The Journey of a 1000 Thank Yous - Michigan to Georgia

The Journey of 1000 Thank Yous [photo from Doug, near Toledo, OH]

Idea and Preparation 

The idea came soon after I decided to quit my job. I knew I wanted to do a big trip and was ruminating over several 4-5 day trips when my mom asked if I could cat-sit for them while they helped my brother move at the end of September. Ding! The light bulb went off (and to my mother’s total chagrin) – “I should bike to help Keller move”.

Mom: “no. Stop this.”

Me: “I think I can make that work…”

Mom: “NO.”

Me: “Sorry mom, you’re going to need to find a new cat sitter”

From there, I really only had a few days to actually plan and make sure I had what I needed (tools, camp gear, clothing). My goal was to keep everything as light and lean as possible in order to maximize efficiency - I wouldn't carry a stove or more than 1000 calories at a time, planning on eating at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants on the way down. I chose to leave Sept 1 mainly to avoid Labor Day Weekend Traffic in unknown places.

Clean and Fresh at the start

I spent all of ~3 hours preparing the route mainly because I had no idea if I’d be pulling 60 mile days or 160 mile days until I was on the road. In my typical modus-operandi, I just jumped in and figured that the details would sort themselves out. The biggest things I prepped ahead of time was ensuring the bike was in best working condition possible (new bearings, new bottom bracket, new chain), I had enough battery to charge my phone, GPS, tracker, etc., and my camp gear fit. At 37 pounds, my setup was dialed (see packing list below).

those hairbows

People asked me what my greatest fear was setting off by myself with such minimal gear and planning on a trip like this, expecting to hear mechanical failures, being stranded, people, etc. Nope. It was dogs. I was terrified of getting bitten by a dog as I was rolling through backroads in places I didn’t know. Turns out, the worst state for this was Georgia, but they were Chihuahuas and the second worst was Michigan (which probably justifies this being a rational fear…).

For creepy people issues, I had bear spray. For mechanical issues, I had the supplies I brought (extra tire, master links, two tubes, pump, multitool, bungey cords, extra screws) and the knowledge I’ve accumulated over years. I drew the line at bringing an extra chain, and I knew that this would leave me vulnerable to drive train failures, headset and wheelset issues (spoiler: relevant), and seatpost clamp failures but … you can’t always prepare for everything.


Mom and I kick it off

Riding through Michigan was extremely familiar, flat, and easy. With Michigan, there’s almost always a gravel road that runs parallel to the (awful) paved road and you can effortlessly make route changes without much thought or worry. The biggest challenge to riding in Michigan was limited water resupplies (I stopped at a yard sale once for water).

The first 20 miles I did with my mom on her new e-bike, headed west to avoid riding in Indiana (if you know, you know). The miles went quickly and then I was on my own to my Aunt Jane’s house outside Kalamazoo, almost entirely on bike trail. I had a few kinks to work out, but for the most part, everything worked (and continued to work the way it should) throughout the trip. After a short 38 mile day, my Aunt and Uncle spoiled me with an amazing meal, bed to sleep in, and dinosaur-shaped-waffles for breakfast in the morning before I set off.

The second day was whimsical as I made my way to Tipton, Michigan where I’d stay with Kathy’s sister Kelly and then ride with Doug (from the Crusher!) the next day. The 113 mile ride was mostly uneventful and beautiful, aside for running out of water and leaving a town called Burlington mid meal because someone was shooting up something in the town park (weeeee).

I had my first taste of peoples’ responses to “where are you riding to?” questions too, which ended up varying by state. The Michigan version was to laugh heartily and be like “Georgia?! Oh honey, that’s incredible. Hey <insert name here>! Come meet my new friend Lo who is biking to Georgia to help her brother move. Can you believe it?”

Again, that evening I was completely spoiled with an amazing dinner, fire, bed, and homemade waffle breakfast (luxury!!!). The next day, Doug and I woke up decently early to start on a shorter day (was supposed to be 60ish miles but with detours and route ADD became 78 miles).

