Justin Field embarked on a TSD-sponsored cross-country bicycle trip to increase awareness for the Food Bank of Delaware and raise donations to fight hunger in the state. I recently spoke with Justin about his trip and about the challenges of a long trip.
Could you give us an update as to where you actually are and whether you think you will be able to make your deadline for Medical School in early August?
Well I have until Cesar City Ut. to ride on my bike and then because of the time the constraints I’m going to take a bus to Reno, and from Reno, I’ll go to Lake Tahoe. Then it’s on to the California border, from Sacramento through San Francisco.
In August 1st, and I’ll be moving into an apartment in Philadelphia, so realistically I need to be back about a week beforehand in Del. I’m shooting for July 25 to arrive in San Francisco.
Generally people who are cross country it takes about 2/12 months, so you’re not killing yourself with it, but unfortunately I have a little bit less than two months.
I don’t really just want to blow through everything I travel through. I needed to take a bus, because I started out wanting to do 80 miles per day and then [I began] averaging about 60 miles per day—at least about after the first week and half.
The people who I’m with are staying in the town I’m in, are staying here another day, to get to San Francisco, I would have to do 80-100, and it’s not really safe to cross the [desert] alone.
Could you talk about safety?
As far as heat, in school, my major was exercise physiology, so I’ve learned about how to avoid heat exhaustion and stay safe in the heat.
You have to make sure you stay hydrated, replace electrolytes because your, take breaks every 20 miles and find some air conditioning.
It was worse in the east where it was more humid, it’s been less humid, and it’s true what they say being more when about the heat that it’s variable,get it does get colder under shade.
Obviously I wear my helmet, but I try to stay visible and wear bright colors. I have a mirror so I can see what is behind me.
Other than that I think that nobody wants to hit somebody on the side of the road so they don’t hit bicyclists. We haven’t run into any problems yet.
In Utah there aren’t many roads, so we had to ride on the interstate, which isn’t allowed on the east coast, but out here the shoulder is really wide.
What challenges do you run into while you are traveling across the country that you wouldn’t run into during a ride around town or in the woods?
I guess one of the biggest differences is, you have a destination in mind and you need to get there—you don’t have the escape hatch of ‘if the weather turns’ or if you run out of something your close to home.
This goes along with safety, but [you have to watch for] thunderstorms, because we’re riding in wide open areas and you’re finishing up around 3 or 4, and almost like clockwork you get hit with thunderstorms.
You can either keep going if you think you’re down low, or in a canyon since lightning hits low. You have to be aware of all the changing weather conditions since you might need to get off the road. Some bicyclists might keep going if they need to make up the milage, but it’s at their own risk.
Another thing is having all of your gear on your bike and you have to have what you need. You are living out of your bags and your tent.
I packed really light, even for a cross-country trip. People on the road have even said “you’re ridning really light.”
I just have two pairs of bike shorts and bike shirts, other than that I have pants that are shorts, that the legs zip off, two t-shirts, a rain jacket, and flip flops.While I’m on the bike I wear shoes than connect to the pedals. Generally I get laundry access or I can wash my clothes in a sink.
Sometimes it’s difficult to wash clothes because I may have to find a public bathroom and wring them out as much as possible. I then have to put on them on back of bike and hope they dry.
Have you ran into any pleasant diversions or attractions while you have been traveling?
Well for one thing, I don’t think we have seen many of the tourist traps since we stick to so many [out of the way] roads. I haven’t seen too many ‘world’s biggest’ or whatever, but while traveling in Utah, there’s a lot of national parks that have the most spectacular scenery.
It was a big change from Kansas where it was just plains for hundreds of miles. Even when you’re not in the park, you see some great scenery.
One thing I’ve learned, is that a new incredible vista is just around the corner everywhere, and it makes riding that much more enjoyable. But we haven’t seen any kind of roadside attractions.
What kind of challenges have you faced with weather and traveling alone?
I guess weather has been something that’s been hard to plan for, because it really limits how much you can do in a day. That really hasn’t come into play until Colorado and Utah. Apparently the weather patterns have been unusual.
So that’s been something that’s been hard to plan for, and it’s kind of scary when you’re in an open plain or a valley and you can see the lightening hitting a couple miles away.
But you have to rememember that lighting strikes the highest object and we’re usually not the highest.
As far as biking alone, I never really imagined doing a trip solo. I thought about it in case I didn’t have anything to ride with. I was a little nervous about the rest of the trip, but it was something I had to deal with.
I just promised I’d tell myself I’d keep going and deal with it day by day so I haven’t really been riding riding alone.
Has it been difficult being away from home for so long? How do you stay in touch with people?
It has been a little tough being away for so long, but one thing I try to call my parents every night or every other night.
Facebook has actually helped a lot and keeping connected to everyone at home, and see people comment on pictures and write on my wall.
It does actually help to know people are following it and still be connected to people from home.
Even though I’m really far away, and I’m not able to talk to people on a regular basis. It will be really nice to see people when I get home and be in one place and not have to move everyday.
You can read Justin’s next dispatch tomorrow as he continues his personal account of his trip across country to raise awareness for the Delaware Food Bank and hunger in Delaware.