September 16, 2014
It may not be apparent to everyone, but Adventure Cycling’s demographic is overwhelmingly on the upper end of middle-aged, and is also mostly male. With an eye to the organization's future and a desire for diversity, the Board of Directors approved something new in 2015 — two Introduction to Road Touring courses for the under 30 crowd, and two more exclusively for women.
I myself have been taking a keen interest in a very small intersection of these two categories — women riding solo across the country. Two of those I’ve met this summer were under 25; suffice it to say, the third was not.
Patricia arrived towards the end of June, having started in Seaside, Oregon, on her way to Hartford, Illinois, following Adventure Cycling’s Lewis and Clark Trail. I happened to be the greeter that day and was delighted by her story, her determination, her fascination with the history of the route she’d chosen. When I asked why the Lewis and Clark, she responded that she’d been teaching for a state Bureau of Prisons, had happened to show a video of those stalwart explorers to her class and was hooked. After a discussion of the relative benefits of panniers vs. trailers in the mountains (she was towing a B.O.B.) Patricia donned her newly-purchased Lewis and Clark jersey and pedaled away; 716 miles under her cleats, 2,435 more to go.
I was astounded when, not three days later, Claire came wheeling into our bicycle courtyard, riding solo from Portland, Oregon, to Chicago, on her way to a brand new job at a brewery. As young as she was, this was not her first long journey. A year abroad in high school had seen her touring in France, and she and her dad executed the obligatory junior year “college tour” through southern California by bike. This journey was perfectly meshing her two passions of sustainable living and long distance bicycle travel. She said that when she cycles alone she seems to be more approachable. And isn’t a major part of life's adventure the joy of meeting new people? I concurred.
By the time Jessica rolled through in early July, following the TransAm from Yorktown to Astoria, I was completely enmeshed in exploring the motivations of women biking solo across the continent. This young woman said she had been experiencing some angst related to joining the world of adulthood and full-time work. She had several career-altering choices to make, and found the thought of a months-long cycle odyssey inspiring, empowering. Jessica read books and blogs about touring. She joined Warm Showers and her first guest made her want to take off on her own tour that very day. She writes in her blog BikingAcrossThe.US, “I was struck with the idea that a long-distance bike trip was something I could do myself. Suddenly the future seemed bright and full of freedom and adventure and limitless opportunity.” Reading her blog is a delight — it's well-written, insightful, funny. I was particularly struck by her April 6, 2014, post wherein Jessica found, at that cusp in her life, her inner vagabond remained unsatiated, and that despite having studied abroad and traveled extensively, she still craved a “new and different type of adventure.” I believe she’s found it.
Post and photos by Mandy Hale
ON THE ROAD is written by the tours team — Lydia, Darrah, Mike, Mandy, and Arlen — tours specialists and intrepid bicyclists, covering all things related to the Adventure Cycling tours department. Check out our 2015 Early, Epic and Educational Guided Tours today!