Kathy and Kelly (and I look normal height)

Doug and I had a lovely day, laughing and actually getting the time to talk and get to know each other better as we rode on dirt roads. We made it to our first state line crossing (Ohio) which kind of surprised me how much instant variation can occur – immediately we were on narrow shoulder suburbia. 

those perfect gravel days 


The magic of Ohio Rail Trail

Through Toledo and after a photo shoot on an old couch and a time trial to get in, we made it to Doug and Kathy’s house in Martin, Ohio. With rain in the forecast, my saddle sores starting to set in, a sore shoulder from the aero bars, I decided to spend an extra day with them + their friends and family to celebrate Kathy’s birthday. Sooooo worth it!!! We had a blast, lots of ice cream, and stronger and revitalized, on Day 5 I continued the trek south.

My Ohio Friend Group <3 

Doug helped me with the route along with Val’s friend Kari, and I decided that taking the Dirty Water Route (1 day gravel race spanning all of Ohio south-to-north) south to Ashland, Kentucky would be a solid choice. Off I went with Kathy, and we easily knocked off 45 miles that morning on mostly rail trails. It was, again, wonderful to get to spend quality time with Kathy and get to know her better as we cruised along the deserted (and wet) bike paths. Thank you x1000 to Kelly, Kathy, and Doug for hosting me!!

A word on Ohio bike paths - they are amazing. This state absolutely sets the gold standard for rail trail conversions and setting up an entire network of bike paths that felt like they were designed for touring. I ran into several families (not just 32 year old eccentric unemployed women) that were doing 2-3 day trips with their kids to campgrounds and hotels and staying on rail trail the entire time. Honestly, it sounded like a dream to be able to start from home and bike with family to some destination and spend the weekend together outside.

Typical camp set up - 1 person tent FTW

Back to the adventure, the hills started to pick up today (wait, Ohio has hills?) I made it to the Mohican campground that night around 6 (109 miles) and was excited to see the campground had wifi (usually horrified by this, but on this trip… woo!), put up my tent, set my clothes out to dry, crawled in my tent, and called Charles.

One of the concurrent life-things transpiring during this trip was the development of my relationship with Charles. We just started dating not too long ago, and embarking on this long of a trip with potential little-to-no communication for multiple weeks definitely made me nervous. Instead, what we found was that we both prioritized making a daily call and sharing photos from our day. Hearing about each other’s days was equally important and laughing with Charles was something I could count on every day. Instead of growing apart, our relationship grew as we got to know each other better in a similar vein to how with every pedal, I was closer to Georgia.

Day 6 kicked off with me getting on to the dirty water route and quickly realizing I wasn’t going to be able to do it. Very steep, loose and muddy gravel after the two days of rain, and the remoteness… I pulled the plug on it within 15 miles. Instead, I aborted to a road with a nice shoulder headed south and limped along, feeling hungry and defeated, until I found an Amish bakery.

Finding my footing again in an Amish bakery

Amish bakeries became a new love for me on this trip. With a sandwich, one of the best soft pretzels I’ve ever had, and a pastry, I used my phone to create a new route to a state park along the dirty water route (Lake Good Hope State Park), felt like a new woman after the recharge at the bakery, and soldiered on in the light rain, putting down solid mileage (109 miles). At Logan, I was exhausted (burrito for dinner) and made the call to go to Hocking Hills state park instead because it was 4 miles shorter but 100 ft more of climbing (ouchouchouch). I got into the walk-up only campsites, made my nest, hung up clothes, called Charles, and was out for the night.

Ohio farmland

Day 7 (day 4 of Ohio) was the push to Ashland, Kentucky. Despite bailing on the Dirty Water route, I clung to Ashland as a point of entry (no particular reason, just seemed like a good idea). Hocking Hills and some gravel roads absolutely kicked my butt in the morning (legs were beyond fried at this point and I hadn’t hit the mountains yet). Fortunately, I felt myself growing stronger every day and attribute it largely to the fact I was eating a lot of food and making sure I was keeping up with calories (another Amish bakery stop helped with this!)


