Writer / Jane VanOsdol
I sit here in the middle of the O’Bannon Woods State Park in Corydon, Indiana, as I write this, woods as thick and remote as I have seen in Indiana. My husband Mark and I have just finished a hike in the woods, where the only sounds we heard were the trill of a warbler, the chirping of insects and the snapping of sticks as deer flit through at our intrusion. We’re waiting for dusk when we’re going to steal back to the edge of the woods in hopes of spotting an owl.
I’m on a trip with my husband, one unlike any we’ve ever taken. Mark is fulfilling a bucket list item he’s had since he was 25 years old. At that time, he created a list of 100 items of things he wanted to do in his lifetime, and No. 99 on the list is biking across America.
He’s talked about it for years, but with kids and job and responsibilities, it’s always been a “someday in the future” goal. Then six years ago our 19-year-old son backpacked across America by himself. Mark joined him for one week of that adventure, and ever since then his dream has been uppermost in his mind.
The year 2016 proved to be the time where everything came together to make it happen. For months we planned and prepared. Several complicated decisions later, we decided that I would support him on this trip by pulling a travel trailer (I’ve never towed anything) as far as he could ride each day. We set a start date of April 2017.
The Big Day
April 10 was the big day, and we left from Naples, Florida headed north, of course.
Our ultimate destination is Portland, Oregon, and we’re tackling the trip in three phases:
1) Florida to Indiana;
2) Indiana to Denver;
3) Denver to Portland.
Now we’ve taken lots of vacations around the country, but it’s always been with a solitary destination in mind that my husband wants to get to as quickly as possible. No time for interesting side roads or flea markets along the way. This is different. Five weeks into the trip, we’ve seen a side of America we’ve not seen before. The idea is to get off the interstates and into the towns, to experience who and what America is. In other words to kick up some dust and find the adventure that is all around us.
And we are.
In Dunnellon, Florida, we discovered Rainbow Springs, a beautiful you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it springs. I thought water was that blue only in the Caribbean. And crystal clear, too. It was unbelievable.
I grew up listening to my mom sing “Way down upon the Suwannee River,” but when I saw the pure magic of this swamp and river and the variety of wildlife that lives there in Old Town, Florida, it made the song come alive.
We camped along the lake at Wind Creek State Park in Alexander City, Alabama. A more picturesque campsite I can’t imagine. I never realized Alabama had so many lakes. In Gadsden, Alabama, we learned about the Indiana maiden Noccalula who threw herself off of the falls that bear her name rather than marry a brave from another tribe.
Mark biked around the city of Nashville, Tennessee, and emerged from his route on a bluff overlooking the Grand Ole Opry. He saw the city in a way he never had before. Then, he survived a 7-hour bike ride in a 45-degree driving rainstorm in Kentucky as I wrestled with a hitch that wouldn’t unhitch in the same downpour. We both learned the meaning of grit that day.
These are just a few of the highlights so far. Along the way we’ve met friendly, interesting people from all over living life in ways I’ve never imagined.
We’re nearing the end of phase 1 — 1,100 miles into the trip and days away from a short break at our home in Westfield, Indiana. From there, we’re on to phase 2. We hope to inspire others to look for the adventure in life that is all around us, whether we’re 5 or 500 miles from home.
Go kick up some dust wherever you are!