Stories From My TransAmerica Bike Trip — as Told by My Credit Card Statement

Who needs to keep a journal when you’ve got a credit card statement? 
 
My friend Mark who I met on the TransAm was telling me the other day how almost a year later, he’s still processing the impact the journey has had on him. But the most detailed documentation of his trip, he said, was without a doubt his credit card statement.
 
I decided to pore over mine to see what memories it brought back. 
A ton, as it turns out.

Taylor and I ride our freshly-tuned bikes out of the parking lot, nervously giggling at the insane thing we are about to do.

I meet Piney, a cattle rancher, as I drink my morning coffee outside a gas station. I answer the usual questions — Where are you coming from? Where are you going? Why? How much does that thing weigh? 
 
Amazed by my story, he pulls up beside me a few miles down the road and gives me $50 and a tenderloin biscuit.

The point at which my Footlong habit begins.

The point at which my dipped cone habit begins.

We stock up on groceries for a feast with the gang and witness “Scavenger” live up to his trail name by stacking three slices of pizza on top of each other.

Erik and I duck out of the rain into a cozy diner and make ourselves at home. We hang our soggy bike shorts to dry, charge our devices, drink bottomless coffee, and later avoid confronting the fact that it has actually cleared up outside.

Small town diners are the best. | Eminence, MO

We set up camp in the garage of the Utica Fire Station, grab a gas station dinner, and eat it on the floor with Emily.

We sit on the curb of one of America’s very first Dairy Queens with our trail parents. As we lick our ice cream cones and slurp our Blizzards, Erik takes a spin around the block in new friend Lindy’s MG Midget.

A dreamlike swimming hole saves us from Missouri’s miserable sweltering hills.

I ride to a gas station at 5 am for my routine breakfast sandwich through tornado-like winds that nearly push me off my bike. I meet Mark, Erik, and Taylor there and we take cover in a steel car wash — probably not the smartest place to be during a thunderstorm. Facing each other, Taylor and I simultaneously scream as we both see horizontal lightening over each other’s shoulders.
 
We eat first, second, and third breakfast before finally hitting the road. As we ride out of town, we see a road bike with bikepacking bags parked by a convenience store which can only mean one thing — TransAm racer! We meet Jon Lester who would come in second in the Trans Am Bike Race, an insane competition that follows our 4,300-mile route in the opposite direction. In between chocolate milk sips, he eats a pack of mini doughnuts and tells us how he wiped out in the rain and eventually had to take cover in someone’s barn.

A photo with TransAm racer Jon Lester | Hartville, MO | Photo by Mark Roland

Someone calls me a hoarder on wheels and I ship a few pounds of my load home.

Taylor and I are treated to powerful tailwinds that push us 25 MPH without even pedaling. So as not to waste our good fortune, we stack our bikes by the Dollar General and sprint in and out in record time.

I take a break from some nasty side winds at a cafe in northern Colorado and meet David, a sweet veteran who’s racing the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. He convinces me to further pare down my load and buys me a second cup of coffee. We take our conversation to the Subway across the street and eventually reluctantly get back on our respective trails.

Later on Instagram, in response to a post of mine about striving to find the finances to keep biking, he would write — 
 
“When we crossed bicycle paths in Colorado, you on the TransAm and me on the Great Divide Route, I was homeless. Not just a little homeless, very homeless. As a disabled and homeless vet my consideration was not did I have the finances to do it, rather, was I going to let no finances stop me? I left Banff with $86 and completed the world’s longest mountain bike route. I have a home now, and I have finances and I pray to God those things will not be the very stumbling blocks that stop me from doing what I could do again!”
 
He’s currently riding the Divide again.

I walk into a supermarket plastered wall-to-wall with every single form of taxidermy you could ever imagine.

Steve asks the waiter what the cheapest and most calorically dense item on the menu is. The answer? Chimichangas. We feed our appetites, do laundry, and ride our bikes down a dirt road to the town’s tiny airport where I fulfill my life dream of doing a handstand on a tarmac.

Twin Bridges, MT | Photo by Stephen Bearden

I sob uncontrollable tears of joy on the front deck of a Seattle-bound ferry. Seattle was the place I began my first bike trip across America as a teenager so coming full circle was quite the out-of-body experience.

I take a mandatory carpet shoe selfie at Portland International Airport and board the NYC-bound six-hour flight that zooms past what took me almost three months to cycle. Crying, I gaze through the airplane window at the best decision I’ve ever made.