Adventures with purpose require wise use of time, talent, and treasure. Thousands of hours, miles, and dollars are spent planning for, participating in, and processing after a Trans America adventure. The cost is calculable, but to make it a priceless experience depends on perspective and purpose. Choose today to bring purpose to an adventure and make tomorrow priceless.
The dream of the Trans America Adventure began talking with Jack about his son Ben doing the cycling trip over a decade ago. Seeing the United States up close and personal slower than 65 mph, but faster than walking had its appeal. People to meet, sites to see, and adventure to partake in fills the mind in the dream stage.
Dreaming is fine …. BUT! The physical demands to consider are many. Lots of saddle time comes to mind. How is perching oneself upon the small focal point of a bike seat for over 4200 miles possible? What amount of miles to average per day is reasonable for the group to agree on or just go solo to independently make that decision?
What weather challenges loom for the various regions of the country? Can each group member tolerate temperatures ranging from the 20s to the 100s? Say, a temperature swing from low 40s in the morning to 104 by the end of the day (it happened). The gestation period for a dream might be months or years, but the time comes to get serious and make some plans.
Serious planning with Jack began in 2014 with a projected actual trip taking place five years later. So the decision is made to deal with the known and perceived challenges and commit. The unknown and the doubts that this is doable even with the best laid plans makes it an adventure.
Next thoughts are whether or not to invite any others and how many? Inviting more into the mix brings complications. For every added person, group dynamics and problems increase exponentially. Conversely, there is more security, shared expenses, and backup with added members.
At least 18 months prior to the summer of 2020, five guys were on a list to consider adding to the team of Jack and this adventurer. The beginning TA Team of two had been on other cycling trips of up to a week with each of these five guys to gauge capabilities. The challenges noted in this writing literally paired the team down to two … pairs that is. So the original dreamers added two more riders, Jerry and Rob, to take on the Trans America Adventure. See the website TA2020.bike for each team member’s short bio.
The right group mix and number of teammates traveling together has the potential for life long friendships. The stress of such a journey also tests the best of friendships, so store up a bunch of “I’m sorry” apologies for regular distribution. Framing up expectations to bring purpose and clarity to the adventure is helpful no matter how many members participate.
Some of the initial forays that take additional shots at busting this dream are formidable. Who can afford to take two to three months to ramble across the country? Medical issues arise to delay trips. Heart surgery for a member of this team delayed the departure one year.
Time taken for an adventure supplants many other at-home tasks. Who takes care of an elderly mom? What about the dogs, cats, and birds? The grass needs cut. A business is in transition. Family members must take on new roles. Vehicles and equipment need maintained. Is all the ensuing chaos worth it?
All of this consumes time prior to the trip not counting physical training. Training may be 10-20 hours / week. As the old Midas commercial stated, “You can pay me now or pay me later.” Invest more training time prior to the trip, less muscle soreness follows. Go easy on the training and push through too hard on the trip and the risk of injury sky rockets.
Met Kyle, a solo Trans-Amer (4218 mile route) that had to take a week off due to a sore knee. First day back for this nice guy and things were good, but would the knee hold up? After the chat, as with many others, Trans-Amer’s never expect to meet again. Unfortunately not the case with Kyle.
The TA Team caught up to him at the Sebree First Baptist Church hostel. Wonderful place to stay, but not hobbling with a painful iced knee and doubts if another 770 miles to Yorktown was possible. Never found out if Kyle completed.
What was the projected average miles per day number for Jack and this writer? The higher the average, the more training required. Consider the training isn’t to get by and suck it up for a five day trip. Another thing to note is how much of the country does the traveler want to “see.” Some do 100 miles/day, but nothing more than a blur occurs for all of the wonderful things to experience and people to meet.
Do 50 miles/day and do the math (4300 / 50) for a big chunk of 86 days. That’s not with any rest or unfortunate happenstances popping up. Really, that’s more like a 100 plus day trip. Being on the road for long periods of time wears the most hardy individuals down no matter how glamorous the adventure.
