First, a little info about you:
What is your age? I am 23 years old.
Where do you live? Bozeman, Montana
What is your profession? I am currently working as a chiropractic assistant and a physical therapy aid. Who knows what the future holds though!
What bike do you ride? I ride a Diva Orbea
What route/year did you ride with Bike the US for MS? The TransAmerica ride!
Do you have a connection to Multiple Sclerosis? I did not have a personal connection with MS before going on the trip but I definitely made a lot of meaningful connections along the way!
What made you want to ride your bike across the country? I love doing things that push me and challenge me, and I wanted to do something that was a bit out of the ordinary and maybe a tad crazy. I also loved the idea that this experience wasn’t all about me, but had a bigger purpose behind it, which I think made the whole experience more meaningful and powerful.
What was your cycling experience before signing up? Most of my cycling experience before the trip consisted of hours and hours on the stationary bike in our student center at school. As a distance runner in college, I trained a lot on the bike both while I was injured and to prevent injury. Most of my fitness came from running though. I bought a bike to ride across the country over Christmas break, and then I got to ride outside a lot more. It was definitely the most fun to ride/train when I could find someone else to ride with me!
Where did you find the most success fundraising? I have a pretty large network of people from church, school, and camp who love to support me and get excited with me about what I am doing. I posted my fundraising page on Facebook where the most number of people would see it, and that was pretty effective for me. I also had a lot of opportunities to tell friends and family about what I was going to be doing and I wrote a couple of letters explaining what I was doing and who I would be riding with. Surprisingly a lot of my support came from classmates and friends my age, which was humbling for me seeing my friends give and want to get behind the mission of the organization.
What was your biggest challenge while fundraising, or something that didn’t work as well as you thought it might? The biggest challenge is to just get over being afraid of asking for money, and wanting people to both know what you are doing but also know that in order to be successful, you need their help financially. Asking for money is always intimidating, but I have found over and over that a lot of people are excited to give, and just need the invitation to be a part of something awesome!
Embarking on any big trip can be intimidating. What was your biggest pre-trip worry? My biggest worry was what the relational dynamics of the trip would be like. I am a very social person and really like to be with people, so I was worried that I would end up riding by myself a lot, or that there wouldn’t be very many other people my age. I was also worried about food, and how all of that would work. There are just a lot of unknowns before the trip starts, but as soon as you get going everything makes a whole lot more sense! I was also worried about not having ridden my bike enough and getting saddle sores or getting hurt in a way that would stop me from being able to complete the trip. While this can happen, my fears were unnecessary because everyone comes in relatively on the same page, and the first couple of weeks naturally get you in shape and more comfortable on the bike.
How much training did you do for your trip? Most of my overall fitness came from just running and staying in shape that way, but I also rode my bike a fair amount. I think my longest ride was 72 miles and one other ride of 60 miles. It was hard to find the time to get in longer rides, and its never as much fun on your own as it is when in a group. Most of my rides were between 20-30 miles and I probably rode anywhere from 1-3 times a week.
Did you buy a bike for the trip, or was it a bike you already had? I bought a bike for the trip, because I didn’t think that the bike that I already had would be very comfortable for the long ride. I bought it off of Craigslist though so it wasn’t brand new, but it was a really nice bike and held up great throughout the summer!
What is something you wish you brought, but didn’t? I wish that I had a better bike bag, like one that went over my handle bars instead of the one that I had on the frame of my bike. A little bit of a bigger bag would have made it easier to carry an extra layer if I had worn it in the morning but then taken it off during the ride, or had more space to carry my bike lock easier.
I also wish that I would have had one of the camping stove stands to attach to my jet boil with a little pan, rather than just the tall pot. This would have made it easier to cook some different meals rather than just boiling water and using that.
What’s one thing you brought that you couldn’t have lived without?
I loved having my hammock because I really enjoy sleeping in that whenever possible, or even just hanging it up once at camp to hang out in, in the evening. I also couldn’t have lived without my jetboil. I used it every day to make coffee and oatmeal in the mornings and for the occasional dinner as well. And definitely my chacos as well, putting on my chacos was pretty much the first thing I would do once I got to camp each day. You’ve got to get your feet out of those hot, sweaty shoes!
What’s one thing you brought that you wish you hadn’t or mailed home?
I didn’t have much that I really wished I hadn’t brought. I probably brought too many layers such as a bigger jacket and a hat and gloves. I don’t think I ever used those, but I would have been glad I had them if I had needed them. I brought my running shoes thinking that I would probably be dying to run… but never once put them on to run and honestly never wanted to either, so I probably didn’t need those ☺.
