Contributor: Elsa – @healmyplanet
I’ve stopped counting the number of miles I’ve been riding.
My objective was to make a solo cross-country trip biking from New York City to San Francisco while working (not easy to take three months off the grid); I didn’t care about piling up miles.
I would have never thought I would be able to go that fast and climb that high, though. It took me 44 days straight to go from New York City to Denver without a single day off.
It was a dream to visit Colorado and combine bike and hike (hiding my bike and pannier while hiking!). The family I stayed with in Denver brought me to a hike in Evergreen. Nicole manages to hike with her 12 months old daughter every week. She even cooked vegan for the entire family when I arrived on my first night. I cannot believe that people I don’t know are cooking vegan for me when it’s challenging to get my friends and family to do so (love you all). I just love how open this community is.
The same happened in Lafayette, IN. Deborah and Basil hosted me; they aren’t cyclists, but they love hosting via Warmshowers! How cute is that! We gardened together; we harvested tomatoes, chilies, coriander seeds (to make pesto), zucchinis, sunflowers seeds. It was just so special to do that with Deborah and talk for hours, with an herbal tea in our hands, before going to bed. Deborah even offered me a hat she got from her last trip to Alaska!!
I never leave a house without something to eat, some homemade muffins from Richard, fresh veggies from the garden, dehydrated apples and nutritional yeast from Maria, Sunflower butter from Nicole and Robert . . .so many gifts, too much love.
Every time I had a challenging day, I had the amazing support of the Warmshowers community. I remember a 5-hour bike ride between Idaho Springs and Keystone, Colorado; while I was on this huge uphill called Loveland (11.990 feet/3,654m)️, Maria sent me a text saying, “Hi Elsa. How is your ride going? Will you make it tonight? If it starts getting dark and you need a lift, I can come to get you. Maria” So I texted back that everything was « ok » (I was dying!). That I should be able to make it, and she replied, “Ok. Safe on the downhill. It is a hazmat road for truckers. We have a lovely vegan dinner waiting for you.” Warmshowers is just a fantastic community; Maria definitely helped me go the extra mile on that summit.
Most of us bikers have already experienced how hard it can sometimes be, and therefore we are capable of giving so much to help others. When I show up, I notice people’s smiles and warm welcome. When I enter their home, I feel like I’m a member of their family. I loved it when John, located in Kokomo, IN, told me he wanted to prove to his parents it was possible to bike everywhere and not own a car!
I travel light. I have two panniers; none of them are fully packed. I’m a minimalist and a zero-waste person (did I mention I’m also vegan!). I often describe myself as an environmental activist. And I love the idea of being able to travel 3 to 4 months with so few things. We just don’t need much. I’m trying not to buy any cold-weather clothes, technical clothes we call them. After Denver, some friends gave me two long sleeve tee shirts and a pair of socks (I only wear second-hand clothes), and I have to admit they are pretty useful because I can just put multiple layers on (half of the content of 1 pannier, ha!).
I did survive cold weather even though I experienced -22°C between Colorado and Utah. I cannot thank Calvin enough, who offered me to stay an extra night in his lovely place because it was too cold to ride a bike in these conditions, and the following day was supposed to be even colder!
I bike in the middle of a global pandemic, and even though the situation got better when I started in September 2020, it’s not ideal. Many shops are closed, the occupancy is limited, and it requires more effort from everyone. I tested negative for covid before going on this trip to make sure I wouldn’t spread the virus, of course. That being said, it’s just amazing how trustful people have been.
I’m vegan because I’m very concerned about the well-being of humans, animals, and our amazing planet. Riding through Colorado, I could see all these wildfires; it was so heartbreaking! I cried so much seeing these acres burning. I also cry for joy, realizing how beautiful our planet is. I’m also witnessing the terrible impact of our monoculture system! I mean, how much corn do we see all around in the US! I’m hopeful that, together, we can make this world a better place to live in for everyone, seeing how generous people can be and realizing that we are all capable of extraordinary actions.
In Steamboat, I stayed with Richard and Sarah. I love cooking for my hosts, that’s my way to give back, so I sent a text to Richard asking if there were ingredients they don’t like before buying anything. Richard responded, “Hi. It’s just me; Sarah got called to a fire. Whatever you whip up will be wonderful. Thx.” Sarah was called on to fight the wildfire raging in the region and wouldn’t be home for two weeks.
There are so many people out there really fighting to secure us all a better present and future. I want to thank all of you for your amazing efforts!