Dayton native finishes grueling solo bike ride across 10 states

Credit: Gillian Garland

Credit: Gillian Garland

A Dayton native and graduate of Fairmont High School completed one of the most challenging established bicycle trails in the country.

On July 24, Gillian Garland, a recent graduate of Ohio University, finished an 85-day solo bike ride across 10 states on the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail. Since 1976, cyclists of all skill levels have enjoyed the incredible scenery and overall challenge of the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail, which spans from Yorktown, Virginia to Astoria, Oregon. The trail consists of over 4,200 miles of varied terrain through the Appalachians, Ozarks, Rocky Mountains and more.

Garland began her 85-day trek on May 1 in Yorktown Virginia and arrived in Astoria, Oregon on July 24.

Prior to setting off on her journey, Garland did not consider herself to be an avid cyclist, or even an experienced cyclist, at that. In fact, before embarking upon her solo cycling trip, Garland had not ridden more than 40 miles in one day and even had to buy her first pair of bike shorts.

Despite her lack of cycling experience, Garland had always dreamt about challenging her mind and body with the sort of adventure that awaited on the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail.

Credit: Gillian Garland

Credit: Gillian Garland

“I was not very active before the trip,” Garland said. “I was working at a pizza place, eating pizza and saving money to go on the trip. I heard about the trail in middle school or early high school, and I was just amazed that it was something that was possible. It was something that was physically and mentally challenging. I felt like, if I could do this, that would be a really big personal accomplishment.”

Considering the fact that Garland had never traveled west of Illinois, the sights along the way, like Yosemite National Park and Grand Teton National Park, were surely a sight for sore eyes. What made Garland’s trek especially difficult was the fact that she had 90 days to complete her trek, due to the fact that she had to begin a new job just days after that 90-day deadline. To accomplish this feat, she had to average around 50 miles per day during the beginning of the journey, and eventually build that up to an astonishing 70 miles per day.

Along the way, Garland stayed at homes, churches, community centers and parks highlighted in the resources provided by the Adventure Cycling Association. These resources also helped her figure out the convenience stores and repair shops in which she could stop on her trip to pick up supplies and fix any issues that inevitably crop up.

Not only did Garland have to bike a grueling number of miles each day, but she had to do so with a heavy pack on her back that consisted of clothing, basic tools for bike repairs, a bit of food, a tent and sleeping bag, first aid kit and rechargeable battery packs for her phone.

While those close to Garland worried about the solo nature of her journey, she managed to beat that loneliness and vulnerability with podcasts, audiobooks, music and forming a new sense of appreciation for her mental and physical toughness.

Credit: Gillian Garland

Credit: Gillian Garland

“You can really do anything a little bit at a time,” Garland said. “It was kind of mind-blowing to me, because, you know, I wasn’t in shape. I was not a cyclist. I just started small and kept doing it. So, that was really empowering.”

Though Garland expected her greatest challenges to be experiencing new wildlife and encountering unfriendly strangers, she experienced her greatest challenge while attempting to navigate close calls with passing cars and angry drivers on some of the more populated parts of the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail.

When Garland reached her final destination of Astoria, Oregon after 85 days of cycling through a large section of the United States, she had lost 10 pounds and gained new muscles (and maybe a few blisters as well).

“To see the ocean at the end was just crazy,” Garland said. “It was surreal. It’s still kind of hard to process that I made it all that way by myself on a bicycle.”

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