Post Trip Wrap-up

When I first thought of doing this cross country bicycle trek it was meant as a way to discover myself and begin a new chapter in my life. As such I was very receptive to relocating or staying someplace for a short time. I had no real plans on this trip. Anything went. 

 
As I look back now a couple of things served as a catalyst for taking this journey:
1. The accidental death of my father in late 1994 while he was riding his bicycle.
2. A breakup with my girlfriend of seven years a few months before my dad's accident.
3. I was not married or had children yet so I was free from any responsibilities.
4. Although I was only 33 at the time, I felt as though time was quickly passing by and that I still hadn't lived life.
 
During the trip I never used any of the Adventure Bicycling maps as I simply made up the route in the morning before I left or the night before. In fact, I've always loved getting lost on purpose and tell everyone that's it's impossible to get so lost that you can never find your way back home.
 
As I bicycled from state to state one question kept popping up from the various people I met and it was, "Aren't you bored riding by yourself?" My response would be something along the lines of absolutely not, I'm talking to you and there are so many things to see, hear and smell along the way. Things that you could never do if you went by car. Unlike a car, I could pull over anywhere and check out the sites, relax... I would even moo at the cows as I passed...
 
Me, the shyest guy in the world was talking to people everyday and enjoying it! This was a liberating trip to say the least. Everyday after I had finished a long leg of the journey all I could think, was of how worthy I am.
 
Enough of that. So what happened to me and the rest of the trip? I loved Chicago so much that I decided to stay for a year. I felt invincible and I knew I could make a go of it. I already had made friends here and people in Chicago were so friendly. In the grand scheme of things a year is not much time and I knew if it didn't work out that it wouldn't be that long.
 
Once I made the decision to stay I was able to get a job and an apartment within a few days. I then went back home and arranged to have my belongings that were in storage brought over. I had found a beautiful large studio/convertible apartment on the 24th floor in the Printer's Row section of Chicago just south of the Loop for only $720.00 a month. A complete bargain compared to New York or New Jersey rents. The apartment had a 24 hour doorman, indoor pool and fitness room, which I never used :-(
 
I reconnected with Greg who I had met the first day I arrived and we did plenty of bike rides during my stay. In fact Greg and his wife Ellen were so kind to invite me to their home for Thanksgiving as it was the first time I had ever been away from family during that holiday. Although he now lives in Washington state and I in Maryland we still get together and ride. We did Seattle to Vancouver, BC in 1999 and Bike Virginia in 2004 and hope to do many more as time allows. Greg is now the president of the Skagit Bicycle Club.
 
Meanwhile my friend Doug lived around the corner from me and we would routinely get together with groups of his friends so I was always in good company.
 
After the year was up I decided to return to Jersey where I remained for a few years until my move to Maryland in 2001 to be with my current girlfriend.
 
That bicycle trip, which lasted only three weeks back in 1997 has forever changed my life as it allowed me to reach my full potential and discover the real me.
 
Thanks for stopping by to read my story. I hope that it encourages you to go out on your own and discover what the world has to offer. Seriously, don't even give it a second thought. Just go ahead, live and explore.

 

The End.

Comments

Comment: 

Awesome story!! I just did a trip from PGH to DC, passing through Ohio Pyle on the old train beds you used. ALso, I could not agree anymore with you about this neck of the woods: old fashiioned, miserable people. I often question why I am here??? Anyway, I am looking at doing a cross country ride in the next two years and want to start laying the ground work to make it happen. Thank you for the inspiration.

Comment: 

I read your trip notes from Jersey to Chicago this evening and really enjoyed re-living your trip with you.
I am retired and ride a TourEasy recumbent bike. I do about 2000 miles a season and usually at least a week long trip a summer (mostly Wisconsin trips). Most trips are scheduled tours, GRABWAAR, SAGBRAW, RAGBREI, TOGIR, Northwoods tours, etc. I've ridden with a couple friends across Wisconsin and down to St. Louis. Sometime I'd like to ride out to DC (as my daughter lives out that way). I'm looking for a good route across the Appalation Mtns. to Leesburg, VA.
I wish you the BEST in your riding and if you are ever in the NW Ill. area, look me up. Keep Bikin' KLB

Comment: 

Great story and thanks for sharing it. Keep riding and writing.

Brick Thomas

Comment: 

Hey, great story. I long to do a cross country trip and just love biking. I may do a two week trip this summer during my break from work. I haven't made up my mind where to do it yet. Blessings!

Comment: 

Bernie,

I don't know if you still look after this site or not. I just completed a 9 day solo ride from CT to Chicago. I wanted to let you know your story was one of many inspirational things that made my decision to do the trek. Thanks again for a great story and some great motivation.

My journal is at: http://webpages.charter.net/nokkel17

Comment: 

Thank you to all who have taken the time to post a comment. It's awesome to know that others appreciate my writings and may have helped in their decision to do their own bike trip. Please, let's here more from all of you!

Comment: 

I just returned a couple weeks ago from spontaneously taking a bus to Columbia, Missouri.. a place I had never even heard of before I decided to leave.
It was all spur of the moment.. I actually left the next day after deciding I wanted to just... go. (I'm only 18, by the way)
While out there I bought a bicycle and road 80 miles north to a Commune I knew existed through a friend of mine.
all in all I really connected reading your journal.
Briefly, I rode to the commune, then 11miles north, then back down to columbia, then near 200? miles to St. Louis.
This done with a bike I bought at a wal mart for $189, a backpack, and a small bag I had ducktaped to my framed until Ethan Hughes at the commune gave me his rear rack!

right now I'm thinking about riding cross country from the east coast out west, but I'm thinking about finding someone to ride with me since it's such a huge distance.