Is there anything you spent a bit more money on that you were glad you did? Likewise, is there something you wish you’d spent more money on? Something I am glad I had was little packing cubes to organize my stuff in my cubby. I used one for my bathroom stuff, chammy butter, vitamins, etc., one for my socks and underwear so those were easily accessible instead of digging all around in my bag, and one for other miscellaneous items. I would recommend anything like that, that would help organize your cubby because it can get a little crazy in the trailer and it helps to just be able to grab what you need, and know exactly where everything is.
Also I would highly recommend buying or bringing a real pillow and towel. I brought both a camping pillow and towel and after about the first week, really wished I had a better pillow and bigger towel. While you want to pack light, you also want to be comfortable for the weeks or months that you are on the road, and small things like that can make a huge difference!
How many casual clothing items did you pack (for when you were off the bike)? I had two pairs or athletic shorts that I brought and three t-shirts and a 2 tank tops that I rotated through changing into when I got off the bike. I also had a couple of long pants and jackets for it was cooler.
How many pairs of cycling shorts/bibs did you bring? I had three pairs of cycling shorts and three jerseys. That was pretty much sufficient for me, but I probably could have used a new pair of shorts partway through the trip.
What type of camping gear did you bring? I brought a tent and a hammock with a bug net and rain fly, a jetboil with a lighter and fuel, a camping mug and bowl with spork, a sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and pillow.
Any advice for a cyclist packing for the trip for the first time? You definitely don’t want to bring more than what you will need, but you also want to be comfortable. I would highly recommend having a pillow that is comfortable for sleeping on the ground with, and a mat that is easy to inflate and deflate each day. Think about how you might organize your stuff so that it is easily accessible and organized. If things can have a certain place where they fit, it will make your life a lot easier. I did not leave my stuff packed in my bag, but instead, took it all out and organized it my cubby and I could just grab whatever I needed each day instead of carrying around a big duffel bag or suitcase each time.
What was your favorite on the bike snack?
My favorite snack is trail mix! I love anything with dried fruit and nuts, and if there is a little bit of chocolate in there that is pretty great as well! 😉 I also ate a lot of graham crackers with peanut butter and banana. This was my typical first rest stop snack, kind of like a second breakfast.
How often did you go out to eat? I really didn’t think I would end up eating out that much because it can be expensive and I thought it would be easier to just make my own food. But I would say that I did end up eating out on the majority of the days. Pretty much everyone ends up wanting to go out at the end of the day because it is an easy way to get a good, full meal, and also a fun way to explore the area you are staying, and be together as a team. Also cooking a meal on a camp stove it typically the last thing you want to do after getting off the bike at the end of the day!
Would you cook at camp often? If so, what was your favorite recipe? I probably cooked dinners for myself 1-2 times a week, and it often consisted of rice and beans wrapped up in a tortilla. Pretty much anything I made could be turned into some sort of a burrito.
What did you put in your day cubby (in the rest stop van)? I kept peanut butter, graham crackers, trail mix, bananas, some granola bars, and tuna fish packets that I would eat with avocado and hot sauce on crackers for a typical lunch. I also had things like sunscreen, hand sanitizer and a rain jacket for the rainy days.
What type of mirror did you use? I used a helmet mirror.
Did you prefer to ride alone or in a group? I preferred to ride in a group because riding alone, especially all day can get kind of lonely or boring. Riding in a group definitely helps with camaraderie as well as making sure you don’t get lost, or your not stuck if something happens with your bike. It is always nice to have someone else around if you are trying to fix a flat tire. But I would also highly recommend spending some time riding by yourself, especially through the mountains, where you can almost disappear and it is just you, your bike, and the road. I think there is something so special about moments like that. You also spend ALL summer with these people so its not bad to get a little bit of space and alone time sometimes.
What would you keep in your bike jersey pockets? I kept my map, sunscreen, and normally one snack just in case I needed it between rest stops. I also carried my headphones and my phone with me.
Did you use a rack/saddle bag/handlebar bag? I used a bag that straddled frame with a center pocket for my phone so I could see the screen, but I often didn’t end up using that much. It was a good place for my maps though and it was easily accessible.
Did you use a bike computer? I bought a Garmin 935 before the trip because I enjoy tracking my activity in general and knew that it could double as a bike computer for the trip
What was your normal pace? I like to ride fast and push myself, so if I was able to do that I would typically average around 17-18 mph but that is obviously depending on the terrain and how much climbing we have to do. But I definitely enjoyed the days when I was able to work hard and feel strong by riding a little faster.
Favorite vs least favorite ride days/states?
