First, a little info about you:
What is your age? 32
Where do you live? I work down in Antarctica half the year, but am based out of the Greenville, SC area
What is your profession? Emergency and Operations Dispatcher. Part-time artist.
What bike do you ride? Lady Jade. She’s green. She’s beautiful. She’s a Novara Randonee touring bicycle from REI.
What route/year did you ride with Bike the US for MS? 2019 TransAm. I will be rejoining Bike the US for MS in 2020 as a Route Leader for the Atlantic Coast.
Do you have a connection to Multiple Sclerosis? My sister was diagnosed with MS in 2011 and a coworker at the dispatch center I used to work with was diagnosed with MS in 2017.
What made you want to ride your bike across the country? One of the girls that I worked with through my time in AmeriCorps rode the ‘official’ TransAm solo several years ago and ran into the Bike the US for MS crew. Listening to her stories of that ride inspired me to buy my bike years ago with the intention of biking across the country. After realizing that I would have a summer free from work, I jumped on the opportunity and made the decision to ride in honor of my sister.
What was your cycling experience before signing up? Before I signed up for the TransAm, I think the longest I ever rode on my bicycle was somewhere around 15-20 miles.
Where did you find the most success fundraising? I never realized how many personal connections I had to MS, not just through my sister, but also friends, coworkers, and extended family. After posting to social media, I was surprised to find people were more than willing to help out because of their own connections to MS.
My mother and sister also set up a quilt auction as a fundraiser.
What was your biggest challenge while fundraising, or something that didn’t work as well as you thought it might? I was doing most of my fundraising from a distance, so it was a very slow process.
Embarking on any big trip can be intimidating. What was your biggest pre-trip worry? I was concerned that I wouldn’t have enough time for training. That I wouldn’t be strong or fit enough to complete the ride.
How much training did you do for your trip? I biked quite a bit, but mostly on flat(ish) routes. I did a couple climbs up and down Paris Mountain here in SC, but my longest pre-trip ride was around 72 miles.
Did you buy a bike for the trip, or was it a bike you already had? I bought my bike several years before joining in on the TransAm.
What is something you wish you brought, but didn’t? A better helmet. Mine was pretty cheap and eventually fell apart at the end of the trip.
What’s one thing you brought that you couldn’t have lived without? Sun-sleeves. And my hammock.
What’s one thing you brought that you wish you hadn’t or mailed home? I mailed home my DSLR camera within the first week. And some extra off-bike clothing.
Is there anything you spent a bit more money on that you were glad you did? Padded bike shorts and a better saddle for my bike. Comfort was key.
Likewise, is there something you wish you’d spent more money on? My helmet. It was pretty cheap and fell apart at the end of the trip. I also realized the need for a better helmet after a close call when I attempted to barrel-roll my bike going through Kansas (I had a very spectacular fall).
How many casual clothing items did you pack (for when you were off the bike)? If I remember correctly, I had 4-5 t-shirts, a pair of shorts, and a pair of long pants (historical wool Rus Viking pants) as well as scrub pants for sleeping.
How many pairs of cycling shorts/bibs did you bring? For the TransAm, I had two pair of cycling shorts and three jerseys. I did a lot of washing in sinks. Next time, I plan on bringing another pair of shorts and another jersey (or two).
What type of camping gear did you bring? I had a tent that I set up a handful of times (I can count the number of times on one hand). I did the majority of my camping in a hammock, earning myself the title of Hammock King. I also had several blankets for colder nights up in the mountains.
Any advice for a cyclist packing for the trip for the first time? Don’t over pack? Think about what you would wear in an average 4-5 days back home if, instead of working, you were biking every day. Because that’s basically how it is. Focus on comfort and relaxation when you’re off the bike.
Also, don’t stress out about being fast enough or anything like that. It’s not a race.
What was your favorite on the bike snack? My go-to rest stop snack was peanut butter and honey tortilla wraps. I also kept granola and cliff bars on the bike to stave off on the go hunger.
How often did you go out to eat? Probably every other day for dinner, especially if there was a local diner or dive within walking distance. Good food makes me a happy cyclist, especially on hard and long days.
Would you cook at camp often? If so, what was your favorite recipe? When cooking at camp, I kept it very simple: boxed mac and cheese (the type that only needs water), spiced up with whatever was on hand (salt, Cajun spice, hot sauce, whatever your heart desires). I usually had enough to share.
What did you put in your day cubby (in the rest stop van)? Peanut butter and honey wraps (one for each rest stop). Extra cliff and granola bars (non-peanut butter ones as well for when you can no longer stand the taste of peanut butter). Some type of candy (usually starbursts). Usually a piece of fruit per day (apple or avocado were my go-to fruits).
What type of mirror did you use? I used a Third Eye Round Helmet Mirror. Unfortunately, my first one fell off, so I snagged a second one that refused to stay on my helmet. Gorilla Glue fixed that sucker in place! It may not have looked real pretty, but it worked.
Did you prefer to ride alone or in a group? It depended on the day. At the beginning of the trip, I found a couple people that rode about the same pace as I did and without them, I probably would not have made it. Once we hit the flats of Kansas, I ventured off on my own and absolutely loved it. On climbing days, I tended to ride solo. On the flatter or shorter days, groups would form and I would ride along with others.
There were days where I would jump from group to group or to riding solo. I would often head out in the morning at the same time as several others, then jump to another group or venture off solo when they hung out at the rest stops longer than I wanted to (or if they left before I did).
What would you keep in your bike jersey pockets? The map for the day. Everything else I kept in my bike bags.