Fog and vibes from Kentucky

After a steady time trial, I made it to Ashland. The Kentucky transition was marked by suddenly there were horse logos and references on everything. Realizing I had more in me, I decided to push to a hotel in Louisa. My goal was to do every third day in a hotel as a chance to shower, clean my clothes, and charge everything. With Taco Bell to go, acquiring a second sports bra at a thrift store along Hwy 23 (thanks Theresa!), I made it comfortably (111 miles). I did my laundry in the bathtub (it was gross), hung up everything to dry, prepped the route with Jake Houser for the next few days (Jake and I were trying to figure out the best way through the Applachians, which I had severely mis-underestimated) and slept well.

Day 8 was another time trial – I knew this would be a big day, with most of the climbing coming heavily at the end of the day, so I needed to make hay while it was cool and flat in the morning. I did! My first stop was around noon at Prestonsburg, KT at mile 60ish. I chained my bike to an electric grocery cart-scooter and ate a hodge podge of potato, nacho cheese, and yogurt + granola at a grocery store hot bar.

verdant Kentucky

While I was eating, two guys opened conversation with me with “you’re not from around here, are you? We know all the cyclists here” (they were optimistic I had just moved to Prestonsburg!). We talked about the trip so far and my planned route (“yep, 23 is the best way through the mountains. Boring, but least amount of climbing”). I asked them if they had a bike pump since I was a little low on tire pressure, and one of the guys said “sure, come out to my windowless white van at the edge of the parking lot”.

He wasn’t kidding.

But fortunately, they were actually cyclists and cylists don’t have time to be serial killers (interferes with cycling time). So again, one of the 100s of moments of kindness and support from strangers – I refilled my tires and was off.


hard work pays off in Virginia

The mountains picked up at the end of the day, and I had to cross multiple passes of increasing steepness. The final one into Virginia was brutal (Payne Gap), and I joked it was my entrance test into Virginia to make sure I was worthy (I was!). I summitted and descended into Pound, VA looking for the planned campground for the night.

the summit at Payne Gap

Unfortunately, what I found was that there was no real campground near town, the one 6 miles out was sketchy, and there were zero hotels in Pound. The nearest town was 10 miles away and the sun had just set and the shoulder on 23 had collapsed from being like 7 feet wide to being a foot. Uh oh.

I was out of water, so as my mom tried to help me find a hotel for the night, I pulled into a gas station to get food and water. Mom called and said there were no hotels available in Wise, and internally, I started to panic. This was bad. I was tired - at over 105 miles and 7000 ft of climbing for the day, and I was uncomfortable biking along the highway in the dark. So I walked into the gas station, and immediately went to the clerk, a gangly late 20s-ish man with scragly facial hair and verbally outpoured my problems at him.

Bless him – Dalton tried to help me. He told me not to stay at the “hotel” across the road (I had missed this one in the hotel search) because it was a “crack den” (“we see them all the time here in the store strung out … don’t stay there”). We talked about camping options (“Can I stay behind the gas station?” “I certainly wouldn’t”). And with a sigh and empathetic exasperation, Dalton offered me “I’ll drive you to Norton after my shift in 2 hours if you can get a hotel there – I can’t leave you here”. Almost in tears, I told him how much I appreciated it and he said “it’s exactly what I would hope would happen for me if I was in your shoes.”

Amazingly, there was a hotel room available at the Days Inn in Norton, and even more kindness, Dalton’s shift partner (they have to have two at all times because of the crack den…) offered to cover for him while he drove me to Norton now. So … we set off. Dalton had lived in Kentucky just over the border for his entire life, and we talked about COVID, his job, and the good and bad of politics over the last few years (risky topic to engage in as a hitchhiker, but he brought it up!).

After I threw money in his car (which he had refused to take several times and tried to throw back at me. I’m sure this was quite a scene -- two people throwing $40 back and forth at each other) I went to check into my room at the Days Inn. On the way, I got my standard interrogation (Virginia/Kentucky version this time) of what I was doing and “did I have a weapon on me? No honey, bear spray isn’t enough”.

I didn’t eat enough that night because I was still freaked out / in shock, and gave everyone an update (friends had noticed something had gone horribly wrong and I was moving too fast on the GPS tracker).

