A California cyclist puts her cushy life on hold - and comes back with self-realisation, eye-opening experiences, and plenty of poop stories
Sick brag: I rode my bike across the entire United States.
It all started when I saw an Instagram post from Search and State, a cycling apparel company based in New York City. The caption said, “If you’ve always wanted to ride across the US, now is your time. Join us.” The self-supported, cross-country bike tour was called the Search Brigade and was designed in a relay style - different ride leaders would plan and lead segments. Anyone could join at any time, for however long they wanted. Perfect for an inexperienced newbie to touring, like me.
The invitation scared the hell out of me, and when I get that feeling about something, I know I’m probably going to do it. The ride started from New York City in a week, so I had to decide and make moves quick.
Still, I spent the next few days hypothesising the effects of suddenly leaving my life and job in Los Angeles. When I told people about the trip, many immediately asked if I was “running away from something.” I didn’t blame them. The past year had been trying. I had some health issues that took me off my bike for a while. And, after nearly a decade of back-to-back relationships, I suddenly found myself single for the first time. I welcomed the independence, but the modern dating landscape was unrecognisable to me. (Humans had become swipe-able?) But this still wasn’t the reason I wanted to leave.
My life was good. I had a great job working for Warner Bros. Television, a vibrant social life, and was competing in pro bike races on a domestic elite road cycling team. But after five years of devoting myself to the sport, I was beginning to grow disenchanted with the lack of support and visibility for women’s racing. And the rest of my life just felt a little too perfectly structured and routine. On a bike tour, there would be no post-workout smoothies, foam rollers, or comfy bed to melt into. It would be unregimented, free, and animalistic.
I also couldn’t think of any reasons not to go. I asked myself, what the hell is even keeping me here? I’m not married, have no kids, live alone in a studio apartment, and consistently have chocolate and wine stains on my bedsheets. The world I live in can’t possibly change that much while I’m gone. The delusional fame monsters and thirsty pseudo-bohemians will all still be here - smugly sipping $5 iced coffees, breadcrumbing each other on dating apps, and spiralling in the endless quest for validation - when I return. (I love LA, seriously.) Like Albert Brooks in Lost in America, I was simply ready to “drop out of society” for a while.
When I got to New York, I stayed with my friend Christina, a plus-size model who has tried tirelessly, to no avail, to teach me the “light smile,” amongst other modelling facial expressions I will never be able to do. I brought her to the kick-off dinner for the trip. When we arrived at the Italian restaurant in Midtown Manhattan I thought we were late because there were only three people at the table, two of them being the owners of Search and State. The third was a Colombian yogi from Brooklyn named Alex. Over mushroom ravioli, I was informed that, while others would join us for parts of the trip, Alex and I were the only riders going all the way to LA. Christina and I erupted into screaming laughter. Of course!
Alex was the tiniest man I had ever seen. Up to this point, he had mostly used his bike to commute around New York, to and from yoga and Trader Joe’s. Someone was actually less prepared than I was for the next two months of back-to-back century rides!
Leading up to the trip, the riding was the only part I was confident about. The rest stressed me out. I hadn’t been camping since I was in the Girl Scouts. To prepare for the tour, I had made a to-do list. But if you look closely, there’s an important item that was never checked off.