QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
What did you most enjoy?
I loved the daily rhythm of physical activity. I loved jumping into lakes and mountain creeks to swim. I loved meeting local people and hearing their stories. I loved listening to Long Now podcasts. I loved to sit in a forest and enjoy nature. I loved camping or sleeping straight under the stars. I loved building things with kids. I loved the taste of chocolate milk after a long day on the bike.
What was your favorite state?
Lake Silver in the Sierra Nevada was beautiful and so were the Rocky Mountains. The most beautiful state as a whole was Utah: deeply colorful formations of red rock, pine forests and mountain creeks.
What was the hardest part?
It was never difficult for me to get into a good mood. I quickly learned that good old 80s music would make me happy, even in pouring rain with pain in my bottom.
I found it surprisingly hard to wait for other people in the morning to get ready. I would get agitated when people were taking things slowly. I realized that this caused no good to anyone, so I decided that when I was done I would pick up a book and read. That worked – most of the time.
# People have an intrinsic desire to help.
We have received kindness from strangers countless times along our ride. Most strangers did not benefit from helping us, yet they cooked us dinner or offered us a place to stay. Philosophers who claim that humans are intrinsically evil haven’t cycled across America in the 21st century.
# Human interaction is an important ingredient to happiness.
It’s easy to build a negative train of thought on your bike. I have found talking to someone – a lady in the gas station or a team member – the surest way to turn from upset to happy. Some of the best moments on my bike were spent riding side-by-side.
# The US is beautiful.
We crossed pine forests, mountain lakes, stretches of desert – all were gorgeous. Natural environments “re-appear” around the globe: the Katy-trail reminded me of Costa Rica; the Rocky Mountains reminded me of the Alps.
# United States’ cities are not designed for cyclists.
I find suburbs and strip malls the ugliest parts of the country. Riding into Nashville was really ugly – tens of miles of gas stations, fast-food chains and car repair shops. My hypothesis is that (1) cities are widespread because the car existed before many cities started to grow and (2) there was little or no spatial planning because there was abundant land.
# Intimate experiences are a fast way to learn about people’s character.
I only knew Turner when I started the trip. Camping, cooking, buying groceries, cycling and making friends with gas-station clerks is a quick way to get to know your team. I learned within days that Jeff will always do what he says; that Claire makes friends with strangers easily and that Ethan works best when he can deeply focus on one task.
# … but you need personal time to keep peace in the team.
There are days when the tensions in the team get very high: people want different things; the tents are wet and everyone’s tired. Time by yourself is the best way to take a fresh perspective on tensions and to become happier.
# Most people strive for relatively simple things in life:
a loving family; a nice home; good food to eat; education for their children and time to hang out with friends. The idea that every person is on a quest to become enlightened is false (if you are on this quest, pick your friends wisely).
# It does not seem that internet has deeply changed life in rural areas.
I had expected young people in rural Kentucky to have the same role models as young people in NYC. This does not seem true. The few young people I met in rural Kansas or Kentucky had dreams of working in local grocery stores and farms in stead of starting an organization.
# Be careful for sprinklers when you set up camp on a grass field.
# Swimming and napping are always a good investment of time.