. Rest stops were a game changer for me. I loved taking long rest stops and riding at my own pace. Really helped break up the monotony of the day.
How many fundraising letters/emails do you think you sent?
Oh, man. That's tough. I think I sent around 2-3x as many emails as I received donations. I'd recommend trying the deep and narrow approach rather than going wide and shallow. In other words, I'd suggest sending hand written notes to those who you think might donate the most instead of sending generic e-mails to an unrealistic number of people.
What surprised you most about the fundraising process?
It was really, really hard to not feel like you were pestering people. It's important to remember that you're not asking for money for yourself but for the cause.
What type of bike did you ride? Where did you get it?
I rode a second-hand Specialized bike that was in pretty good condition when I bought it.
What is something you wish you had brought which you didn’t?
Bring several rolls of quarters with you... Laundry mats and camp ground showers both exclusively take quarters! And trust me, at the end of a cold (or hot) day of riding, nothing is more disappointing than not being able to take a a shower because you don't have quarters.
What’s one ancillary thing you couldn’t have lived without on the road?
My Bluetooth UE Boom speaker! It fit perfectly in my water bottle cage so I would bring the party with me while biking. :) Real helped team morale to have a group jam sesh while on the road. And also my hammock!!!
What’s one thing you brought that you wish you hadn’t?
Not sure about this one.
Is there anything you spent a bit more money on that you were glad you did?
I spent SOOOOO much more money on food than anticipated. I don't regret it but DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE how expensive it is to feed your biking body. You eat infinitely more on than trip than when not biking.
How much casual clothes (t-shirts, shorts, etc) did you bring?
I had two camp outfits (i.e. leggings/sweatshirt) and one normal outfit (jeans and a nice shirt). I didn't bring the normal clothes at first but really wished that I had. I ended up having my family ship them to me at my first mail drop.
How many pairs of cycling shorts/bibs did you bring?
I think I had three jerseys and three shorts?
What type of sleeping pad did you use?
Sleeping pad and 30 degree sleeping bag.
What was your favorite trailer snack?
How often would you go out to eat?
4-5 mornings a week and then maybe 3-4 dinners a week? I honestly snacked a lot to keep my body energy high so I often skipped meals.
Would you cook at camp often?
If so, what was your favorite recipe? Ehhhhhhhhh.... not so much. I got really good at hacking together meals that didn't require a camp stove. My go-to was always a Caprese Sandwich (very refreshing after a long day of riding).
Did you prefer to ride alone or in a group?
I preferred riding with 2-3 other people, though also enjoyed riding solo. The big groups were kind of stressful on the ride. Tried to avoid getting lumped into too big of a pack.
Would you rather be riding through steady rain or extreme heat?
RAIN. No questions asked. Screw the heat!
What would you keep in your bike jersey pockets?
My sweaty map. :)
Did you use a rack/saddle bag/handlebar bag?
Yes definitely - Had a handlebar bag to keep my tire levers, bike pump, energy bars, any other gloves/gear I might need.
What type of tires did you ride?
I started with my bikes manufactured tired but got so many flats that I switched to touring tires. Well worth the upfront investment.
Did you use a cyclocomputer? What was your normal pace?
No, that would mess with my head. I would stare at that all day and the time would go so slowly. Based on my time to each rest stop, I usually rode around 14-15 mph. Sometimes faster, sometimes slower. Depended on the terrain, weather, my mood, the leg, etc.
How long did it take to learn to read the maps?
There were A LOT of turns in Maine. I got very lost. Not the maps fault at all... Just had to get used to not relying on a GPS again and actually checking to make sure that I had blown past my turns.
Riding on a flat terrain with a headwind, or climbing a mountain pass for miles. Which do you prefer?
.... I can't believe I'm saying this, but definitely mountain passes. Once you commit to going slow for several hours over the passes, it's actually quite beautiful. And then you get to enjoy the crap out of the descents. :) There's no forgiveness with headwinds.
What was the most difficult part/aspect/state of the ride?
The third quarter of the ride was the hardest for a couple of reasons. My immune system was really weak from sleeping outside all summer so I got pretty sick. We had also been biking for so long and still had so far to go that it was hard to stay energized about the trip. ... Until, of course, you get to Glacier and have the best day of your life.
Were you an early riser? Did you sleep in?
Totally depended. I was usually in one of the early to middle waves. I had no problem waking up early to get my miles down before heat/headwind but also had no problem sleeping in when there was no reason to get up.
When you got to camp, the first thing you did was….
Set up my hammock!!!!!
How often would you do laundry?
Not very lol... Max once a week... Often 10 days or so. It got pretty gnarly at times, not gonna lie.
It’s the evening and you’re out of your bike clothes, fed, and your tent is pitched. What are you doing to pass the time until you fell asleep?
Hanging out with people, cleaning my bike, reading my book (I read quite a bit) or wrote in my journal.
How many sink/hose showers did you take?
:P...... Quite a few.
How many loads of sink/hose laundry did you do?
Quite a few.
On rest days, did you prefer to go out and see what the town has to offer, or did you hang out, rest up, and relax?
A combination of both. I usually had to run errands (i.e. laundromat, bike shop, grocery store) so I wouldn't veg all day but I certainly wouldn't set an alarm clock. Of course, I'd still not sleep in past 7 because that was our sleep schedule.
What’s your favorite memory from your trip?
So hard to isolate just one. Glacier is an obvious high... and all of Washington. There were also lots of silly moments that I loved. For example, we had a no-hands dance party on our bikes for 45 miles on a bike path in Minnesota on the 4th of July.
Do you keep in touch with many of your teammates?
I keep in touch with a handful of my teammates. I actually had a fellow rider crash on my couch in NYC this weekend!
Has the trip changed you as a person, or the way you see life?
Absolutely. I've slowed down my pace of life so much since the trip. It was such a luxury to spend a whole summer outside doing something athletic that was fundamentally not competitive in nature (a pace that was very new and different for me). I have also become much more comfortable with free time than I have ever been in my life.
Do you have any pieces of general advice for new cyclists?
Stop and smell the roses. Seriously..... Get off your bike if something catches your eye. Don't just crush miles and put in work. You'll be doing plenty of that as it is. Go on all the side hikes and adventures with your teammates and enjoy the crap out of this beautiful country. Man, these questions made me nostalgic. Man, I miss this summer. UGH.