The End 

Yesterday I set my eyes on the Pacific Ocean. Almost three months ago, I began this journey on May 4th, leaving from Yorktown, VA- a city located right next to the Atlantic Ocean. I began with the intention of fulfilling a number of goals. These goals included the following: 1) Raise $10,000 for Save the Children to be used to help Syrian refugee children by providing them with food, shelter, and education that they would otherwise not have access to, 2) To travel the width of the United States- following the transamerica trail from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, 3) To engage in and record conversations with many individuals regarding their views on refugees and immigrants in the United States. Admittedly, I have really only accomplished one of the three goals. Although I have yet to reach my $10,000 goal (currently around $7,800), and although I have not recorded as much of each conversation I have had publicly on my blog, I did indeed bicycle from one side of the country to the other. I also have met a plethora of incredible, kind, compassionate, and empathetic individuals along the way. 
I have learned much about myself and developed ways to deal with incredibly difficult life circumstances. I have raised a lot of money, that will indeed go to help many Syrian refugee children, and I hope that by sharing my story and life journey with others, along with genuinely and curiously creating a space for safe and vulnerable conversations with many others, I have spread positivity and compassion during my travels. 

It has not been a particularly easy undertaking, but I have found that choosing to move toward uncomfortable situations in life and embrace them with all their wisdom and complexity, one is able to better understand and adapt to the suffering that often times results from these situations.

I have an overwhelming sense of gratefulness for my family and friends who have been so supportive of my efforts. Specifically my mother Roxanne who has been an inspiration to me after seeing her learn from and adapt to life after suffering a stroke in December. Both my mother and stepfather, Eric, have been incredibly supportive and helpful in assisting me with the community fundraising events I held in Eau Claire before leaving. I would also like to thank my father, Phil, my aunt Janelle, my grandma Rochelle, and my brother Eric for all the emotional support and cheerleading that they provided throughout my journey. And lastly I would like to give a huge thanks to Sarah, my rock and my love- thank you for your unyielding love, understanding, and support. You will never know how much it means to me and I will try and communicate my appreciation for you until I die. 

I wish I could thank everyone I encountered along my journey by name, but the list would stretch forever. Also I am terrible with remembering names. Also if I have spoken with you during my travels- know that I genuinely appreciated our conversations, and any support that you provided me. When I think about how many people have graciously purchased a meal for me, offered their story, or let me stay in their house, it brings me to tears. 
I feel very lucky to be able to share the story of Syria and help support them in their time of great need. I know I will continue to advocate for and try and support other marginalized or underserved populations in the future in any way I can.
Yesterday I arrived at Florence, OR and treated myself to a celebration dinner at the waterfront bar and grill. I met the most incredible people- one couple from North Carolina who were following almost the same route as me, but with a vintage airstream trailer. They had lived in Germany for a number of years and the man (I am so bad at remembering names- I apologize) was in the army as a helicopter pilot. They had built their dream home in Germany and ended up selling it to move back to the US. They did not have children and they were very kind people. They ended up purchasing a piece of cake for me. Thank you! I also met an incredible couple from Portland OR who were taking a short trip to Florence. They are at the bar next to me and shared their life stories with me. Their names are Dirk and Mags. They had a great sense of humor and were retired nurses. It was a serendipitous encounter because I am interested in entering the healthcare arena. I plan on getting either an EMT or CNA certification and working towards a graduate degree in healthcare of some sort (physician assistant or something). They had some sage advice to share with me and I was able to pick their brains about potential paths towards a larger goal. It was wonderful to meet such kind people on my last day of riding. I was planning on seeing the ocean that night, but by the time I was finished speaking with all of these people- the sun was setting. I decided to go the next morning. Here are a couple of photos- the second two are taken from the summit of Mackenzie pass of the South Sisters (between Sisters OR and Eugene OR) and the others are of a bay near Florence OR, at the end of my journey. 

I apologize if I forgot to thank anyone else by name- know that I appreciate you even if I forgot to mention you.

Till next time.