Thank you for putting this online! I really enjoyed reading it tonight.

My best wishes,
Evan.

Comment: 

Hi Bernie,

Found your journal while researching a ride from NYC to Chicago which I am toying with doing next year - it has definitely given me food for thought! As you say, you only live once so just do it...

BTW - what happened to "S"?!

Richard

Comment: 

Great story. Still on my list of things to do. I've done an AIDS charity ride before which is fully supported, but never a trekking adventure like yours. Someday. More importantly, I love bike riding, but I've been lazy since the holidays started at Thanksgiving, so it inspires me to get my ass going and start riding to work again and stuff. Thanks!
Vanessa

Comment: 

Wow... Very cool story. When I was 25 I rode from Seattle, WA to California and reading so many of your "early days" experiences I see things that happened to me, too. (sending home some of my WAY TOO MUCH stuff, --books? why did I bring BOOKS?--not enough advance training, WHAT WAS I THINKING THAT I COULD EVEN DO THIS?, Oh great--now it's raining, etc.) It was refreshing to read your daily travails, as I have always wanted to ride across the US ever since that trip. (even the good stuff was similar--the kindness of strangers, the interesting coincidences, etc)

I was supposed to ride across the US in 1996, but my work schedule would not permit it. Then a 2nd trip was planned in 2009, but again, the timing is just horrible--off in the winter, working in the summer. I'm also concerned I won't have the abilities I used to when I was younger.

However, after reading your journal, I realize the most important thing is to just BEGIN THE JOURNEY! And that it's not about finishing--it's about the journey itself. If I make it all the way or only 3-4 weeks, I'll still be doing something for me that has been a lifelong desire. And there are NO RULES! It was so great to see those "short days" either 40 miles, or even "hardly any" miles... Most treks seem to boast 65 to 90 miles a day and that's too scary for me to commit to right now!

So thank you for posting this wonderful story--it has brought back SO many memories for me and you have inspired me to go ahead and make this trip next year even if I don't have an extra 4 months to train, or the perfect schedule for it to fit in, or any of the "ideal" things that kept me from going all this time...

I hope you are still riding and I sincerely hope you write more of your future journeys on this site!

Comment: 

Just wanted to say thank you to all those who took time to read my biking story and leave such nice comments here. I'm deeply touched that so many found it inspirational and stuck through all these pages to reach the end.

 
It is now 2009, a full twelve years since I took this trip, and I still consider this to be one of the high-points in my life. Rarely a day goes by when I don't think of this trip, a lesson I learned from it, some of the people I've met... Occasionally I'll see a reference to one of the towns I travelled through in the media... and confidently say, "I know that place" or "I've been there..." and feel as though I'm privy to a little secret that others aren't. Silly, I know, but constant reminders of when I took a chance and had faith in life and it, and "I," didn't let me down.

Comment: 

Good job! Thoroughly enjoyable reading.

Comment: 

Bernie,

Awesome job man!!! I'm reading a book called The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau and your website is referenced on page 26. Reading your daily journal is the best 2 hours I've spent on the web in a long time.

I completed my first bike tour this year in Colorado - Ride the Rockies. We covered 532 miles in 7 days - but didn't have to carry our gear. Here's a link to my blog if you're interested: http://pete2010ridetherockies.blogspot.com/ 

Thank you for having the courage to do what so many of us only dream of.

Cheers,
Pete

Comment: 

Oh man. I came to your website via Chris Guillebeau's The Art of Non-Conformity book as you are mentioned in it. I have enjoyed reading through your travelogues, thank you SO much for sharing! The idea of biking across America has been visiting my mind a lot since I bought my city bike in may. Mostly inspired by Forrest Gump, the movie. I know, silly, but coming from Puerto Rico, it has been a dream to travel this beautiful country.

You know what's actually funny? The Forrest Gump End Credit suite by Alan Silvestri just came up on my iTunes as I read your final entry. fate?

I think a bike tour to Minnesota to visit my good friend Angie is in store in the next year and a half. (first I need to get in shape, man!)

Again, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.

Comment: 

I've been thinking about a cross country trip for a while now. Little scared because I'm old (age 54) and probably couldn't put it together in less than a year and a half. This journal gives me courage though. I did a trip way back when I was invincible (age15) for three weeks across North Carolina. I am not a great minimalist and know I would try to bring everything. Also because of monetary concerns think I would have to do a lot more camping than you did. I guess because of my age and the weight I would carry if I do this I would "cheat" and use an e-cargo bike. Probably a Bullitt from Splendid Cycles in Portland OR. They have a great electrified version that can haul 100s of lbs. of cargo and pull a trailer. The motors are strong and the battery packs are becoming incredible (they should be @ $1300). They should be what I need to help me up those hills, and if I do my part in pedaling should give me good range. Thinking of adding an e-trailer that would be a popup camper. I feel the need to reconnect to people, and to me. And it would force me to get rid of five storage buildings worth of "stuff". I would love to go explore my roots in Canada and maybe visit my sister in MN. Wonder if Amy Nieto-Cruz made it there.
Anyway I join her in saying THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU

Comment: 

Bernie,
Just had to say thanks for the great read! I'm almost 57 y/o and had my right leg amputated 7 months ago, two weeks ago I raced the Sea Otter Classic, MTB XC race. I just bought a road bike, and want to cross the country on it would be amazing! My grandson and I are planning the trip for next spring (2014) I hope our stories will be as inspiring to others as yours! Thank you again. PS what happend to "S"?

Comment: 

Hi Jeff,
Thanks for your kind words and note about your bicycling endeavors. That's awesome that you are cycling despite the disability. I wish you only positive vibes on your travels.

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