This article first appeared in the July 2021 issue of Adventure Cyclist magazine.
Amid the stress and hardship of 2020, many people were positioned to evaluate their lives, sometimes taking a hard pivot to get on track with the life they hoped to lead. For my friends and me, this meant finally embarking on a three-month bicycle journey across the U.S. to break out of the poisonous nine-to-five routine. We wanted to experience America in the realest terms, one mile at a time.
In the beginning, it was simple: four friends, four bicycles, and 4,000 miles ahead of us. Just head west! June 20, 2020, at 5:30 AM, we set off from Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, on this epic voyage, completely ignorant of the mountains of lessons awaiting us on the road.
Cycling across America has a way of clearing one’s mind. The moment the pedaling started, the daily stressors began to fizzle away. Instead of worrying about finances, work, relationships, and the state of the world, our minds were focused on more manageable questions. Where will we sleep? What will we eat? Which way do we go? The whole of our existence was distilled down one mission: get to California. This simplification served as an opportunity to really get to know ourselves.
It was also an opportunity to get to know the country, to see it as plainly as we learned to see ourselves. And in that clear light of day, whether it was the cool hue of a sun rising on your back or the warm majesty of an old Kansas road as the sun set, it was truly blissful. The tranquility of these moments cannot be overstated. From the small coal towns in Appalachia to the impressive peaks of the Rockies and the vast open desert of Nevada, there is peace to be found in every setting.
The ability to capture it all with a camera is almost as valuable as the experience itself. The U.S. is an extraordinarily diverse country, housing pockets of unique character and culture as we made our way across. While the trip will remain ingrained in our memories for a lifetime, photographs allow us to travel back and relive the journey all over again. Not only do they remind us of our adventure, they also serve as a medium to communicate the experience with others. The photos in this series tell a story of the nuances of small-town America and offer a glimpse into the less-talked-about corners of this beautiful country.