This was a big pivot point in the trip, mainly in that Michael Boyer offered to help me find a safe path along my intended route for the next day, and he continued to do this every day until the end of the trip. This made a massive difference in allowing me to finish the journey – it took the mental burden of finding safe places to stay, food stops along the way, and paths of least climbing off of me, which became imperative as shoulders got narrower, climbs got steeper, and food stops became farther and farther apart over the next few days. At least 100 of the 1000 thank yous go to Michael.

The next day I woke up late and started off with a breakfast at Hardees next door. I was hoping to make it past Johnson City, and this was my first day of trying to write checks my body couldn’t cash. The route kicked off with a 2000 foot climb over a pass (and a view from a + fire tower) with a fabulous gravel descent.

Bonus firetower climb because what's another 100 ft after a 2000 ft climb

But Virginia was relentless in throwing 14%+ grades over and over and over again. I stopped at a farm stand to buy a single peach (and everyone there seemed to be non-plussed there was a random cyclist from Michigan buying a single peach in the middle of nowhere). Brief and painful, Virginia melded into Tennessee.


brief and beautiful rail trail in Tennessee outside Erwin

After crossing the border, I stopped for lunch, which heralded one of the defining experiences for me in Tennessee – all my meals were paid for by random strangers in Tennessee. Again, a thousand thank yous and moments of kindness propelled me forward. I was exhausted and beaten up from the mountains in Virginia that morning, and I limped through Tennessee, pace dwindling drastically as the temperatures climbed in the afternoon.

Tennessee also was the first real “Southern State” (although I am sure Kentucky would contest to be included in this designation too). I don’t know how to describe it, but it was different – cars / people were politer but also city infrastructure was absolutely horrid for biking. As I passed through Kingsport, I was mostly riding on sidewalks and wondering when the heat and lack of shoulder on the roads would end.

truly felt like the laziest thing I have ever done

Finally, I gave up - deciding to camp at the nearby Warrior’s Path campground, which was absurdly nice and give up on my Johnson City dreams for that night. I did the laziest thing I think I’ve ever done which is order Thai food via doordash at the campground (it worked!) and after a short 50 mile day, I set up my tent early, ate my Thai food, and loafed in my tent talking to Charles, trying to recover hopefully enough to make it to Asheville the next day.

In the night, “the rain” started as a big system moved through the Southeast US. Fortunately I had rainfly and warning from a friend that rain was coming, so my gear stayed dry, but when I woke up in the morning to the steady drip of rain and the forecast said the rain would lessen the longer I stayed in my tent, it was hard to get up.

smiles still work in the rain

Eventually though, I figured I’d at least pack and get ready, and in doing so I met my neighbor in a camper. He offered me coffee under his awning, and we chatted for about 30 minutes as the rain continued around us. He was floored (the normal reaction) that I was biking alone to Georgia, but eventually our conversation moved to travel and dreams.

Again, I think this was the universe moving in odd ways again as I told him about the Golden Circle loop  in Alaska and that he should absolutely do it in his camper, and his eyes lit up. He said he got the camper for trips like that - to be out in the middle of nowhere and really to experience the world outside of Tennessee. I hope he does it – I could see the genuine pull and it felt like I was giving him a tangible goal to set his sights on.

A rain window emerged and I seized the opportunity and started pedaling. It wasn’t “easy” today but it wasn’t the endless hot death march that was yesterday. The climbing, oh the climbing, was relentless (I can’t even blame Michael Boyer, the area is hills in all directions), and the rain picked up just as I came upon a Waffle House (WaHo!) and stopped.

I ate, I lingered, I ate more, I talked to my neighbors, they paid for my meal (!!!), and eventually, even though it was still raining, I got back on the bike. It kept raining the rest of the day, and I made my way through the worst bike-route-labeled road I’ve ever been on (SR-81). After surviving it, I stopped at a McDonald’s in Erwin, where I couldn’t understand anyone there because their accents were so heavy (apparently it’s a thing - Erwin has it’s own dialect).

