I fell in love with bikes after moving to Detroit in 2011. I had never lived in a city before and the idea of reaching everything I wanted without a car was foreign. It gave me a great feeling of freedom. There was a non-profit bike collective in the city called The Hub of Detroit where I learned to fix my own bike by volunteering to build children's bikes. I started to see a bicycle as an empowering tool to help a person get to school or work. Since then I have always made a point to be involved in community service through bikes. That could mean helping a friend fix a flat to running earn-a-bike programs for kids. I truly believe the world would be a better place if more people biked.
Before 2012, I had never heard of somebody riding across the country or even doing an overnight trip to a park. As a backpacker, I was instantly interested after hearing some friends talk about it and that year Soph and I planned our first trip. We rode from Detroit to a small festival in Rothbury, Michigan. Soph hitched a ride back home with friends afterward and I decided to keep riding. I was on the road for 3 weeks and covered 1,200 miles around Lake Michigan. After that I was hooked and the idea of long term travel by bike occupied my thoughts on a daily basis.
Why now? I am a psychologist with a PhD in behavioral neuroscience. I've spent 15 years in academia conducting research on PTSD, publishing papers, and recently teaching psychology and neuroscience. I'm a passionate scientist, but after nearly 2 decades of thinking, writing and teaching, I’m ready for something else. Chris gave up his job in 2011 and has been tapping his foot for the last 7 years, waiting for me to take the plunge on an adventure. So earlier this year I decided to resign from my job. As well as documenting our adventure, I’ll continue to write scientific papers (research never ends), so it seems entirely possible I’ll be the first female bike-packing, travel-blogging, neuroscientist to have traversed North and South America.
Why bikes? We lived in Detroit for 5 years. When people came to visit they often arrived with preconceived notions about the city and its people. It looks different than other cities and a bit scary in places; abandoned houses and crumbling infrastructure are scattered throughout. When you experience it from inside a steel box traveling at 30 mph, these notions go unchallenged. So when people would visit we’d explore the city by bike. When you hear others greet you as you pass them and their homes, you experience your environment in a new way. We loved Detroit and the people that we got to share it with on a bike usually left understanding my enthusiasm. When I apply that knowledge of how you really experience a place when you travel by bike to a journey starting in Alaska, travelling through Canada, the USA, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and beyond, it’s hard to come up with anything better to do with the next two years of my life.