Essay Series: Thru-Biking The Northern Tier

Discovering Thru-Biking

Editors note: This is first in a series of essays by Taylor A Ritz on her cross-country bike ride with her dog, Dobby

I was 24 before I was told about thru-biking. I was actually on a first date. My companion told me about how he spent one summer riding a bicycle across the United States. While my interest in the guy across the table may have been fleeting, I became enraptured with the thought of riding a bicycle from one coast to the other.

I was a zookeeper at the time, in love with my job, but not nearly as happy with living in the suburbs of New York City. I figuratively threw a bomb down on my life; I quit my job, sold all my stuff, and began planning to cycle the Northern Tier.

The Northern Tier begins (or ends) in Anacortes, Washington, on Puget Sound and ends 4,245 miles later in Bar Harbor, Maine. The route crosses four mountain ranges: the Cascades, Rockies, Adirondacks, and Appalachians. Along the way, the route passes through Glacier National Park, the headwaters of the Mississippi, and Amish country.

Between dodging wildfires and racing the beginning of winter, I cycled more than 3200 miles in total. My first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean came from the seat of a bicycle.

I wouldn’t change this experience for anything. I wouldn’t give it back for anything. I learned more about myself in 11 weeks than I had in the previous 24 years of my life.

I didn’t know anything about long-distance cycling. Or camping. I didn’t even own a bicycle. I learned hard, hard lessons in perseverance, determination, and who I am as a person. I also learned that strangers and the world aren’t nearly as scary as we might think. And I want to share these stories with you.

Editor's note: we think our featherweight pouch is perfect for bike packing

Photos courtesy Taylor A Ritz Instagram @wilderritz