Biking Across America
BY: Kristi Black
Today, we are pleased to announce that one month from now, Kevin and I will start out on a new adventure! It really hasn’t hit us yet because we are still in Ecuador, and will be here until the end of April. It is true though, and ready or not, it’s going to happen! We’re both excited, but I think I may be a little more excited than Kevin is because I have never done anything like this before. I have never put my body and mind to the test with anything like this, and Kevin has, and really, if you know Kevin (though he would debate this), is there really anything he can’t do? (Kevin: I am as excited as Kristi. I’m just not as nervous. And yes, there are plenty of things Kevin can’t do! Believe you me!)
On May 16th, Kevin and I will set out on the Warrior Bike maiden journey as part of Warrior Expeditions. Warrior Expeditions, originally known as Warrior Hike, is a non-profit organization designed to help combat veterans transition from military service. Marine, 2015 CNN Hero, Great American, and All-Around Awesome Guy Sean Gobin founded the program after recognizing the therapeutic effects he experienced hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2012 after returning home from multiple combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Sean realized other combat veterans could really benefit from a long-distance journey as well, thus he started Warrior Hike. The program first only entailed thru-hiking the 2,100 miles of the Appalachian Trail (AT). Recognizing the program’s popularity, Sean then added the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) to the program. In 2015, he added shorter trails, which affords those that may not have the ability or time to do one of the longer trails, such as the Florida, Arizona, and Ice Age Trails. This past year, he also added Warrior Paddle, which entails paddling the length of the Mississippi River in a canoe. This year, marks the addition of Warrior Bike, and Kevin and I are ecstatic for this opportunity. If you’ve been reading our blog from the start, you know that Kevin thru-hiked all 2,660 miles of the PCT as part of Warrior Hike in 2014. This past year, I was the volunteer town coordinator for the CDT Warrior Hikers.
Since learning about Warrior Hike, seeing first-hand how much this organization has helped so many combat veterans adjust, refresh, and reset to life after the military, I have been itching to do a Warrior Hike. Although, my heart has been jumping out of my chest for such an opportunity, my chronic knee and neck issues have prevented me from attempting one. It is quite questionable as to whether or not I could successfully complete one of the three major hikes (Appalachian Trail, PCT, CDT), and I have been warned that even attempting one of these three hikes would be putting myself at significant risk of needing knee replacement surgery soon thereafter. Nonetheless, there are days when I just want to get out there and do it. (Kevin: I can attest to this, because whenever I mention the fact that physically, she shouldn’t do one of these hikes, she gives me the patented Kristi Glare! Makes me shiver just thinking about it!) Then I am reminded that Kevin and I have a lot of plans in our future, and knee replacement surgery would significantly impact many of them, something I just don’t want to risk…yet.
About a year ago, Sean contacted us to see if we would be interested in doing a bicycle ride across the U.S. to get Warrior Bike started. We did not hesitate in our response. Kevin and I love riding bikes, love the outdoors (obviously), and we both feel it’s something I can physically do, and mentally need to do. Kevin and I started researching and found what we feel is the ideal route, the TransAmerica Trail (TAT). The TAT is an established bike route along old highways that spans across the United States. Some cyclists choose to go west to east, we have chosen to go east to west.
Starting out in the east, will mean the morning sun will be to our backs, not in our faces, and more importantly, not in drivers’ faces. Also, and though some may disagree, to us, the views get better the further west one goes, thus more of an incentive to make it to the next state, and then on to the finish! I’m sure there will be days when we will need as much incentive to finish as possible.
Am I nervous? Yes, I am. The thought of riding next to semi trucks scares me, and I’ve read there is a lot of semi truck traffic through Illinois. I’m also sure at some point, I’m going to fall off my bike. Kevin even came up with a mantra for me: “I am confident, I am coordinated, I will not fall.” Let’s just hope it works! (Kevin: I, on the other hand, KNOW I’m going to take a dive. As Kristi can attest, I get a little careless/competitive/suicidal on bikes and have gone down more times than I care to admit and ended up with some pretty decent road rash. The main concern for me isn’t falling, it’s traffic. There is no such thing as a fender bender when a bicyclist is involved in a collision with a motorized vehicle. Someone is going to get hurt.)
Kevin and I are very thankful that we get to do this ride together, even though I totally pooh-poohed a tandem bike for us, (the control freak in me forbids it, and I will not feel as accomplished finishing on a tandem). After Kevin finished hiking the PCT, we decided we wouldn’t be separated for that long again. We had to be apart far too often in the Marine Corps, and though there are times we like to have our “space,” neither one of us can stand being apart for too long [insert sappy love sigh here]. (Kevin: Insert happy sigh here for me too!)
Thus, on the morning of May 16th, we will dip our front tires in the Atlantic Ocean in Yorktown, Virginia and then turn our bikes around and head west. Our plan is to ride across Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and finish by dipping our front tires in the Pacific Ocean, in Astoria, Oregon. We are planning/hoping to finish on or about August 27th. (Kevin: And if we are still loving life, we plan to turn left in Astoria and ride the Coast Highway down to San Diego. That in and of itself would be an amazing ride. That’s the plan, but as our brother-in-law, Scott, likes to say: “When we make plans, God laughs!” So we’ll play it by ear.)
We are extremely thankful to Warrior Expeditions for this opportunity, to all of our sponsors and supporters whom we will be sure to acknowledge and thank along the way, and thankful to those who will be supporting and cheering us on.
We invite you to follow along as we blog and photograph our way across America. Pictures will also be posted on the Warrior Expeditions website and Facebook page. If you would like more information or would like to donate to Warrior Expeditions, simply go to the website: http://www.warriorexpeditions.org.
I have set up a separate category on our blog entitled, “Bike Across America” where all of our posts pertaining to this journey will be located. I mention this because over the next few weeks, we will be finishing up our Ecuador posts and pictures. Our goal is to be completely caught up with our Ecuador posts before we start the bike ride. (Kevin: Yeah, right! Good luck with that!) Unfortunately, the wi-fi in the Galapagos is so slow and unreliable that we have not been able to post any Ecuador blogs since we’ve been here. Once we get back to Quito, we’ll be able to work towards getting caught up.
In a few weeks we will post our next blog regarding Bike Across America, after we receive our bikes and gear (provided by Warrior Expeditions). I’m sure many of you are curious about what gear we will be taking with us and we will be sure to cover that!