Two recent Oregon State University graduates are cycling across the United States via in an effort to challenge assumptions about how Americans, and particularly women, travel.
Starting July 1 from Portland, Ore., and riding to Portland, Maine, Alexa Humphreys and Jessica Hoffman plan on covering 3,500 miles as they bike and camp along the northern United States. The women call their journey “The Ride to Choose,” and say it reflects the myriad of choices one makes in life, including ones pertaining to health, travel, identity and personal goals.
“Much of the theme celebrates our ability to choose to cycle across the U.S. and embrace our privilege as two young, strong, independent, able-bodied women,” Hoffman said. “Rather than focusing on the hardships life has bestowed upon us, we are choosing to take charge of our lives, our freedom? and our choices and actually live.”
Some friends and family members thought the trip was a crazy idea, but four weeks into the journey, they’re now hearing more support and admiration.
“One of the top questions we get is, “Are you doing this alone?” and my response is always, “No, we’re doing this together,”” said Humphreys.
The women, both of whom have previously traveled internationally, estimate it will take around 10 weeks to cross the country. Their biggest challenge, in addition to the physical exertion of constant biking, will be finding safe and legal campsites as they travel.
Hoffman and Humphreys are blogging about their journey, at www.ridetochoose.com. Both women are avid photographers, and are capturing their travels on camera and sharing the photos, along with tales of their journey, on the blog. They hope the stories they share inspire others to consider taking their own journeys.
“We want to get people excited about traveling with their own sheer willpower as their fuel, while intimately exploring this expansive country,” they wrote on their blog.
Hoffman is a 2009 graduate with a double degree in Public Health and Secondary Education. A substitute teacher, Hoffman said she feels her journey can inspire others to realize how physical activity is empowering and essential to leading a fulfilling life.
A health crisis early in the journey stalled for a few days as Hoffman contracted strep throat in The Dalles. By the second week of July, they were leaving northeastern Oregon and heading toward the northeastern tip of Washington.
Humphreys said they’ve encountered few problems on the first leg of their journey.
“We’ve had people make us breakfast, invite us into their homes, suggest routes, give us fishing tips, and even give us orthopedic insoles for our cycling shoes,” she said. “This trip has been an abundance of kindness and support.”
Humphreys, who graduated with a liberal arts degree from Oregon State, has spent time doing everything from bartending in the US Virgin Islands to living in Thailand for six months. While she was attending OSU, she met a group of cyclists who were riding cross-country, and the idea intrigued her enough that she eventually put it on a ‘life-list’ of things she wanted to accomplish. And Hoffman jumped at the chance to participate when Humphreys invited her.
When the friends began planning their trip, they laid out a map of the country and began highlighting which cities they wanted to see. Determined to travel light, they each packed 50 pounds of gear, including clothing, bedding, a tent and water and food to last them two days.
Both women credit their Women Studies courses at Oregon State with helping shape their world view and nurturing their personal growth. Hoffman was part of the Women’s Affairs Task force for ASOSU, the Student Executive Council and the President of the Public Health Club during her time at OSU, and said she misses being a student.
“Having been out now almost a year I am very grateful for all my time spent at OSU, and I am looking forward to building upon my strong foundation,” she said.
With the support of their friends and family, and those they’re meeting along the way, Hoffman and Humphreys can almost taste the glass of beer they’ll drink to celebrate when they reach Portland, Maine. And they hope the OSU community will follow along with their adventures.
“Thank you to everyone at OSU who I ever encountered,” Humphreys said. “You are a piece of the intricate puzzle that makes me the adventure-seeking female that I am.”
~ Theresa Hogue