The motivation to move – Introduction

Introduction to the dream

It is hard to pinpoint when a dream begins: a wisp of a thought of ‘should’ or a long-sought epiphany that howls with a biblical sort of ‘must’. I believe I have been dreaming of this bike trip, in one way or another, for a very long time. I think the creeping tentacles of this dream began when I was a five-year-old tomboy growing up in Indiana. From the moment I learned to ride, I dreamed about riding further than my ‘boundaries’. I imagined what it would be like to just get on the bike and to keep going out of the neighbourhood and on and on. Sometimes as I rode up and down my street, I imagined I was riding my bike to California to meet Luke Skywalker. I had a pretty big crush on him and his life of adventure at the time.

I cannot recall a time in my childhood when I wasn’t flinging myself down the driveway or around the neighbourhood on something human-powered and wheeled. Wagons, skateboards, roller skates, ‘Roller Racers’, ‘Le Run’, etc. My father is a woodworker and hot rod builder. Consequently, he had all the tools, know-how and enthusiasm to modify my means of transport (e.g. adding seat and pedals to a scooter) and to build two different Chopper bikes for me, long before such bikes were fashionable.

Chopper Bike 1 my dad built for me when I was 12.

For my thirteenth birthday my parents bought me the BMX freestyle bike I’d dreamed about for over a year. It signalled the beginning of bicycles as a lifestyle for me. I rode that bike nearly every day for the next 9 years. In high school, I not only rode flatland freestyle but took that bike anywhere my mountain bike friends would go. I also did day-rides to nearby towns, jumping every ditch and curb along the way. 30 miles on a BMX bike, no worries!

13th Birthday present – Lil’ Demon – I would ride this bike nearly every day for the next 9 years.

While attending college at Colorado State, I rode nightly with a group of mountain bike guys who challenged me and improved my skills. We were invincible and rode in all black clothing and without reflectors on our bikes. We raced, played in traffic, and dashed down dirt trails guided only by feel and instinct from riding the route thousands of times. We flew off dirt jumps under the light of a full moon – we created many strong and incomparable memories during those nightly rides. I simply lived on my bicycle for my 3.5 years of undergrad studies. It was during this period, when I flew home to Indiana from Colorado for Christmas Break each year that I decided that someday I would have to ride my bike from ‘old home’ to ‘new home’.

1996 – Still riding Lil’ Demon and spending copious amounts of time on the bike each day.

But, as everyone knows, life gets in the way. In the 12 intervening years from college graduation to the first pedal of this ride in 2010, I experienced many adventures, but none were bicycle-related. I travelled, I volunteered, I worked odd jobs, I met an Australian, I married said-Australian, I moved to Australia, I struggled to start a life in Australia, I fell into doing research at a university and started and finished a PhD. And somewhere in there, at age 30, I finally got my driver’s licence and bought my first car. But never, ever, did I lose my love of bicycles nor the desire to ride my bike from Indiana to Colorado. On 23 April 2010, I submitted my PhD, hopped on a plane to America, lugged my bike to a conference in Texas and gave a talk about my work, then lugged the bike to Indiana. I was ready to go for a ride!!

Nigel and Em – I met this Aussie bloke while travelling around Australia in 1998 and married him in 2000. Left him back in Oz for this trip – couldn’t afford for us both to go and he doesn’t bicycle tour.
Overnight ride using borrowed panniers along the Upper Murray River, NSW, Australia, 2006
I started a PhD in 2007 and spurred myself on by tacking this postcard above my calendar in my cubicle. I wrote Nebraska 2010 on the card as a daily reminder to hurry up and finish the PhD so I could go ride.

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