Old friends, New friends

The last couple of weeks have really flown by. As I approach the end of my trip, I find myself reflecting back on all of the amazing experiences I have had, and people I have met. I have had some absolutely incredible and enlightening conversations with many individuals about Syria and the great need and suffering the children of Syria are experiencing. I have had the opportunity to fundraise for Save The Children, an incredible organization who is doing so much over in Syria. While I have not yet reached my $10,000 fundraising goal, I am creating more opportunity for fundraising and for conversation.
Tonight I will be in Missoula, MT. I will be staying with a good friend from high school, Riley Helgoe, who has also helped me to organize a couple of speaking events where I will have the opportunity to share with others the story of Syria and of what I have learned and encountered during my travels across the United States on bicycle. 
After leaving Colorado, I made my way north into Wyoming. There isn’t too much to report about that state, other than I was alone for most of it as I had not encountered any other transamerica riders going west. 

As soon as I hit Grand Teton National Park, the landscape changed dramatically and I was bicycling in the shadow of old, wise mountains. Here is a photo taken at a swimming beach near Colter Bay Campground, where is spend the night:

Here is another photo of the mountains taken from another angle:

After a long day of riding over a semi challenging mountain pass, taking a dip in the frigid water felt fantastic.

As I crossed over into Yellowstone National Park, I was lucky enough to be passing Old Faithful in time to see her blow:

I also passed some incredible forested wilderness and waterfalls:

While I was stopped for lunch at Grant Village in Yellowstone, I encountered a man named Joseph who was also in line for lunch. I told him what I was doing by bicycling across the country and he decided to buy me lunch and invited me to stay with him, his wife, and his dog in their RV that night. Although I had only traveled 38 miles that day (I typically go between 50 and 100) I decided to take him up on his offer. He kindly invited me to dinner and breakfast as ell. I ended up getting to know Joseph, Denise, and Kimbo (their dog) very well after spending a wonderful evening chatting around a fire. Thank you both for hosting me! It is kind people like you who continue to inspire me throughout this trip. 

I then spent the next night in Dubois, WY at an Episcopal church. 
I had been having some problems with my tires, as they are pretty worn down from the journey. I continue to getflats frequently and I plan on purchasing new tires when I arrive in Missoula. 

Overall, the scenery has been incredible and I look forward to having more informative and compassionate conversations about Syria during my time in Missoula, along with catching up with my old friend Riley and taking some much needed rest days before continuing on. 

Thank you very much to all of my incredible hosts. I apologize if I have forgotten to mention you by name. 
If any of you are going to be near or in Missoula, MT, please consider attending my event tomorrow night Friday July 14th at Imagine Nation Brewing from 6-7pm.

Mountains

I am currently at a rest stop near Walden, CO. I biked 60 miles this morning from Hot Sulphur Springs over Willow Creek pass (around 9,000 ft above sea level). The last few days have been incredible to say the least. I departed from Pueblo, CO four days ago, and have biked over two mountain passes since then. I have also stayed with numerous compassionate individuals who have opened their homes to me. A huge thank you to Sally (A wonderful artist who paints beautifully), Pat and Mike (found on Luther alum directory- not Luther alum), and Susan and Mark (kind homesteader off grid bicycle folks). 
I don’t quite know how to describe the feeling of biking over a mountain. I have been through many different ineffable mental/physical states the last few days, between not getting a lot of sleep last night to feasting on and slowly digesting incredibly sublime vistas with my eyes. Overall, it has been a wonderful experience. I have not seen many other cyclists headed West for a few days now, and it has allowed me to really become absorbed into the landscape I am biking through. It seems as though the last couple of days have been one continuous, unearthly moment of beauty. 
This morning I awoke in the campground at Hot Sulphur Springs. I got out of the tent walked over to my frost covered bicycle and squeezed my water bottle. It was frozen. I am not quite sure what the temperature where I camped last night dropped to, but it was very cold. I didn’t get too many hours of sleep last night. 
I have been thinking of Jason Creswell, the man I met in Hindman, KY from New Zealand who was hit from behind going over Hoosier Pass on June 4th. I came over Hoosier Pass two days ago and was very aware of how dangerous this particular road is as I descended down the other side. 
I will be getting into Wyoming tomorrow. My destination tomorrow is Saratoga, WY. 
Here are some photos from the last week:

Short Break in Denver

I have spent the last week in Denver, Colorado staying with a friend. During this time, I was able to get some much needed rest, hike at Rocky Mountain National Park twice, visit some nearby towns, rode some incredible roads on a motorcycle, and took a dip in the river at Ault rock. 
Here are some photos of Rocky Mountain National Park:

