SAN DIEGO – Normally, someone without any experience or equipment doesn’t decide to ride a bike over 1,600 miles through three states. Whitney Wright said, ‘why not?’
The Wawasee High School graduate and now transplant in San Diego has always had a penchant for nature, particularly growing up around animals as her family owns New Hope Pet Rescue in Syracuse. While this journey wasn’t a sightseeing tour with nature preserves in mind, it was a venture to be outdoors and to take on new challenges. And certainly, just getting started was a challenge on its own for Wright.
Wright’s adventure set out from Quilence, Wash., situated just outside of Seattle near Bainbridge Island. The trek is an organized biking journey, which offers routes and points of interest along a rider’s desired trip. This all was originally conjured up while Wright and her friend, Kate Jameson, discussed wanting to take a tour after hearing friends who did routes from Maine to Louisiana and so on. There were just a few problems as the two sat and daydreamed about the great outdoors: they didn’t have bikes, shoes, or any of the equipment. Or much of the knowledge of how to make it all work out.
“We literally started from scratch,” laughed Wright, sitting at the airport to fly back to California after visiting home over the holiday weekend. “We had to get all of the equipment. We didn’t have our own bikes, or clips, or shoes, or saddle bags, or racks or clothes. Once we got all of that, we found out it was about $65 to send the bikes to Washington. Then we had to get a plane ticket and fly to Seattle.”
Feeling pretty secure with what they purchased, Wright admitted she hadn’t trained for such a daunting bike adventure. Riding 10-15 miles can be a challenge for some, especially with gradient climbs or even riding in wind or precipitation. In a mountainous environment that is the west coast, Wright found out quick that a few weeks of running wasn’t going to cut it for a completely different type of physical exertion.
“I had been running some before we left, but I had no bike training,” admitted Wright. “We didn’t have a diet change. We learned pretty quick after we took off what we could and couldn’t eat.”
Wright and Jameson left the Seattle area on May 31 and hit the roads south, largely traveling along the 101 and Highway 1. Much of the trip was spent riding on paved shoulders and some prepared trails, but there were some detours. Wright noted some of the suggested routes from the company map took them down rough trails and pothole-filled paths that weren’t ideal. But all in all, the trip filled its quota of fun.
Wright noted they traveled alongside several riders that started when they did out of Washington, and were from all over the map. Riders from Idaho and Australia befriended them along the way, sharing campsites and rest stops, exchanging stories and plenty of support. The two didn’t hit a major metropolis until they got to San Francisco, which was a real highlight of the tour. It wasn’t all roses, however, as both Wright and Jameson developed a stomach bug that slowed the trip down considerably. Jameson also started having some issues with her knees and eventually had to drop out of the ride in Santa Cruz, leaving Wright to ride the final 470-plus miles on her own.
“You never really get totally comfortable on the seat riding that long every day,” Wright said, who did discreetly share some of the physical issues that arose from riding that long. “It never seemed like we got over the hump when you sit on that seat so long. But you’ll have that.”
Wright rode into Mission Beach north of San Diego on July 2, finishing up a 1,664-mile story she will have to tell for a lifetime. With just one flat tire in Santa Barbara and a couple very minor war wounds from the trip, Wright’s mission was accomplished in a big way. And likely the first tattoo of a new cycling addiction.
“Obviously, I felt super accomplished to finish this, and now I want to try a cross country tour from west to east,” Wright said. “When you drive, you don’t talk to people as much along the route. We stopped at little coffee shops and met some really neat people almost every day. The camp sites, the other bikers, it was an awesome experience.
“The biking community is incredible,” continued Wright. “We stayed with friends some nights and would meet the communities. Everyone shared their struggles and went through the same things we did. It really was an epic trip.”