It all started with a dream. The weeks leading up to my college graduation, I envisioned a Forest Gump-like lifestyle tackling the country by bicycle that at the time I believed would be the first time any man had biked such a distance alone. Not only was I incredibly wrong, but from that point on my life would never be the same.
Upon waking, I ran to my roommates, Will and Wills, and announced that this summer I would be biking across America. Both, in a hungover stupor, stared at me unmindfully for they had heard countless similar ridiculous ideas from me over the years. “I don’t believe you’ll do it, Adam”, muttered Will. Wills quickly jumped in saying, “Adam’s just having another one of his ideas.” But this time it felt different, and though two of my closest friends probably didn’t doubt my desire to pursue this dream, they simply didn’t believe at the time I would commit to it. So whether it was to prove them wrong, or in order to simply prove to myself that I could do something like this, I rushed to the gym that day and logged my first 20 miles on a stationary bike (ok, it might’ve actually just been 5).
I arrived home with my head held high and began some of the most interesting research I had ever stumbled upon. I found the underground world of bicycle travel and was HOOKED. That night I discovered one of my now favorite biking idols, Darren Alff. Since 17, Darren has been bike traveling everywhere and after many years on the saddle has logged miles across more than 50+ countries all around the world. I couldn’t believe that such a feat had already been accomplished and, furthermore, by so many. My dream of biking across America now seemed so minuscule. But nevertheless, with a big boy job lined up a few months after graduation, I realized that this would possibly be my last summer for a grand adventure so I decided this was worth planning for and taking seriously.
After grabbing my diploma, I flew back home and traded my school books for a paintbrush working most of that summer painting houses in the Colorado heat. After a month or two of grueling labor, I had saved up enough to buy my first real bike, some gear, and enough funds to feed myself as I pedaled across the US. I put in my two weeks notice, and not before long I was on the road inching my way across the open roads of the TransAmerica Trail.
My original plan was to follow the 40 year old TransAmerica route from Pueblo, CO to the shores of the Outer Banks, NC where another close college friend, Bradford, would be waiting for me with champaign. But before I could get there I had thousands of miles to cover and countless life experiences to endure.
It took me all but 3 days to cross into Kansas. Roughly 200 miles from the Kansas-Colorado border, my hometown of Colorado Springs proved to be an easy downhill ride into Kansas and a simple transition into the bike-travel lifestyle. After what seemed like an easy start, Kansas was in many ways a state of many “firsts.” Even now, reflecting on this trip that happened three years ago, I have so many fond memories of this state. After battling flash floods, hail storms, unbearable 100+ degree Fahrenheit heat, and countless flats, I think I’ll always reflect on this state favorably because of the kind people I met who starkly contrasted the rough conditions I endured in Kansas.
A few examples: 1) After a few hours of being flooded in my tent, I found an opened post office to seek shelter in that night. 2) After battling a hail storm on my bike with no civilization in sight, a kind woman in a truck pulled over and offered me a lift to the town I was hoping on staying in that night. 3) After an entire day in unbearable heat, a retired couple near Hudson, KS invited me to a celebratory dinner at the community center where I ate more cinnamon rolls than I probably should have ever eaten in one sitting. 4) And lastly, after an entire day of never-ending flats and unrelenting headwinds, being offered shelter at the local church in Dighton, KS seemed to be all but a dream come true.
Kansas is a state where I experienced many of worst hardships on the bike but it also was a place where I was profoundly transformed by the kindness of nearly every person I met.
Next came Missouri.