My favorite state to ride into was definitely Colorado. The day that we rode into Westcliffe was absolutely stunning and it was the first day that we could see the snow capped Rocky Mountains. I am from the Rockies, so it suddenly made me feel like I was close to home! I also love Utah because it is stunningly beautiful and different than any other state, but it was also the hardest state because of the heat and the amount of climbing. One of my favorite rides was the day into Hite Recreation Area because we were in the middle of the dessert, riding through the red rock cliffs, and it was just absolutely amazing, but then it was my least favorite night of all, and maybe lowest point of the trip because of the oppressive heat and lack of any shade at camp. That afternoon/ evening/ night were pretty miserable, but made for funny memories after the fact.
Would you rather be riding through cold rain or extreme heat? I would rather ride through the cold rain than the heat any day! The rain just makes for a little extra challenge and something else to focus on.
What was the most physically challenging segment or state for you? The state of Utah was challenging, but the scenery made it all worth it. Any day that we encountered a strong head wind was probably the hardest days for me, because it is hard to stay mentally tough when the wind is pushing against you. The wind is definitely my least favorite thing, unless it is on your back ☺.
Were you an early riser, or rolling out of camp right on time? As the summer I was an early riser and got on the road pretty early. Even though that is not necessarily what I would have preferred, it just became the routine for most of our team.
What’s the first thing you did once you got to camp every day? Take off my bike clothes and take a shower! Then I would set up my hammock or tent and just chill for a little while.
How often would you do laundry? I think we ended up doing laundry about every week, but sometimes a little longer than that. You can only wash your chammys in the sink so many times before you really just feel like that’s not quite cutting it and you desperately need clean clothes.
How many sink/hose showers did you take? There were a handful of times we showered in our blue tent shower with a hose, but I think I only took one sink shower when I didn’t want to stand in the freezing water. I was pleasantly surprised with the fact that there was pretty much a shower every day.
It’s the evening and you’re out of your bike clothes, ate dinner, and your tent is pitched. What are you doing to pass the time until you fall asleep? Sometimes I would read or journal about the day, but most of the time we would just sit around and hang out together. Some evenings our sites would be set on finding ice cream, even if that meant running a mile in the dark through the rain to get it! Some of my favorite evenings were when we were able to have a campfire and just hang out around the fire.
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? I did a mix of both typically. We would often find a restaurant to eat at so that would involve going into town, or we would go to a coffee shop to hang out for a while. Rest days also often included doing laundry and basic housekeeping stuff like that. One time we went to see a movie, so sometimes random things like that would happen.
Did you keep a journal or blog during the trip? Yes I did. I was not good about it in the beginning, but about half way through I went back to catch up. Once you realize how fast the trip goes and how much you forget, you definitely want to right it down or have some ways you will remember the places you stayed, the things you did, and all the people you met!
What’s your favorite memory from your trip?
My favorite memories include some of the toughest riding days where we were just over it and exhausted, but could laugh about it, or were just pushed to that point of being loopy silly. I made a lot of friends on the trip that just made me laugh and we would be riding along singing Veggie Tail songs or doing something else goofy. Some of my other highlights include riding along through the stunningly beautiful landscape, and stopping to hike to the top of the hill on the side of the road. These off road adventures were some of the most beautiful, and provided moments to be still and just soak it all in!
Do you keep in touch with many of your teammates? Yes! That is the best part! After the trip ends you are just thrown back into normal life and people want to know about how it was but no one can really understand what the experience is like. Talking on the phone with teammates is the best way to just re-live some of those memories and process the transition back into normal life together. I am going to be life long friends with some of these people!
What was your favorite service project or donation memory?
In Pittsburg Kansas we did a service project with a woman named Marci. While we were there to help with a few small house projects, the best part was just standing around and listening to her tell her story. Her testimony was powerful about how God has given her strength to battle through MS, and how He has used her story to touch the lives of those around her. Meeting her was humbling, encouraging, and empowering!
Do you feel like you are more aware of the impact that MS has on the lives of those affected by it? Yes I definitely am more aware of the impact that MS has on the lives of so many. I didn’t really have much of an understanding of MS before the trip, but it was crazy the number of times along the way that we would just be stopped to use the bathroom or something and someone would see our jerseys or our van and come over to talk to us because they have a personal connection with MS. Seeing how lives are impacted by the disease and how appreciative so many people were for what we were doing definitely made an impact on me.
What was your biggest takeaway from the trip? My biggest takeaway was seeing what kind of an impact we can have when we work together as a team to accomplish something. Not only did we successfully peddle our bikes 3,785 miles across the country but be raised a lot of money to benefit research and treatment of MS, and we created life long friendships that will be valuable forever. Seeing lives of my teammates changed as well made the whole trip worth it. Belonging to a team, and being a part of something that is bigger than yourself, is powerful, and so many of us experienced that this summer. We all became family and nothing will ever replace that!