In July of 2021 I dipped the back wheel of my bicycle in the ocean at Carson Beach in Boston, before I set off on a cross-country trip, headed to Los Angeles. Here’s 5 takeaways from a 5,000 mile journey across the states.
Traveling by bicycle is the best!
When you travel by bicycle you are able to soak in all of the details of your trip- the sights, sounds, smells, etc… You’re living life at 12 mph (faster if going downhill, much slower if going uphill!). Although I have enjoyed road tripping inside a car in the past, the bicycle offers an opportunity to really immerse yourself in your surrounding environments. I fondly remember passing through all of the peach orchards in Niagara, Ontario; the wooded paths of Michigan; the lonely cornfield-laden roads in the middle of Illinois; the sound of Cicadas along the Katy Trail in Missouri in the dead of summer; the towering, open uniqueness of southern UT; the lonely expanse of the Mojave desert, and the ocean breeze once I finally made it to the CA coast. It’s not always easy to travel without guaranteed shelter– you might find yourself stuck in a hail storm, like I did on the Kal-Haven trail in Michigan, or in a snowstorm at 9,000 feet approaching Bryce Canyon NP. But the rewards far outweigh the struggles. I recommend bicycle travel to anyone, no matter how far or long you decide to travel!
The kindness of strangers will blow your mind.
Everywhere I traveled I ran into good-intentioned folks who were curious to hear about my trip and offer me a helping hand. I lost track of the number of times I was offered free food (even better, free beer!). Sometimes the world seems like it’s on fire, with the constant barrage of negative news, but after meeting so many kind-hearted folks from different backgrounds across the country, my faith in humanity was reaffirmed. Also, if you are planning a bicycle tour, be sure to use the Warmshowers service, which is absolutely amazing and a great way to meet tons of other folks passionate about cycling!
Your pre-bicycle tour diet will most likely change when you’re on the road.
I found myself eating and drinking stuff that never appealed to me before my bicycle trip. Energy drinks? Never was into them, coffee works just fine thank you, but when I was crossing the country I think I sampled all the Red Bull flavors and had my fair share of gas station junk food as well. When you find yourself burning about 5,000 calories on a daily basis, you’ll pretty much eat anything and it will quickly be turned into fuel. Also, beer is great after-cycling fuel.
You don’t have that much space in your panniers, so bring the right clothing!
My Coalatree Trailhead Pants and Trailhead Shorts were the most used items of clothing on my trip. Last year, I cycled from Boston down to Key West, FL and wrote a post on how essential my trailhead pants were on my journey. This time around, I added a pair of trailhead shorts into the mix, because you know, scorching summertime temperatures, and I was equally impressed by the Trailhead shorts as I was by the pants! These items pack light, are water resistant, do a great job wicking sweat, have built in odor control, and most importantly to me: they are super comfortable and made from recycled materials. My Trailhead pants are still in great condition after being worn on 7,000+ miles of bicycle touring, and my shorts are just being broken in after their first tour, with plenty of mileage left. I will not go touring without these two items in tow!
You’ll be comfortable sleeping anywhere after your bike tour.
Unless you have enough funds to stay in motels or hotels on a nightly basis, you’ll probably end up sleeping in some random places. I set up my tent in the middle of a baseball pitch one night when it was really windy outside and I was worried about branches falling on my tent in the surrounding woods. Another night, I ended up sleeping inside of an abandoned motel building, because, well why not? You’ll have plenty of opportunities to stealth camp on a cross-country cycle tour, and you’ll also have plenty of opportunities to camp in beautiful national parks and forests as well.