I tried putting my phone in my jersey pocket near the beginning of the trip, but I sweat a lot and anything in those pockets would eventually get soggy!
Did you use a rack/saddle bag/handlebar bag? I was the only person on the TransAm that rode the entire trip with saddle bags. That is where I kept my slip-on camp shoes, bike lock, repair kit, extra tubes, extra water, extra biking sweater at times, and rain coat.
And I had a smaller frame bag. That’s where I kept my phone, snack bars, and my wallet.
Did you use a bike computer? No. I had no desire to have one. I didn’t even track numbers on my phone, mainly because I know myself well enough that I would get so focused on the numbers that I would no longer enjoy the experience.
What was your normal pace? I started off the trip somewhere around 8-10 mph. I slowly increased my pace as we made our way west and hit an average of 16 mph one day going through Kansas. But, to be honest, I wasn’t really keeping track every day, so it varied depending on who I was riding with or if I was solo.
Favorite vs least favorite ride days/states? Favorite state overall would have to be Utah, it was one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited, with the gorgeous canyons, buttes, and amazing views. For me, the deserts of Utah (and into Nevada) were some of my favorite days of riding, despite the heat and long, slow climbs.
As for least favorite days, probably the days that had massive climbs at the end of the day, like going into Blacksburg or Rosedale, VA or Telluride, CO. The worst section of the ride would have to be the last four miles into camp in Cainville, UT, where we hit brutal headwinds that slowed us down to a crawl. Those last four miles took me 45 minutes!
Would you rather be riding through cold rain or extreme heat? Depends if it is a dry heat or humidity. And is it pouring rain with wind and lightning? I can do dry heat all day every day (thank you saddle bags for the extra water). And I’ll let someone else have fun with the storms. But I would never turn away a nice, gentle cold rain.
What was the most physically challenging segment or state for you? The Rockies. Between the brutal climb up Monarch Pass and then Lizard Head Pass a couple days later, it was rough, but beautiful. And you would think, once you’re in to Utah, the Rockies end, right? Wrong. It just gets even more physically challenging, you just add some beautiful canyons and buttes to the mix.
Were you an early riser, or rolling out of camp right on time? I wasn’t the first to hit the road, but I was usually out of camp before the larger groups of cyclists. Once we hit our groove, I was usually out at some point between 6:15 and 6:45, depending on how many miles were on the schedule for the day.
What’s the first thing you did once you got to camp every day? Set up my hammock. Most of the time, this happened before I even changed out of my cycling shoes.
How often would you do laundry? Once a week? Then, I also supplemented that with sink washes for my biking gear every couple of days.
How many sink/hose showers did you take? A lot. But any time that there was an opportunity to take a shower, be it an actual shower, hose shower, or a jump in a lake, I took it.
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? Usually drawing. Or breaking out the mandolin to play music. Or talking with people. Or reading.
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 usually liked to hang out, rest, and relax. Though, there were times where I would go out for a little bit to go out for food or laundry. But I tried to stay off the bicycle on our rest days.
Did you keep a journal or blog during the trip? I know several people journaled and blogged during our trip, but I left my computer at home (on purpose) and didn’t want to journal. Instead, I did a daily landscape drawing on a 2.5 x 3.5 artist trading card. On the back, I wrote what day it was, how many miles, starting location and destination, and some general thoughts about the day. So, I guess I did a different version of journaling?
What’s your favorite memory from your trip? How can you narrow down all the memories into a single favorite?! It could be the amazing conversations I had with my riding buddies. Or coming into camp with the caboose party after a miserable day of pouring rain and storms, where we had to take shelter twice. Or it could be climbing the fire tower in MO. Or having my 8 year old niece and nephew show up to cheer us on. Or the T-Swift party through KS (don’t be hatin’). Or the beautiful views from top of the Rockies. Or riding through the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument. Or the terrifyingly beautiful descent into Cedar City, UT. Or being greeted by my grandmother, mom, and my sister (who I was riding in honor of) on the beach of San Francisco.
Do you keep in touch with many of your teammates? Yes. My teammates are more than friends that I made on the trip, they are an extended family spread across the world.
What was your favorite service project or donation memory? Cedar City, UT: Got to do some yard work for an amazing couple who was living with MS. After trimming some bushes and pruning some of the flower beds, I got roped into picking cherries. They had this beautiful cherry tree in their back yard that had hundreds of cherries that they couldn’t reach, so I spent an hour or so with a long pole with a wire basket attached to the end picking them off the furthest reaches of this tree. I enjoyed it. The team enjoyed fresh cherries. And then we had pizza. I call it a good day!
Do you feel like you are more aware of the impact that MS has on the lives of those affected by it? In my head, I always thought I knew the impact of MS because my sister was diagnosed with it eight years ago. After this journey and meeting some of the families and folks who live with some of the more severe symptoms, my eyes have been open to the larger impact of MS, not just on individuals, but on the entire community.
One of our Route Leaders and another cyclist who joined for the beginning and end segments live with the disease, so seeing their lives impacted first-hand was beautifully revealing. Meeting some of the folks along the road who we had an opportunity to serve on our rest days made me appreciate all that I often take for granted. And meeting some of the strongest men and women, whose lives have been severely impacted by their battle with MS has redefined what strength truly is.
What was your biggest takeaway from the trip? The community of riders and supporters who come from all walks of life, who have come together, be it from personal connections to MS or the desire for adventure, to make a difference and change the world. We had cyclists who were college students, business folks, teachers, retirees, vagabonds, and adventurers, who were each supported by their circle of family and friends, who came together to form a family.
Yes, we did a really difficult ride together. But the beautiful thing that happened along the way was that we came together as a family.