We first introduced you to David Miller on 11/18/12 after he just completed his quest to visit all 50 US States by bicycle. Last month I had the chance to catch up with David to fill in some of the questions we had about his incredible achievement. See below for the full interview...
Just around my 49th birthday I started thinking about the adventure I wanted to take to celebrate my 50th
Was the trip a combination of driving/biking or just biking?
The trek was mostly land-based, but there was also a bit of air (a flight back from Anchorage to Seattle as well as the flights from DC to Honolulu and back again) as well sea (ferries across the Mississippi, from San Fran to Marin, across Lake Champlain in Vermont) travel. With regard to the land travel, about 85%was by bicycle towing two trailers (one for the dog and the other for my equipment) and the other 15% was hitchhiking to avoid rain, snow and wind.
What were your overnight sleeping arrangements – hotels/tent?
About 30% was covered by inexpensive motels. Another 5% was camping - strictly as a last-resort type of option (I just couldn't get a good enough night's sleep and when you're on your bike for 6 or 7 hours, the rest is imperative). 30% was with family, friends, colleagues and the network of all of their contacts (people with some relation to me however far-removed that might have been). The remaining 35% was satisfied through an amazing organization called Warm Showers. It's a network of long-distance adventure cyclists. They call it a "hospitality exchange". Most of the people on this Facebook-type website have already been on a long-distance bike trip and have been on the receiving end of limitless kindness and generosity. Now that they're back at home, they become the hosts so that they can return the favor.
In which state or states had the best riding conditions?
It's difficult to name a state as an entity. Unfortunately, cycling conditions are still not a state or federal priority. However, cities and municipalities are showing a rapidly growing interest and are becoming involved in the development of elaborate systems of trails, paths and greenways for bikes. Some of the best would be the Atlanta area, Raleigh, NC, the whole area that includes Washington, DC, Maryland and the Virginias . . . also Portland, ME and Chicago . . . but, now that I think of it, two states that probably do have a statewide plan would be California and Oregon - both states have amazing opportunities to ride your bike.
Which state or states proved to have the most difficult riding conditions?
Iowa (for the complete lack of bike lanes or even adequate shoulders on the county highways), Florida (for the increasing number of older drivers during the winter months) and Alabama (for the aggressiveness of drivers and a bizarre habit of passengers throwing things out the window at cyclists).
What were some unexpected mechanical problems that you faced?
Nothing really "unexpected" . . . . just a lot of what I was expecting: flats on the inner tubes, wear and tear on the tires, the need to change the chain every few thousand miles, structural problems with the trailers (they turned out to be extraordinary and the surprisingly lasted the whole trip although they're only designed and built to carry their loads around town; not 4 times across the country!)
What were some unexpected physical problems that you faced?
Once again, I didn't experience anything unexpected. And actually, I didn't face many physical problems at all! I had pain in my right knee after the 5th or 6th week. I put a brace on and starting favoring my left leg to give the right a rest. Within three weeks, the pain disappeared almost as miraculously as it had appeared. The sun was a problem I had foreseen. Periodically over the course of the year when the sun was the strongest, I was bothered by a sun rash. Sun block proved to be ineffective and ultimately I opted to just cover all exposed skin with long-sleeved shirts, a legionnaire-type covering for my neck and a runner's cap for my head and face.
Did you stick to the planned route or did you find yourself having to make adjustments & why?
I had crossed the country once already (from San Diego, CA to Sarasota, FL) and was heading back again to California when I realized that I was already behind schedule and that I would not be able to complete the four planned crossings in time to reach Washington state and the last ferry of the season to Alaska. Also, there was the question of weather in Alaska at the end of September. Quite often it snows then. So, I pulled out my maps and the Google mapping application for bicycles and started looking at different options. It was early March and I was just crossing Tennessee and Kentucky when I decided to adjust my route. I found a way to combine the third and fourth crossings into one: I rode out to California to finish the second leg then up to Oregon and Washington (where I left Max with friends). From there I took the ferry up to Alaska, rode from Homer to Seward to Anchorage, then flew back to Seattle. I picked up Max and we headed back east in an up and down, rollercoaster-type path across the northern and mid-northern states. We finished in Washington, DC and I flew to Hawaii to complete the 50!
