Epic Trip #4 – Race Across America
This week’s Epic Trip story comes from Rachelle, a travel blogger and foodie whose high energy is contagious. She writes about what Epic Trips mean. Read her blog The Travel Bite and follow her on Twitter where she is known as @travelblggr. This is definitely the type of even that is perfect for adventurous solo travelers.
Have you ever sat in your car, gazed over the steering wheel at the highway ahead and had the urge to drive as far as the road would take you, curious of what you might discover?
There is a quote by Charles Kuralt that unfortunately has a bit of truth to it, “Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.” And he’s right, in order to really see America, you’ve got to get off the highways, pull out a map, and follow main street from town to town.
This month I did just that, coast-to-coast on a 3000 mile road trip across the United States from Oceanside to Annapolis. We crossed the Rio Grande and the Mississippi River, stood in awe in the middle of Monument Valley, traveled along a portion of Route 66, watched the moon rise over cactus in the desert, drove through the Rockies as well as the Smokey Mountains, and dipped our toes in both the Pacific and the Atlantic ocean.
Most would say that check-list was epic. But this journey had a greater purpose than sight-seeing as I was on the media team for Race Across America, the world’s toughest cycling race. While I had the luxury of enjoying this trip from the comfy passenger seat of a car, the cyclists competing in this event pedaled their way over steep mountains, through blazing hot temperatures of 110 degrees in the desert, and battling prairie winds of 30 miles per hour. At the end of the road, I was both exhilarated and exhausted, but I imagine the cyclists felt triumphant arriving at the finish line in Maryland and conquering such a tremendous goal.
It made me stop and think, “What exactly makes a journey epic?” Is it the distance traveled, the iconic scenery, or the practical wisdom gained along the way? Perhaps it is a well-blended mixture of all of those things. If the life lessons learned are what make an experience epic, then here is what I observed while chasing bicycles across the USA.
1 – Joy is found in simplicity.
Our job was to get the word out via video and social media. But between time stations along miles of road through America, there were no cell signals, no wifi, no tweeting or television. Just the view from the passenger side window of gorgeous landscapes and small towns most Americans themselves never see. Sometimes the night ended in the middle of a cornfield or a desert with no city lights but plenty of fireflies and starry skies. We camped. We ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Hot coffee and showers became a luxury that would bring a smile to our faces. For the cyclists, they simply focused on pedaling forward.
2 – No great thing can be accomplished alone
Each cyclist had their own team of people supporting them along the route, following behind in RVs and vans. Their duties consisted of everything from making sure the cyclist ate enough calories to laundry duty and even having a mechanic and nurse on board. At night, the follow vehicles would shine their lights on the road ahead and play upbeat music through speakers attached to the roof of the car to keep their cyclist motivated to ride through the night. These crew members don’t receive a medal at the end or their name listed in the program, it is a selfless supportive act to help their cyclist finish the race, a 3000 mile journey that a cyclist could not complete on their own.
3 – Never quit, ever.
One of the most important things I observed of all the cyclists was their positive attitude. Even when their bodies hurt, when the sun was beating down on their skin, when they couldn’t hold up their head anymore, they were still smiling and focused and happy to be there … riding 3000 miles. They were chasing a goal and a dream. You think it would have been easy for them to get tired, to stop and quit, to begin thinking, “I can’t do this anymore.” But in order to finish this race they all had to turn their inner critic into an inner coach that says, “yes, yes you can.” Not only had they dedicated themselves to training their bodies for the endurance, they had trained their minds as well.
Watching them, I was reminded of a time when I was sitting in a cubicle, wearing a suit and working for a bank while thinking, gosh, I’d love to travel and write and work in television. And this month, combining all three of those things, I can look back and say, I’m glad I never quit.