September 21, 2017 - Jenn Milyko is Adventure Cycling's Routes & Mapping Assistant Director.
I will admit right up front, I am ridiculously fortunate to be surrounded by people who support the idea of me as a bicycle traveler. Chief among my support team is the Adventure Cycling organization as a whole and as my employer. Besides affording me the time off, I felt comfortable leaving my desk and tasks in the capable hands of my coworkers. It was rather easy to turn off my work email and focus on the traveling tasks at hand.
I could not fully appreciate what it takes to pedal off on a journey of this length until I decided to actually undertake one myself. In my 16 plus years as a cartographer here, I have read many blogs and spoken to many bicycle travelers, but it just doesn’t quite settle into the bones the way riding day in and day out does. And wow, there are a lot of things to consider!
As a solo traveler the logistics fell on my shoulders alone. While I discovered I was quite competent to handle these things, I was exhausted at the end of the day. It was not only the exertion of riding, but also the strategizing about food and overnights, watching the weather, finding and following my route, and general worrying hanging over me on a regular basis. It took a couple weeks for my body to let go of the resistance to my new routine. In just under 2,000 miles of riding, my brain never did quite stop the constant calculating of distance to the next potential food stop or overnight.
On the plus side, I saw wildflowers nearly every day from Maine to Minnesota. I survived almost daily rain through the first two thirds of my trip. I met trail angels at all the right times. I proved my ability to figure things out on the fly. I exercised my spontaneity muscles often. I was more lonely than I expected, and yet I felt more supported over those weeks than ever before. I would do some things differently, and I would say “yes” to this adventure again in a heartbeat.
I learned so much while on the road, I imagine I’ll be reflecting on these thoughts for quite some time. Heck, they will probably creep into casual conversations over the course of my lifetime. I will focus on some of the work-related ones here over the next several months, while they are still fresh.
In future posts, I will address issues of navigation via paper and electronics, the use of Warmshowers, traveling solo vs. in a group, food as fuel, and route planning. If there is something else you’d like to know about, leave a comment below. Or in lieu of that, share a lesson you learned while traveling by bicycle this summer.
Photo 1 by Tammy Schurr | Photos 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 by Jennifer Milyko | Photo 6 by Glen Pawelski
GEOPOINTS BULLETIN is written by Jennifer ‘Jenn’ Hamelman, Routes & Mapping Assistant Director, and appears once a month, highlighting curious facts, figures, and persons from the Adventure Cycling Route Network with tips and hints for personal route creation thrown in for good measure. She also wants to remind you that map corrections and comments are always welcome via the online Map Correction Form.