After Erwin, I began the long climb (re: test) to North Carolina and Sam’s gap. As I was climbing, things looked increasingly familiar and I couldn’t get it out of my head that I had been there before or something was resonant. Finally it clicked - my mom’s cousin Debby and I had hiked to Sam’s Gap before… Aunt Debby lived near there!! So I called Aunt Debby, and even though I was trying to push to Asheville that day and she had guests coming and a full house, we decided I should stay at her place for the night (but she was going to pick me up because I didn’t want to do the additional 1500 ft climb to her house in the mountains!).


North Carolina 

Descending into Mars Hill

So very casually and directly on my route 3 miles after crossing into North Carolina, Debby and Chas picked me up at a gas station while filling up their car (“funny to find you here”) and we went back to their place, where I was again spoiled with a warm, dry house, a hot meal, laundry (!), and all the food my heart desired.

casual pick up by Debby and Chas (the one at the gas pump)

It was such a nice visit to see their house and get a few hours to relax with them. But unfortunately, the road calls and after two abbreviated days, I needed to hustle my butt the next morning to reach my friend’s Lindsay’s house in South Carolina the next day.

Unfortunately, North Carolina was the worst state for me to bike through infastructure-wise. The roads were narrow + windy with high speed limits. However, Michael’s routes sent me through some beautiful roads, like Biltmore Forest and one of the best bakeries of the trip (in Weaverville outside Asheville).

near Biltmore Forest in NC

This was a day I struggled enormously with morale. I think it’s easy to assume Lo-on-bike = happy, but morale is the biggest unspoken challenge (similar to mental health) in long distance rides like this. It’s hard to push through feeling sad and hopeless. I’ve learned in most cases when despondency descends, I need to stop and eat. But morale issues when you’re in pain, you still have a long way to go, and things are non-ideal is normal; I wasn’t about to quit but I was having trouble keeping momentum going forward.

South Carolina 

idyllic South Carolina

After a final climb, I descended Jones’s Gap (another familiar name), entered South Carolina, and then made my way to Lindsay’s house in Traveler’s Rest (97 mile day). Her kids wanted to go jump on the trampoline when I arrived (“I mean, I can…”) It was great to catch up with Lindsay, who I hadn’t seen in 12 years since she graduated from Furman and I transferred to Colorado. Another big thank you in the journey of 1000 thank yous.

Seriously, this woman has not aged a bit since college!!

With a big day planned to make it to Georgia, I said a quick goodbye to Lindsay and family and headed on, had a breakfast at Hardee’s, and then started on the Swamp Rabbit bike trail, which I knew went through my first college, Furman.

Furman Belltower

I had been dreading revisiting Furman in Greenville – I didn’t exactly leave on great terms, a lot of the negative memories that drove me to transfer were forefront in my Furman-associated memories, and I left South Carolina thinking I might never come back. And yet, here I was.

As I stopped to look at Furman’s Bell tower and fill up my tires with air from a campus bike pump, I felt … the innocuousness of this University. It had no hold on me, and although I know I wouldn’t make the same choice again, I also felt the resurgence of good memories. Of some incredible people, like Lindsay and Jamee, that I met while I was there and the memories associated with them.

I also took a moment to savor how much I grew as a person while I was there, and that it was an experience, like so many others, that build the fortitutde I needed to become who I am today. My path may not have been the same without Furman, and in that moment, I let go of the fear I had of revisiting and instead, found an unexpected gratitude and appreciation for the experiences there - the good and the bad. And then I biked on, this entire spiritual realization taking about 3 minutes.

South Carolina brought another big lesson of the trip later that day, that with time and space, it’s possible to make new, happy memories in a place reminsicient of bad ones. I had previously associated South Carolina with Furman, but after biking through, I have a whole new set of memories layered on top that make me smile when I think of South Carolina, like biking through Sumter National Forest or finding boiled peanuts on the Georgia border.

Boiled Peanuts!!!

After another long day of beautiful albeit very hot riding (lower traffic than North Carolina at least!), I found the Savannah River and made my last state crossing into Georgia.


Georgia presented all the greatest challenges and rewards

The Georgia entrance test was sneaky – it was a 20 minute torrential downpour. My bike had been making horrible noises for several days at this point, but it started making really horrible noises after this rain. I had the audacity to laugh – is this it, Georgia? (whoops). Anyways, Georgia started off hilly and I made my way to Washington (119 mile day) and a hotel to finish out the day.

