About Michelle Ellis
Has the trip changed you as a person or the way you see life?
Absolutely. I met so many interesting people who have influenced my choices for the better. Life is too short not to follow your passion and enjoy a balanced life-style. I quit my job during the ride (Eureka, MT) and decided to move out west to be close to family, to find a job I love and become much more active.
What is your age?
What made you want to ride your bike across the country?
I have done shorter events like Cycle Oregon and a Backroads trip...and I really enjoyed them. Bike the US allowed me to check an amazing item off my bucket list, while supporting a cause that I believe in.
Where do you live?
I lived in Raleigh at the ride, but now live in Louisville, CO
What is your profession?
I am a tech product manager for a company that builds mobile apps and websites for NCAA sports programs.
What route did you ride for Bike the US for MS?
How many miles did you clock before the trip?
I rode about 120-150 miles a week before the trip. I wish I had ridden more hills before starting the ride. I paid the price during the first two weeks.
What was your cycling experience before signing up?
I had done some week long trips with friends. Other than that, I would commute to work on my bike and ride for fun on weekends
Where did you find the most success in fundraising?
I found that company matching played a big part - lots of companies do this! Also, family and friends were more than happy to donate when they learned I was riding for MS.
What was your biggest worry before the trip and how did you handle it?
I was worried about not seeing my husband for long periods of time. We worked it out so that he would meet up with us every 2-3 weeks and he even helped with service projects.
How many fundraising letters/emails do you think you sent?
I posted on Facebook and sent an email to work colleges - the rest took care of itself.
What surprised you most about the fundraising process?
How many people wanted to contribute...without my even asking. I was surprised by this before the trip and even on the trip. It was overwhelming and humbling to receive such generosity from complete strangers.
What type of bike did you ride?
It would have been a Specialized Ruby Elite...but our car got rear-ended on the way to the ride...so a Specialized Ruby Soprt (last minute purchase on Memorial Day weekend). I got it at Goodales Bike Shop in NH.
What was something you wish you brought which you did not?
My sister...for the whole trip. She was able to join for the 1st week and the last day, but it would have been fun to have her around the whole time.
What was one thing you could not have lived without while on the road?
My smartwool black skirt - great for comfort, going out and for privacy for roadside pitt-stops....also Chamois butter...definitely chamois butter...
What is one thing you brought that you wish you hadn't?
Extra clothes - you really do not need much
Is there anything that you spent a bit more money on that you were glad you did?
Bike Maintenance in Minneapolis - had to trade out tires, repair my chain and such - bike felt like new after that!
How much casual clothes did you bring?
After getting rid of extra stuff...here is where I settled:
Black smartwool skirt
How many pairs of cycling shorts?
3...but ended up buying 1 more because laundry was not always predictable and sometimes, shorts would not dry when hung out at night...(especially in the beginning of the trip)
What type of sleeping pad did you use?
A Basic coleman pad - nothing fancy (I like a firm mattress, so makes sense)
What food was your favorite trailer snack?
Chocolate milk - amazing when cold, but stores sell milk boxes that don't need to be refrigerated...they were good too
How often would you go out to eat?
I would say about half the time - mostly for breakfast...I probably spent more than some on food overall, but for me it was about convenience. I was not a really fast rider, so I didn't have a ton of extra time for food prep.
Would you cook at camp often?
Sometimes...there was a group of us that would share responsibilities - some bought ingredients and some cooked.
Any dish with beans and rice.
Did you prefer to ride alone or in a group?
I did both - depended on the day. It was good to mix things up and have group time and alone time.
Would you rather be riding through steady rain or extreme heat?
Steady rain - as long as the roads are relatively flat.... I prefer the cooler weather and hiding in barns in the midwest was entertaining.
What would you keep in your bike jersey pockets?
Cliff Bars, Gels, Smart Phone, maps
Did you use a rack / saddle / bike bag?
I used a small bike bag under my seat for tools...and a handlebar bag for snacks and maps.
Did you use a cycle computer?
No - lots of people around me had one, which came in handy in New England where there were lots of turns.
What was your normal pace?
I averaged around 13 mph....no racing for me
How long did it take to learn to read maps?
It took me a couple of weeks. New England was challenging because there were so many turns, so I often depended on others. Once I had the hang of it, we were in the midwest - not many turns at all
Riding a flat terrain in a headwind or climbing a mountain pass for miles?
Climbing a mountain pass - especially in the west - they know about switchbacks...(the east does not know about switchbacks, but I would prefer to a headwind). I can remember riding for 98 miles in a headwind to Kathryn, ND - felt like riding under water - one of my toughest days.
What was the most difficult aspect / state of the ride?
I would have to say NH...lots of turns, some tough climbs and it was early enough that my body wasn't conditioned yet.
Routine - were you an early riser?
We were all early risers - usually around 6am, once people started packing up it was hard to sleep in. Towards the end of the trip, things were a bit more relaxed - maybe sleeping in til 7am...
When you got to camp, the first thing you did was....
Chocolate milk and then a shower or swim in a lake...
How often would you do laundry?
In the beginning, it was about every 3 days. You learn to do it when you can. Toward the end, we sometimes went 5-6 days between laundry.
What did you do to pass the time until sleep?
Played hearts, drank wine, explored, talked, blogged.
How may sink / hose showers did you take?
I took a few...by the end of the ride, I could go 2-3 days without a shower if needed. I think we all smelled pretty bad...but amazingly, I don't think we noticed..
What did you do on rest days?
Since there was usually lots to do, exploring, finding good places to grab a bite...or a massage....
What is favorite memory?
So many to chose from...but would probably say the day we dipped our tires in the Pacific - it was the perfect day and emotions were high, champagne was flowing. I still get a little choked up when I think about the day we capped off such an amazing adventure....
Do you keep in touch with many of your teammates?
Yes...on Facebook...and in person when people travel. It is nice to have such a lovely and diverse group to connect with from time to time.