What was the most memorable moment or moments of the trip?
There are so many it's almost impossible to mention just one, but if I had to pinpoint just a few, I guess they would be:
1. Arriving in Sarasota, FL to complete the first leg of the journey. I couldn't quite believe that I had actually crossed the whole country by bicycle. The end of the other crossings were also important, but the impact wasn't as great.
2. Seeing my first Bald Eagle in Alaska.
3. Seeing my first bear in Alaska.
4. Reaching Wai'ale'ale, elevation 5148 ft., the highest point on Kauai and one of the wettest spots in the world (for the amount of yearly rainfall). It's where I said to myself, "You're done, this is as far as you need to go. You've pedaled in all 50 states. You can rest now!"
Of all the places you visited on the trip, where would you like to go back to spend more
I could never live there, but I would love to go back to explore more - that would be Alaska! It's beautiful, majestic, extraordinary! And of course, Hawaii. Each island is different and I only had the chance to visit
two. The tropical beauty and the endless ocean is incredible. I could definitely see living there, but finding a well-paying job isn't easy and the cost of living is relatively high.
How has your trip changed you or your outlook on life?
I think more that anything else it has taught me to be "in the moment". I see so many people who are distracted by all that's happening in their lives and all that's buzzing around them - computers, apps, smart phones and endless electronic paraphernalia...sensationalist news programs and garbage TV...and I realize that we miss so much important stuff that's right in front of us because of it. When you're riding, you have to be so aware of what's going on in the immediate vicinity that you're forced to be alert and attuned to what's happening in the here and now. Once you achieve that awareness, you start seeing all kind of things that are wonderful.
What advice do you have for someone who is thinking of attempting a similar goal?
You can't plan or prepare enough. Try to consider all the elements of your project. Investigate, interview others, find and request information from professional organizations and associations. With the adequate information and preparation, you can more like ensure success.
What is one thing you would change if you did the trip all over again?
I would definitely think twice about bringing the dog along. There are some many reasons why it was great to have him along (among them, companionship, protection and most importantly, socially - people would always approach us to pet Max and in that way, I met so many great folks) and at the same time, so many ways in which the trip was complicated by his presence: hotels and motels that don't allow pets ... pulling his weight in an extra trailer...contemplating, buying and carrying all the supplies needed to keep the dog
comfortable...worrying about his health and welfare (particularly his paws).
What is one thing Max would change if he did the trip all over again?
Sometimes I think that he would say that he would have liked to stay with my folks for the year! Dogs are creatures of habit and I basically took away all of his habits. I think he missed having the same old bed, the same park to run in, etc. As much as he enjoyed the adventure and being out in nature and running so
much, I also think he would have been very happy staying with what he already was accustomed to.
What travel plans/goals do you have for the future?
To be perfectly honest, it's a blank slate right now. About two months ago, I started a list of possibilities but there's still nothing that jumps off the page and says, "this is the ONE!". That's what I'll be working on over the next few weeks and months.
For the last 17 years, David has lived in Mexico City where he helped develop the country's first full-service, multi-sport health and fitness clubs. In 1999, Miller founded his own company dedicated to the growth and advancement of the club industry in Mexico and Latin America.
Since your time in Mexico, do you feel that Mexico and Latin America have made positive strides in terms of improving the growth and advancement of the health club industry and overall population health – why/why not?
Without a doubt the industry has advanced. Not only are there more facilities for the wealthy but also for the middle class. Health and wellness, fitness and physical activity are so much more present in the everyday culture throughout the region. Still, there is a huge problem with obesity, particularly in children. Even with improvements and positive gains, you are also seeing how certain issues are worsening.
More about David Miller and this incredible adventure can be found at www.bike50at50.com. Congratulations David! Where will your next travel adventure take you? Share your 2013 travel goals!
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