The last 10 miles of the day had been exceptionally hard, my bike feeling like it was dragging the whole time. I figured it was just that I was tired but the next day when I woke up, something felt very wrong with my bike. About 8 miles into the ride, I noticed the rear wheel was wobbling and stopped to take a look and discovered…. That something had completely seized in my rear wheel and it wasn’t spinning freely anymore (or really spinning at all).

I pinged Charles who identified part of the core issue – a bearing had exploded. Unfortunately, I have industry nine wheels (for non cyclists, these are the BMWs of wheels - they are very performant but require special proprietary tools and parts to work on them that I’d never carry with me on a bikepacking tour). After about 10,000 miles of no issues and years of abuse, my wheels had failed me, with the bearings being dead and the free hub utterly destroyed (as I found out later).

I went into triage mode, trying to ride with a loose thru axle (nada – it spun but the thru axle kept popping out). Then I tried an in between solution and still nada – I wasn’t moving fast and the wheel wobbled catastrophically. At this point, I brought in my best mechanical support team which ultimately included David Jang, Shaun Ivory, Michael Boyer, Daniel Perry, Donald Rau, Charles, and Eddie.

Shaun helped me diagnose the issue and identify the “stopping point” for a road-side fix (re: I couldn’t get the o-ring to free up my end caps despite yanking on it). David provided the wisdom that every mile I rode was very likely doing more damage and potentially setting me up to be stranded on the side of the road. My mechanical squad team tried to propose ideas or alternate solutions, but the nearest bike shops were far away (a 45 minute drive), I was uncomfortable hitch hiking, uber wasn’t an option, and I wasn’t going to ask my brother to drive me to a bike shop the week he was moving… after several hours and a long siesta at a state park (where I sunned myself next to the sign that said “No Swimminng - Alligators”), I made the call to give up and call my brother for a ride, 150 miles from Tifton and end my tour.

This butterfly came to cheer me on as I was deciding to DNF

I had accepted this decision and made my peace with it – it sucked. It brought up all kinds of DNF memories for me and made me wonder (as per usual) if was a quitter first and a finisher by luck. I continued to limp my way to Sandersville where Keller would pick me up after work. I stopped at a gas station, taking a much longer stay than I usually did - eating ice cream outside and talking to several people. I had stood up to throw out a piece of garbage before leaving when …

The real innocent heroine - Mary Charles

Mary Charles appeared into my life. Of course, I didn’t know she was Mary Charles. A cute woman in normal clothes beamed at me, and initially I thought she might be another person simply curious about what I was doing and why. But then I saw her turquoise bike earrings and said something like “Oh, you’re a bike person!” and knew this was a friend.

She had approached me wanting to ask about bikepacking since she was about to embark on a trip herself soon, but once she heard I was unfortunately at the end of my trip because of mechanical issues, she swept into action. “Oh no, this isn’t over yet”. Mary Charles immediately unleashed the small but mighty bike network around Sandersville and offered to let me sleep in her office.

Turns out, Mary Charles is the lead on the Hi-Lo Bike trail development project to bring bike paths to Georgia and also runs the Kids Bike League in Georgia. Her motivation? Her father was dedicated to building trails, and unfortunately passed away when a falling tree struck him while he was clearing trails. Mary Charles picked up the mantle of her father and scaled it out in a way that is going to change the lives for the better of people she’ll never meet or know; that’s how powerful of a mission she is on.

my midnight rescuers!