Thank you, Nick, for being a compassionate and gracious host.
I attempted to contact the office of International Refugee Committee here in Denver to try and see if a family or individual refugee from Syria would be comfortable with sharing their story. Unfortunately, after multiple attempts of calling they never got back to me in time. 
I also went out for a coffee with a wonderful young woman named Kristyn. We spoke about spirituality and I inquired about her life and the work she does here in Denver. She does a lot for the local community by trying to use the bicycle as a tool for empowerment for women through leading rides, building a strong female/trans/bi community, and teaching them how to fix bicycles as well. She is an inspiration and is also very passionate about coffee. Her dream is to open a meditation center one day. We met at a local coffee shop. 
I watched an incredible documentary put out by National Geographic called Hell On Earth: The Fall Of Syria and The Rise Of Isis. Here is a link to the trailer, as I highly recommend watching it: 
http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/hell-on-earth/
The documentary does a good job of outlining the various complexities surrounding groups involved, and historical events that lead up to and surround the conflict in Syria. It is very informative, but also very sad and disturbing. Please prepare yourself if you decide to watch it; at times it contains graphic and emotionally difficult material. 
I have been thinking of constructive ways to help others see reality from multiple perspectives in a respectful and constructive manner. After meeting so many people that are experiencing fundamentally distinct realities from one another, I am concerned that many have a difficult time empathizing because of this fact. I do not know if there is any one clear answer, but I am grateful for whatever brought this question to my attention. It will continue to be a guiding force in my life in whatever I decide to do next.
 It is amazing how the simple inability to relate to others due to living different realities can diminish our ability to empathize with one another.
It has been amazing to experience the amount of support many have shown to Jason Creswell, a man I met back in Hindman, KY who was also riding on the TransAmerica trail. He is originally from New Zealand and most recently had lived in the U.K. for a number of years. Unfortunately he was hit from behind by a car biking over Hoosier Pass and he suffered many severe injuries. The day after I found out about his injuries I started a gofundme account for any medical expenses he may have incurred being airlifted to the hospital. So far people have donated around $9,000! How wonderful! Here is a link to the page if you wish to donate, or just read more about what happened:
https://www.gofundme.com/jay-creswell-medical-fund
On Friday I will be taking the bus down to Pueblo, CO to continue on the journey to Astoria, OR. I am a little more than halfway, and expect to be in Astoria by August 1st. 

Kansas in a nutshell

I am two days from reaching the Colorado border. So far in Kansas I have met up with a great group of riders who are all traveling the same way I am, received great kindness from a 92 year old woman named Effie, been blown away (literally and figuratively) by the landscape, had some damn fine pie, spoke with people about how they approach potentially charged political discussion, and finally was serenaded by a barbershop quartet of four old men who call themselves F.O.G. (Four old guys).

Today I biked 54 miles from Ness City, KS to Scott City, KS. The bikers I have been meeting at the common city park campground at end of each day all decided to wake up early in hopes of leaving before the heat and the wind. I decided to as well. By 12pm, winds reached speeds of 20-25 mph coming from the south and the air temp was around 93 degrees. Luckily by this point we had finished the days miles, but not before being greatly challenged by the wind, sun and heat. 

In Rush Center, KS a few days ago, a fellow rider named Joe and I stopped at a cafe and walked in to find a group of elderly individuals sitting at a table. At the center of the table was a stack of honey buns, lemon cake, and cookies. There was also coffee available. We were graciously greeted by the owner, Effie, who is 92 years old. She told us that she was not open, but we were free to join them for coffee and cookies. It was an incredible experience to be met with such kindness and to speak with individuals who had served in WWII. Everyone who was at the table had grown up in Rush Center. Some of them had left the city and returned, others never left. They shared military and travel stories while we drank coffee and ate cookies. 

Here is a photo of everyone:


I am sitting next to Effie in the photo. 

In Golden City, KS I stopped at Cooky’s, a cafe known for their pie. I ordered two slices of pie each with a scoop of ice cream- one blueberry and one apple. They were delicious. I chatted with the locals while eating.

