Crossing country in 40 days by bike

Tara Stone

Before the last school year even drew to a close, Jacob Goodman ’15 was already out on almost all of his Saturdays, trying to get in as much physical preparation as possible for his six-week, cross-country biking trip with Overland summer program.Goodman would average 50 miles per day, building upon this number until he finally departed for Charleston, the starting point of the trip, on June 21.

This summer endeavor, the American Challenge, was Goodman’s fourth biking trip with Overland. He had previously completed the Vermont trip, Pacific Coast trip and European Challenge trip.

“Once you’re part of the Overland biking community, this is kind of the big one, this is what you’ve been building up to,” Goodman said. “It’s supposed to be the cumulative experience of Overland.”

The program’s group of 10, led by two college students, biked an estimated 3,118 miles in 40 days.

Traveling an average of 80 miles per day, the bikers stopped at different cities every night. Starting just south of Charleston, South Carolina, the high school students cycled to Los Angeles. Highlights for Goodman were the Rockies, San Francisco and the Grand Canyon.

Unlike most Overland trips, the American Challenge group used tents for only two out of the six weeks, staying for the most part in generous small-town churches, as well as in community centers and motels.

“There’s no way around bonding with these guys on this trip,” Goodman said. “You have the same goal in mind, the same struggles, the same pitfalls, because everything rides on the group. If one member of the group fails, the whole group is there to support them.”

Every cyclist carried a 100 oz. Camelbak and held their possessions in two paniers strapped to the backs of their bikes.

The “Challenge Day,” common to most Overland trips, requires the bikers to start biking at 3 a.m. and reach their destination in the afternoon during the California desert section of the trip. The early time was meant to beat the heat, as the sun did not rise until 6 AM, yet the students still fought their way through 85 degree desert air.

With numerous obstacles like this to work through, Goodman observed, “I think the thing on Overland trips is, at some point, you have to let go.”