Remember, it’s an adventure, not a vacation so challenges are arising consistently. The Trans America Team agreed on 70 miles / day, resting at least one day/week. Fortunately, expectations were met and the trip was completed in 70 days averaging a little over 69 miles/day. Being honest, the TA Team was ready to be home with two to three weeks left. The legs were achy, setup / tear down of camp was cumbersome, eating out got old, and loved ones were missed.
Back to the planning stage after a commitment is made. Now is the time to take into account the in-between surprises. The two to three months prior to the trip pops up new and unforeseen difficulties. Thousands of dollars spent on equipment, airline tickets, clothing, and miscellaneous stuff confirm everyone’s committed. Add numerous arrangements made to compensate for being gone for 70-80 days. All of the following are things that happened within three months of departure.
Passing away of a family member. Family vacation plans falling through. Tires ordered canceled by the vendor due to the COVID pandemic. Equipment breaks packing the day before departure. Sale of a team member business delayed. The pandemic brings a recommendation from the Adventure Cycling Association to not do the trip. Multiple closings of businesses and limited services along the route make the journey much more difficult.
The Trans America route passes through Missoula MT and includes a visit to the Adventure Cycling Association headquarters. As a result of the pandemic, only 60 people had visited when prior years averaged over a 1000. Many groups and individuals canceled plans. Windows of opportunity may never be there again for some of these adventurers. Another reason the Trans America Team considered just getting started on this trip a privilege.
Back to the team. Remember Kyle? Riding alone has its advantages. Kyle only had to consider what an injured knee did to alter personal plans. What happens with that situation on a team? Shoot the crippled horse? Leave the burden behind? Heartless alternatives that are not options. Also remember the pre-trip emphasis of framing up expectations.
What are plans B, C, and D? The Trans America Team began with four and unfortunately ended up with only three getting to Yorktown. Rob began the trip with great expectations, but it was not to be. In his own words, “The reasons are various, minor medical issues exasperated by hours in the saddle, wide temperature changes and smoke filled air from the forest fires burning along our route, etc, etc, etc.” As the rest of the team can testify, it was not due to any lack of grit. Navy Seals don’t give up easily and to get to the Colorado-Kansas border was no “ride-in-the-park!” (See Rob’s full explanation https://ta2020.bike/trans-america-end-of-the-road)
Suffering the loss of a team member brings mixed feelings. Daily seeing the struggles Rob had to endure commends the military veteran for completing 2,224 miles of the trip. That’s surmounting the Cascades and Rockies and getting to the Colorado-Kansas border. Losing a guy that personally bailed this Polish rider out of troubles more than a few times during the trip was like taking away a security blanket. Removing a key part of the team didn’t seem fair, but looking back it was the right decision.
In Rob’s case, the talent and ability were there to complete this journey, but stuff happens. At any given point in time a driver swerving, texting, distracted, being a fool, etc. is inches from ending one or all of the teams’ trip. The risk of a fatal accident exists as well.
One expectation was clear at the beginning. Constant reminders were sent to have people continue to pray. Failing to see guardian angels doesn’t mean those dudes weren’t tapping drivers on the shoulder or doing a little steering assist to avoid the TA Team members!
The mental aspect of the ride surprised everyone. The “talent” of mental discipline is mandatory. Riding for six to eight hours in noisy, dangerous traffic and keeping an intense focus to remain on the edge of roads with narrow or no shoulders taxes the mind.
Most drivers were courteous and gave a lot of clearance. Some roads without shoulders restricted drivers passing ability. Heavy traffic with cars coming the opposite direction led to tight spots making both driver and rider edgy. Blind hills and curves abound across the U.S. adding to the danger. Humbling to think of the thousands of passing cars with no problems.
Encountered an occasional butt-head driver in the 10 states. A few came close on purpose. Some gave the “number one” salute along with eloquent words. Others slowed down then punched the accelerator to leave a large cloud of smokey exhaust to breath. Fortunately, these were isolated incidents with an overall array of great and courteous drivers across the USA.
