electrical bike How Pittsboro’s Jesse Greenlee Pulled off a 73-Day Cross-Nation Biking Journey
By Victor Hensley, Chatham News + Record Correspondent
Slightly over 26 years in the past, America turned enthralled by the epic story of a person’s otherworldly bodily endurance as he ran the size of america a number of occasions, totaling 15,248 miles in three years, two months, 14 days and 16 hours.
That man, after all, was Forrest Gump, the title character portrayed by Tom Hanks within the 1994 Oscar-winning movie.
Whereas Gump’s journey from his hometown of Greenbow, Alabama, is totally fictitious, for one Chatham County resident, it turned an inspiration.
“It’s one thing I’ve all the time form of wished to do,” stated Jesse Greenlee, a 23-year-old Pittsboro native and 2015 Northwood alum. “As a child, I watched a bunch of ‘Forrest Gump’ and noticed the entire working throughout the nation factor, so I’ve all the time wished to do one thing actually lengthy distance like that.”
So again on June 9, Greenlee set off on a biking expedition from Charlotte with the purpose of creating it to Astoria, Oregon. He could have one-upped Gump by venturing by way of bicycle slightly than on foot, however the trek was removed from simple.
Greenlee’s route primarily adopted the 4,228-mile TransAmerica Bicycle Path, created by the Journey Biking Affiliation in 1976 and stretching from Astoria to Yorktown, Virginia.
Annually, about 3,000 cyclists discover themselves touring alongside the coast-to-coast path, which passes via 10 totally different states.
As a result of Greenlee began in Charlotte slightly than Yorktown — and he had the extra plan of seeing his girlfriend, who was working in Steelville, Missouri, on the time — he had to make use of Google Maps to search out his method via North Carolina and Tennessee earlier than hopping on the path in Missouri.
Because it seems, Google Maps isn’t all the time dependable.
“One time (my cellphone’s GPS) took me 10 miles deep right into a army base,” Greenlee stated. “It turned me onto a again street, which changed into a gravel street, which changed into a dust path, which changed into an overgrown and rocky mountain bike path, and that changed into a ditch the place I wrecked my bike.”
Fortunately for him, a utility truck with two off-duty army officers drove by and allowed him to hitch a trip with them again to the principle street.
This was simply one in all many obstacles — or “ordeals,” as he describes them — Greenlee confronted all through the journey.
On common, Greenlee traveled about 70 miles per day, generally going as few as 50 or as many as 120.
Early on, he would typically push himself towards that 100-mile mark, typically with out concrete plans about the place he may end for day. That led to him stopping for the day in the course of nowhere, tenting in unideal locations and experiencing burnout, a typical feeling amongst cyclists who overwork themselves.
“The primary time I actually felt burned out was after I acquired to Nashville, Tennessee,” Greenlee stated. “I used to be getting form of cranky, and there was simply a lot distance in entrance of me at that time, it felt like I barely made a dent within the mileage.”
Greenlee referred to as his mother and father to vent, main him to take a few days’ hiatus in Nashville. It gave him the possibility to relaxation, regain his power and equipment up for the subsequent 3,000-plus miles.
The burnout he skilled in Nashville acted as his wake-up name and compelled him to comprehend the significance of planning. From then on, he made positive to rearrange stopping factors in areas the place he might discover a place to arrange camp, seize meals and purchase espresso within the morning. He additionally lowered the variety of miles he traveled every day.
‘A special form of motivation’
For a majority of the journey, Greenlee biked solo.
Every day, he would rise up round 7 a.m., eat breakfast, bike about 70 miles, cease someplace to eat and arrange camp, fall asleep, then get up the subsequent day and do it once more.
He stayed in parks, campsites, nationwide forests, strangers’ backyards (with permission), church buildings and hostels after they had house out there. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, nonetheless, many hostels have been both closed or solely open at restricted capability. COVID-19 additionally affected how he ate.
“If I did need to eat at a restaurant, relying on what state we have been in, it wasn’t an choice,” Greenlee stated. “Even to go to a quick meals place, I needed to bike as much as the drive-thru as a substitute of having the ability to go inside. I went to Burger King as soon as and rode up with my bike absolutely loaded, and so they simply needed to do a double-take.”
It took him till he reached Kansas, greater than 1,000 miles into the journey, earlier than he noticed one other bike owner making the same trek. Excited to see another person on the identical kind of journey as him, Greenlee took photos of the person and spoke with him for half an hour.
