Coast to Coast
ESF student bikes solo across the United States
A coast-to-coast bike tour of the United States - 58 days, 4,200 miles and enough memories for most people to last a lifetime. That's how Malcolm Moncheur spent the summer of 2014. However, for Moncheur, a senior bioprocess engineering major, one cross-country bike tour just might be the beginning.
"I knew someone who had done it and it sounded like fun," he said, "so I just went for it." His parents, while "quietly terrified," supported his venture. His father drove him from their home in Boise, Idaho, to the Oregon coast where he started his journey. "My family lives all around, so I'd call my dad almost every day and he'd email my sister and mother and tell them what I was up to."
Using a map from Adventure Cycling, an organization dedicated to encouraging people to travel via bicycle, Moncheur hit the road. "The maps provide turn-by-turn directions with the aim to show you America culturally and geographically." The TransAmerica route, from Oregon to Virginia, was a great route to follow and gave him a chance to see a lot, he said.
While Moncheur had done long bike rides prior to his journey but he had never done a tour. "I'd never done a week at a time or anything like that," he said. Typically on this trip, he logged between 70 and 75 miles a day. He did the trip on what he referred to as a "college budget."
"I tried to spend the minimum amount of money," he said. "Out west I did lots of camping, in the Midwest it was camping in city parks and in the East I stayed in a lot of churches as well as city parks."
As vice president of the Syracuse University Outing Club, Moncheur was ready for the camping aspect of the journey. "The Outing Club is how I got into stuff like this," he said. "It really made me into who I am now and made me more adventurous. I would never have done this trip before joining the club."
A 4,200-mile trip isn't without its stories to tell. "I spent a few days in Yellowstone with a friend," he said. "I had been biking alone for awhile and it was nice to touch base with someone." The pair spent a few days camping in Yellowstone, canoeing on Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park and exploring Jackson, Wyoming, before Moncheur hit the road again.
"Later in the trip I stayed with couple that recommended visiting a nearby brewery," he said. Even though the brewery in Bucyrus, Missouri, was a bit out of his way, he's glad he took the detour.
"I went and it was really fun. I was the first person to ever bike there and everybody was really excited," he said. He was given the star treatment by the brewery owners and the locals alike, not paying for a drink all day. "One of the locals gave me a place to stay for the night. The next day I took a rest day and helped him on his farm. I helped him feed baby cows, feed pigs, herded cows, and put up some fencing. Again, it was something I never would've done if I wasn't on the trip."
The tour was filled with many such "wouldn't have done it if" moments. During his journey, Moncheur also attended a stranger's son's birthday party, slept in several bathrooms and a treehouse, met the founder of GrubHub, devoured approximately 20 jars of peanut butter and consumed his body weight in bananas, crossed 10 states, biked over four mountain ranges (Cascades, Rockies, Ozarks and Appalachians), forged instant friendships with complete strangers and acquired a love for bike touring.
The idea of living in such moments was fostered at ESF, he noted. "ESF was definitely a conducive place for me to do stuff like this because people here are all about experiencing new things."
For those considering a bike tour, Moncheur said, "Just do it and go for something big." He observed that the first two weeks of a bike tour consist of getting used to riding and the pared-down lifestyle. "By the time you've started to enjoy yourself, you're done. I would recommend going for something big because it will be a life-changing experience."
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