In August, we blogged here on the extraordinary cross-country bike journey of Nathan Winters (AKA, “Follow Nathan”) to raise money for The Nature Conservancy and raise awareness for climate change and sustainable agriculture. At that point, Nathan had just crossed the Wisconsin-Minnesota border, halfway through his journey from Maine to Washington State — a trek tracked by thousands through Nathan’s website and his multiple daily tweets.
We’re now thrilled to report that Nathan completed his ride (a ride, BTW, that he began with absolutely no bike touring experience) last month — tired, of course, but glowing with the knowledge of having done a great and extraordinary thing. He was gracious enough to respond to a few questions about the trip and what’s next for him:
Cool Green Science: How many days and how many miles did you end up riding, and where did you finish up?
Nathan Winters: I was on the road for a wonderful and thrilling 145 days over a course of 4,300 miles. The journey ended in beautiful Bellingham, Washington on October 2.
Cool Green Science: Describe the finish and what happened.
Nathan: On the outside it was fairly calm. Essentially I celebrated alone as I dipped my tire in the Bellingham harbor. On the inside, I was a huge dance party. I had so many different ranges of emotions that I was going through. The overwhelming support of my followers online was also very touching.
Cool Green Science: What was more difficult about the ride than you expected? What was less difficult?
Nathan: Hands down the wind. Before I had left, I had many people warn me that going east to west was a big mistake. And while this decision certainly made things a bit more difficult… I wouldn’t change it for the world. As for less difficult, in my honest opinion I thought it would be a bit more challenging to climb the Continental Divide. Don’t get me wrong — this was no easy task. But I think that my mental preparation had a way of alleviating the strain. There would be hills in Ithaca that would prove to be more difficult. My guess: It all boiled down to mental preparation.
Cool Green Science: What were the best experiences of the ride?
Nathan: I really enjoyed getting know people in their communities. So many times we travel by plane or car and we never actually take the time to understand what is happening in a particular area. Communities such as Ithaca and Ann Arbor were geared passionately towards environmental stewardship and sustainable living practices. My theory is that the combination of academia and honest community members creates a lubricant to maintain such a vibrant community-wide effort.
I also came to understand and witness countless people doing great things in their communities all over America. Despite all of the negative talk you see and hear in the mainstream news outlets, America is still the kind of place where you can ask a complete stranger for help and you will find an answer. With or without the swine flu and an economic recession. America is still a place we can all be proud of.
Cool Green Science: Did you come to understand any conservation issues better through your journey?
Nathan: One situation that dealt with conservation issues in depth was in the Adirondacks. It is a very complex and unique situation over there. Specifically, I found a great struggle between public and private land. Currently, there is a great tension over the possible development of a ski resort in Tupper Lake which could be a huge lift on the local economy — however, there would be catastrophic environmental drawbacks. The struggle between the conservation groups, local people, economy and politics was so evident that you could feel the tension without hearing any words.
Cool Green Science: What was the strangest thing that happened on the ride?
Nathan: You will have to read my upcoming book! I will say that I had a plethora of “strange encounters.” That is what happens when you ride a bike from Maine to Washington.
Cool Green Science: How do you feel now that it’s over?
Nathan: The fact that I accomplished my goal, lived out my dream and gave back to a wonderful organization was and still is an amazing feeling. I feel fantastic. I am in a physical and mental adjustment period. But again… I feel fantastic.
Cool Green Science: What’s next for you?
Nathan: I am currently living in rural Vermont where I am adventurously reliving my journey through a book I am writing. I am currently deep into this endeavor and I will be working hard to get my work published. I am also looking for part-time work with a environmental difference-maker to keep me going.
(Images courtesy Nathan Winters.)