Daily awakening before the crack of dawn, eating, riding for six to ten hours, setting up camp, eating, and passing out from exhaustion for 70 days gets old. The talent of mentally focusing on bringing purpose to this adventure is necessary. Plenty of negative things arise, but pivoting to see the good in all of it brings growth.
Wonderful people, places, and experiences are in abundance. Achieving the objective of becoming a better man each time that mental pivot to the good is made makes the trip priceless. The article on God Glows Between The Shack And The Outhouse is an overall explanation of how that works (https://ta2020.bike/god-glows-between-the-shack-and-the-outhouse).
The treasure or dollar cost required for the Trans America Adventure is substantial. The choices of accommodations, food, conveniences, equipment quality, and ability to deal with adversity dictate what is spent. Minimalists and those that look for jobs along the way to pay-as-they-go are options for those with a shortage of cash. Allotting more time to minimize expenses is usually the case for these travelers.
Self-contained individuals and groups load up panniers and do the trip with various levels of expense. Having four team members in this group enabled sharing the expenses. A nice option to have in particular regarding accommodations that are pricy. On nice days and nights, camping is preferred. Ride in the rain all day or get a cold front with snow intensifies the adventure. Enjoying the option of staying in a warm dry place is advisable. Having the option to cook or eat out saves money too.
In the cases of people wanting to complete the route in as little time as possible expense is high. The lighter, faster, more efficient gear and equipment, the more expensive it is. Want a bike that is 10 lbs. lighter and faster with components that are high quality with less chance of breaking down? Cha-Ching! That costs money.
Setting up and tearing down camp takes time, and the equipment (tent, ground pad, sleeping bag, stove, fuel, etc.) add weight to carry. All this lighter, smaller, and more compact gear is more expensive. A tip from this writer, paying for the highest priced stuff may be outside the budget, but don’t go cheap. Go back to the Midas commercial, “Pay now or pay later!”
Spend nights freezing, wake up with a sore back that lasts for days, become hypothermic and things get miserable real quick. Lots of suffering as a result of saving a few bucks before the trip. The other advantage of getting quality gear and equipment is that it more than likely lasts for years and sometimes decades. A tip. Look for sales and be wise and buy used, quality things rather than cheap stuff. Find that eBay person that likes to shop online!
Adventure Cycling Association has a full array of packaged tours with little or a lot of support along the route. The biggest disadvantage is daily distance and destinations are set. Another disadvantage is cost. The more support and longer the tour, the higher the price. The big advantage is the focus is on the trip AND the bike is not weighed down with gear, food, equipment, etc. A huge advantage when pedaling the Appalachia, Ozark, and Rocky Mountains! The trip is hard enough without an extra 60 pounds of stuff to haul.
In summary, getting real and revealing the many things to consider when undertaking such an epic life adventure is necessary. The aforementioned information may seem as a deterrent to going on the Trans America trip and to a degree it is. Take this journey seriously and plan accordingly.
Time, talent, and treasure are required and it is hard, but do not despair. Where there is a will, there is a way! The edge one gets in reading Pedaling On Purpose is huge. Much more than a reference book of stories, the deeper meaning of this adventure is explored to enrich the experience.
Yes, benefit is derived for everyone that completes the journey. The value of bringing an intentional purpose to every facet of this trip takes the experience to another level. Each person has only one life and probably one Trans America Adventure so why not make the most of it?
Entertaining stories enhance the lessons learned during the trip. Make this an experience that maximizes growth as a human being? Take the opportunity to focus in the right way on the various phases of preparation, participation, and processing this adventure. Decide right now the adventure isn’t about surviving, but thriving throughout each of these phases.
Let’s get started!
I get a kick out of your comments! What took a lot of your time, talent, and treasure? Was it an “adventure” of education, business, relationship, or just a good old wilderness trip? What brought meaning and purpose to your adventure?