After many attempted solutions (repairing it, finding a wheel to borrow from the Kids Bike League Fleet), Mary Charles found Jimmy and Dianna who had a gravel bike with a potentially compatible 650b wheel (as he put it “this is probably the only other 650b wheelset in Sandersville right now other than yours”). At about 10 PM that night, Jimmy and Dianna came over and Jimmy McGuyvered (in a way that was nothing short of remarkable) his 10 speed, not-the-same-size thru axle onto my bike and … I was ready to roll. Sure, it didn’t shift cleanly and I couldn’t access the smallest and largest cogs in the cassette but … it was a miracle. Trip on

One of the things that stood out to me as they worked was the importance of Mary Charles’s work and how it’s going to change Georgia. Jimmy and Dianna talked about all the friends and people in their community who had been hit by cars while biking (“preacher got hit the first time on that road and that’s supposed to be the safe one”). Bike paths are the first step to accessibility to open doors to commuting, healthy recreation, connecting with others, and not having to risk your life to be outside.

trip ON

The next morning Mary Charles drove me to Dublin to give me a 50 mile head start (she had an appointment there and I shamelessly took the carpool). My last day was truly a culmination of the trip - I was exhausted, the temperatures soared to over 90F in the afternoon, and I started to run out of daylight as I approached Tifton. With a determination I hadn’t felt in years, I started a 40 mile time trial at a pace I knew would completely empty the tanks to get in that night.

Many times that day my legs wanted to quit, and then I would think about all the people who had helped push me along on this trip. The meals, the routes, the text messages, a wheel, “you got this lady”, etc. So many people were cheering for me to finish what I had started. This last push was my role in this journey of a 1000 thank yous, I had to keep going and complete what so many people believed I could do.

me and brother!

a casual ride to my brother's house

Pulling into my brother’s place in Tifton, GA in twilight was surreal. I smelled, the same jersey I had worn for 2 weeks covered in grease, my legs were wobbly, and I had made it – I casually pulled up to my brother’s apt with him waving me down as if I just biked across town to help him move. But I had biked across 8 states in 14 days to the tune of 1150 miles solo. It was funny when my brothers’ friends at a goodbye party asked “wow! You flew down to help your brother move from Michigan? Or did you drive?” and to get to say “Actually… I biked down here … saved a good chunk on airfare!”

Then began the real part of the endurance event, which was packing, cleaning, and getting everything my brother owned in a moving truck in under 3 days and then taking it all to North Carolina. I’m proud to say I made it all the way till Sunday (4 days after) before literally passing out sitting upright.

Closing Thoughts — 

I want to end, for now, with how this experience has changed or shaped me. 

One, it’s abundantly clear I would not have made it without the kindness of strangers and friends and people feeling comfortable in approaching me, for whatever reason. It was incredibly powerful to be a part of some greater connection the universe was trying to build – like now there is a piece of my heart (and for a while, my rear wheel) in Sandersville, GA in a community that asked “how can I help?” instead of “why should I help?”.

Two, I had assumed touring was all fun and games. It’s really not. At it’s core, it’s just like bike commuting. It’s not exactly “hard” riding as in high HR or even the dark places you reach in the long races/rides, but you have to be willing to ride in the rain, change a flat, deal with a headwind the whole ride, and figure out what to do when the only hotel nearby is apparently a crack den (ok that’s never actually happened to me on a commute). But like commuting, I find it the most rewarding of cycling I do – it’s purposeful and the value of the ride is entirely what I want it to be – did I make it? Did I climb that hill? Did I do a long day? Did I enjoy it?

eat it all or regret it tomorrow

Three, I have lots of thoughts about food and nutrition on this trip. I had fortunately just read Stacy Simm’s “Roar” right before this trip, and that helped me enormously, especially her thoughts about pre-cooling and getting enough protein. I’ll write more about this applied later, but I highly highly highly recommend that book, especially for female cyclists of all skill levels. It was absolutely essential for me to fully recover calorically every day, and that was hard to do when the ask was 100+ miles and 5000 calories. 

Lastly, I am filled with a sense of gratitude. I end a lot of posts and race write ups with gratitude, but this trip expanded my purview on what it means to inspire people to do more and to be a part of something bigger. I knew this trip would challenge me and change my view in some way, but the thought that echoed in my mind nearly every day was “we only have so much time”. Being able to be a bike bum and being healthy is a gift. The time we have to invest in people, places and things … it’s not a guarantee. Don’t put off dreams saying you’ll do it later. Who turns up for you, what you look back on and feel proud of, and how you give back – we only have so much time.

Keep moving and make the dreams happen.

route is available here

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