People keep asking, “What are you doing it for?”, implying that there has to be a specific reason to travel by bike. A fundraising project. A cause. Raising awareness. One thing that the biker can point to and say, “Yep. Wouldn’t have done it if not for that.” This then assumes that biking is too hard, it’s not leisurely, and a person has to be paid or coerced into doing it.
I’m not being paid or coerced.
I’m also not independently wealthy, which is another assumption people have been making. I’m privileged for sure, but a lot of the reasons why I am capable of taking this trip have to do with decisions I made. I became a nurse. I am employable by profession. While I get to work a job I love, I also happen to get paid very well. I was also raised with four brothers, so a lot of the things that most women spend money on (shopping, hair, nails, clothes, make up, shopping) are things that I invest almost no value (or money) in. Because I grew up in a big family, my instinct is to be cheap. So I’ve saved my money, and now I’m taking time off. I don’t consider that independently wealthy, but rather financially responsible and goal-oriented.
Realistically, I don’t need to ask my friends and family for money on this trip. There are expensive ways to bike travel (staying at hotels, eating at restaurants) and cheaper ways (camping, camp stove, sandwiches and beef jerky). I’ll probably do a mix of these options. I’ve saved enough that I can be comfortable financially the entire time on the road.
I do need to ask for something, though.
For most of my time on the road, I will be a solo woman cyclist. People always say that there is safety in numbers, but there aren’t many other people who want to take this much time off to bike, so I’m going alone. My ask, then, relates to a more intangible goal: safety. Sometimes I won’t have consistent internet access, so Couchsurfing and Warmshowers might not be easily available. While I am sure that I will meet lots of wonderful people along the way, there will be times, especially in bigger cities, when I want to be able to ride into town, stay a few days, and explore what that city has to offer. I do not want to overstay my welcome with one host, so I’d like to have options.
Maybe you have friends in West Coast cities. Maybe you spent time in northern California and you know of a show house that allows travelers to stay when in town. Maybe you drove through Montana and have an idea of what roads would be okay to bike on and which would be terrible. Maybe you live in South Dakota and know that there’s construction on xyz highway until 2016. Or maybe you’re from Wisconsin and have an idea of which towns are sketchy and which will be fine.
I’m not looking to have my entire route planned by others before I go, but I will acknowledge this–I’ve only been to 4 of the 18 states and Canadian provinces that I am going to be biking through. So if you have been there, I will take the knowledge, advice, and thoughts that you can offer! If you have contacts–friends, family, communities–if it’s okay with them, I’d love to have pre-arranged people to meet along the way. If you do know that your friends like to host people, I would also love to have places to stay, especially if you know them personally.
As you may have gathered through this blog, I am also hoping to do an informal interview project with lovely people I meet along the way, with a focus on people of color, women, and trans* and queer folks. So if you know fun or interesting people in any of the places I’m going–hit me up! Well, ask them first, then hit me up!
So that’s my “ask”. The perception of danger is not going to stop me from riding my bike up and across this beautiful continent. I know there will be good days and bad days, and, having traveled before, I know that the kindness of strangers will impress and uplift me. I would still love to meet friends of friends and have a little safety net as I bike along.
Be my safety net.
For Reference, I will be going through the following states and cities:
States: California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Washington again, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, a little Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ontario, Ottawa, and Quebec.
Cities: San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Eureka, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Spokane, Missoula, Jackson Hole, Pine Ridge, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, Toronto, and Montreal.