When he reached Colorado, cyclists turned extra frequent, although most, if not all of them, have been getting in the other way.
He remained on his personal till he arrived within the small city of Dubois, Wyoming — inhabitants 768 — the place he discovered three folks that utterly modified his journey.
Two of them, Kenneth and Alli, are a pair who met whereas mountain climbing on the Appalachian Path final 12 months and have been additionally making the journey to Astoria. Whereas passing via Missouri, that they had met one other bike owner, Athena, who joined them.
The 4 of them clicked nearly immediately, changing into what Greenlee referred to as “a unit.”
After Greenlee joined the group, they took a detour to Jackson, Wyoming, the place they took a small break from biking to go on a whitewater rafting journey. For the primary couple of days together with his new group, Greenlee felt just a little like an outsider, however that feeling didn’t final lengthy.
“I used to be having fun with touring alone, as a result of it takes a unique form of motivation and thought course of to do it, but it surely was cool to have the stability of ending in a gaggle setting,” Greenlee stated. “There’s folks to socialize with, folks to separate bills with and simply joke round with and get nearer to.”
Alongside the TransAmerica Path, many individuals and locations aren’t afraid to open their arms — and houses — to cyclists due to how typically they encounter them. Because the group climbed down from McKenzie Go in Oregon, a mountain go at an elevation of 5,225 ft, they got here throughout a person named Oscar who was intrigued by how far they’d traveled.
Greenlee talked about that the group can be in Eugene, Oregon, the next day, which occurred to be the place Oscar lived. He prolonged an invite to his dwelling and the group biked about 70 miles that evening to Eugene to stick with him.
“They’d a lot meals cooking for us,” Greenlee stated. “I used to be consuming for a strong hour. It was form of like we have been an addition to the household. That was actually nice, probably the most hospitality I’ve ever skilled.”
‘Loads of fortitude’
From Eugene, the group made the 200-mile journey to Astoria, the path’s last vacation spot. They purchased bottles of champagne, celebrated on the seashore and reveled in what that they had achieved.
The journey, nonetheless, wasn’t precisely over. They’d made a plan to go to Greenlee’s sister, Sara, in Portland, practically 100 miles from Astoria.
Two days later, on August 20, they arrived in Portland. After 73 days of planning, biking, tenting, sightseeing and overcoming adversity, Greenlee had executed it. He’d traveled the size of america on a bicycle.
“Portland was extra the ultimate vacation spot for me, in order that morning, it felt form of bizarre,” Greenlee stated. “As a result of for the previous two and a half months, after I was biking, it was form of a way of life. You get up, you eat, you bike, you eat and then you definately fall asleep. After which going from that to being executed, it was like, ‘Now what do I do?’”
Greenlee thought of including one other 800 miles to his journey as a result of the group was using right down to California, however funds have been working low, so he determined to separate off from them and head again to Charlotte. He rented a automobile — made potential by his pals from dwelling, who pooled collectively $500 to assist fund his method again — and pointed it simple, driving dwelling for the primary time in months.
When discussing his journey lower than every week after arriving again in N.C., Greenlee was already excited for what could be his subsequent journey. He desires to finish each a triathlon and a marathon, together with the triple crown of mountain climbing: the Appalachian Path, the Continental Divide Path and the Pacific Crest Path.
“He has a variety of fortitude,” stated Kathy Greenlee, Jesse’s mom. “If he units his thoughts as much as do one thing, he’s typically going to drag it off. He’s superb with simply dwelling very merely and placing his cash towards experiences slightly than materials gadgets.”
All through the journey, Greenlee encountered a plethora of issues that will make most individuals throw within the towel. He had two main mechanical mishaps together with his bike, weathered an excessive storm in Kansas, carried his belongings three miles within the mud (additionally in Kansas), endured threats from motorists and withstood the scorching mid-summer warmth whereas biking 70 miles — or extra — practically every single day.
However he by no means faltered.
“You may’t stop every part from taking place, so simply believing that I might deal with no matter got here, that was the mindset I went into it with,” Greenlee stated. “I need to try to heart my life to the place I can do extra of those sorts of adventures, slightly than making different issues the principle focus. I’m making an attempt to gear every part I do in direction of changing into who I need to be.”
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