Two days ago, I was staying in Newton, KS with a warmshowers host named Janet and her husband Orvin. They are both chemists. Janet worked for a drug company while Orvinh worked for an oil company. They kindly provided me with a place to sleep indoors, a tour of Janet’s Alma Mater, Bethel, a meal of spaghetti, and some good conversation. They are both Mennonite and Janet shared with me a bit about the history of the Mennonites. It was a very wonderful experience. They live in a  large Victorian home that they are restoring. It was built in 1844 and is absolutely beautiful. 

Janet drove the support vehicle when Orvin and their adopted children rode to Alaska on a bicycle trip two years ago. They told me stories of their trip and it sounded like a wonderful experience. 

Here are some photos of the sunrise and sunset, along with a couple others:

Long days, Free Breakfast

I would like to start this post by thanking the random family I met at McDonald’s while changing my first flat tire on this trip. Thank you for buying me breakfast. And for the conversation. I would also like to thank Tabitha and Joel at Mercy Cafe in Ellington, MO for a wonderful breakfast. 

The last few days have been beautiful as I have ridden through the Ozark mountains in Southern MO. There have been amazing rivers and waterways ever since crossing over the missippi river from Chester, KY into MO. Here are a couple of photos:

It has been wonderful to be able to speak with people that I meet about why I am fundraising and who I am fundraising for. Although I have not received many donations since I have started, I plan on organizing some community meetings in a couple of towns further west. The amount of kindness others have shown me has been absolutely incredible and humbling.

Today was a fairly difficult ride from Ellington, MO to Houston, MO. It was around 70 miles and amounted to 5000 ft of elevation change. In a typical day, I try to ride between 40 and 90 miles. This varies depending on weather and terrain. Luckily my knee has not been bothering me quite as much. 

While staying in Chester, KY, I met a wonderful human named Alan. He is from Wyoming and is finishing the Transamerixa trail he started a few years back. He has done the trail in sections, and is finishing it up now that his kids are grown and he is retired. It has been very inspiring to see the amount of people who are middle aged or older who are biking the transamerica trail. Alan is a retired high school guidance counselor and has done many amazing things such as taught English abroad in Istanbul and built the bike he is currently touring on. It was nice to speak with him about his life and hear about his journey so far.

I look forward to meeting many more interesting and kind individuals. 

Here is a photo of a moth I found outside a gas station:

Also, I should mention that I had my first flat tire yesterday. Not bad for completing 1200 miles before having my first flat. I should also mention that I had not put any air in either of my tires since starting one month ago. Overall, my bike is running well. I am happy to be riding a surly cross check. 

Gracious Hosts

I want to give a loud shout out to all of the amazing hosts who have graciously welcomed me into their homes and their lives over the course of the last three weeks. Unfortunately I only have a photo with the most recent, Maya. Here is a picture of her and I along with Justin, a transamerica cyclist I have met and rode with along the trail.


Maya, the most recent host, obliged Justin and I by accepting our request to stay with her for two nights, as Justin and I agreed to take a rest day, as my knee had been bothering me a bit. 

Maya lives in Berea, KY, a college town with a rich history of academia and arts. She works as a tour guide for Berea and at a jewelry shop. We had many great conversations about spirituality and shared a fantastic meal of homemade Indian food. 

Here is a photo of the stunning sunset after dinner outside of Maya’s house:


I would like to thank Maya, along with all of the other people who have hosted me over the last 23 days. Thank you to Katie, David and Joann, Ed and Becky, Laura and Tommy, and Paul. 

Yesterday a professor named Peter from Berea college confronted me in a coffee shop and inquired if I was a cyclist on the transamerica trail. I told him yes and he kidnapped me for the next two hours to speak with his class about how I read the maps that I purchased for this route from the Adventure Cycling Association. He teaches a course in Entrepreneurship for the public good, and he and his class are interested in presenting a case for creating a new trail system for cyclists. It was an incredible experience to be back in the classroom and to speak with such intelligent and kind students. I very much appreciated the invitation and I hope my input was helpful in influencing and advancing their project. It was a wonderful unexpected time.

Today I cycled around 80 miles from Berea Kentucky to Springfield Kentucky. Tonight I will be staying in a picnic shelter at a public park. The riding has been a bit easier after escaping some unleashed dogs in eastern Kentucky and the mountains in Virginia. 

That’s all for now.