The Routine of Riding

January 5, 2017 - Mary Murphy rode the TransAmerica Trail in 2016 and kindly submitted today's guest blog.

Black. Black cables, black asphalt, black front rack, black tire, black handlebar tape, black speedometer. For 74 straight days, I saw black. But only when I was looking down. When I lifted my head, I saw lush rolling hills speckled with cattle, gushing streams that wound their way through valleys, and snow-capped mountains that reached into the clouds.

During the summer of 2016, I rode coast to coast on Adventure Cycling’s TransAmerica Trail bicycle route from Yorktown, VA to Florence, OR. It was a grueling adventure that pushed me — and the 13 others I rode with on this Adventure Cycling, under-30 tour — to new limits.

A cycling tour of this magnitude completely removes you from a normal daily routine. Instead of waking up in bed and simply tossing the covers back, when you’re touring, you have to pack up your sleeping bag, deflate and roll up your sleeping pad, and disassemble your tent. Every morning. Sometimes in the freezing cold. Sometimes in the rain. Sometimes before it’s even light out. You pedal all day, every day.

There are no coffee or snack breaks in the traditional sense. Rather, you cherish the random gas station that claims what it’s selling is coffee, despite how it tastes. You devour high-calorie granola bars, at least two or three bananas a day, and sandwiches so squished, they have to be eaten directly from the bag. You stop to eat under the shade of a tree by a stream, behind an outhouse in the West because it’s the only shade around, directly on the road because there’s no shoulder and the high grass could be filled with snakes, and everywhere in between. And forget about standard bathrooms. Any place on the side of the road that is at least remotely out of view of passing cars is more than acceptable.

Some days the miles and time fly by as you soak in the scenery and power up hills. Other days, the humidity in the East or headwinds in the West bring you to the brink of utter exhaustion and make you question every decision you made that brought you to this point. And as you sit on the side of the road hydrating and contemplating just how you are possibly going to finish the remaining 20 miles of the 82-mile day, you find yourself standing up, hopping back onto the saddle, and pedaling.

It might be slow and every stroke might hurt, but this tour is definitely a marathon, not a sprint. And you keep going and going and going. You push, you laugh, you yell, you smile, and you ride every day until you make it to camp. Camp might be a well-maintained RV park with spectacular mountain views or a kind stranger’s backyard, but no matter what the situation, it is “home” for the night.

More importantly, it is the day’s finish line. You made it, yet again. Unlike typical days, every day of touring on the TransAm brings with it new challenges and a sense of accomplishment. You are physically and mentally exhausted every night. But you did it. And you do it. All the way until you reach the Pacific Ocean.

Mary Murphy is a 2014 graduate of Davidson College and currently lives in Charlotte, NC. The TransAm was her first cycling tour but she’s excited to explore other areas of the country via bike in the future.

Photos by Mary Murphy


Adventure Cycling received over 150 applications for our Young Adult Bike Travel Scholarship. We’ll be busy working through them all, getting two young adults rolling on a lifetime of bike travel.

How about you? Would you like to submit a post to the Adventure Cycling guest blog? We’re looking for...

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Click here to get all the details about Adventure Cycling’s guest blog submissions, and thanks for blogging!


Klaus Lange February 9, 2017, 10:39 AM

Thanks for making me step into the time machine. Twenty years ago I wanted to do the TransAm, but instead I took to the road with two friends, going from San Francisco to Portland, OR, to Astoria. One of us quit, and then there were two. Halfway down the Oregon coast my other friend called it quits, also, and the real adventure began. You put it into more beautiful words, but we had that "open road experience". Also, your speed depended on your group, whereas I dawdled. Three hours in the morning, three hours after lunch, 60 miles a day, average speed 10 mph, setting up camp late afternoon, enjoying the sunset, or meeting the neighbors in the Hiker/Biker sites, or doing routine bike maintenance. At the end of the day I warmed the belly with some gourmet style Ramen, slid into the sleeping bag, and put in my silicone earplugs. It's that kind of routine and the simplicity of it all that I miss the most. I went as far as Los Angeles, then turned north to return to San Francisco, because I had a ship to catch. 2,000 miles in 2 1/2 months. It was a great experience. Thanks for bringing it all back.

Claire January 6, 2017, 9:17 AM

Great post! Love hearing about the trip from Mary's perspective.

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