by Camille Panetta, staff writer
Freshmen Ryan Roemer decided to take the ride of a lifetime and travel from Bend, Oregon to Warren Wilson College on a bicycle he built up from the frame, using parts from his dad’s old road bike. Roemer, who didn’t ride bicycles much as a child, became deeply connected to his bike the year he spent riding seven miles to and from school.
“There was more to [the bike] than wheels and steel,” he said.
He realized this connection while riding his bike on the backroads of a neighborhood.
“I remember riding through this one neighborhood….I would lean over the front of my bike…I felt like I was flying.”
On June 14, Roemer left Oregon, his bike loaded up with 80 pounds of supplies for his two-month trip. His bags were full of things he thought he would want for his future adventures in college—the entire works of Keats and Shelly, as well as 15 pounds of food.
Although Roemer had maps for the Rocky Mountains, and a few other states, he did not do much planning for his trip east. The maps he planned to use later on in is his trip were no use to him as they got wet and worn out from being in his pockets too long.
“Did I ever get lonely? People ask me that a lot. Did I ever get bored? Well no, I am not a boring person,” Roemer said. “I would talk to myself, in my head and read aloud Keats and Shelly.”
By June 18, Roemer had traveled 220 miles in four days. He was very grateful for the hospitality of the people in Baker City, Oregon and a group of people in Beaverton, Oregon who let him join their barbecue and have a hot bowl of chili. While biking through Idaho, Roemer got off the paved road and rode the 80-mile Weiser River Trail that goes from Weiser all the way to New Meadows.
On his way to New Meadows, Roemer stopped on June 21 to reunite with his parents, Ron and Renee and his sister Robin for a few days.
Despite getting stomach flu, Roemer’s favorite part of the trip was spending four days riding through Yellowstone National Park, which he reached on July 5.
By July 10 Roemer, reached Wyoming which he describes as “a desolate desert with very few cars and lots of wildlife.” In Lander, Wyoming, Roemer took a rest day to check over his college information and camping supplies. He enjoyed the coolness of the library while reading a good book.
On July 16 Roemer rode through Walden, Colorado. While he enjoyed his time in Wyoming, he found it dry and was glad to be in the mountains again. When he stopped for the night, he took some time to update his blog, which tells the tales of his trip to Warren Wilson, with many pictures and short videos from his travels.
After spending a couple of nights in hotels and camping near Hoosier Pass, in the Rocky Mountains of Central Colorado, which is on the Continental Divide, Roemer spent a few days in Pueblo, Colorado to take his math placement tests at the library, restock his supplies, adjust to altitude and heat changes, and meet many friendly people with interesting life tales. He also began to have to deal with a common occurrence of flat tires, a result of his tires becoming worn out after so many miles on the road.
In Horace, Kansas, Roemer did a small time trial; racing 11 miles in just 30 minutes. Horace was very windy and he was glad that towns were more frequent and he was able to stop, eat and rest for the night.
Roemer spent the July 29 riding 20 miles through pouring rain and thunderstorms. That night he camped on a covered park bench rather than ride another forty miles in the dangerous rainstorm in the dark.
On July 30, while riding through Kansas, Roemer was lucky enough to stay with an older couple who often hosts cyclists traveling through the area. Earlier in the day, Roemer took an hour and twenty minutes trying to save some baby possums, whose mother was hit by a car. Roemer then took a brief break to have breakfast at a senior center where he chatted with the people who were there and played piano for them. He then took a visit to the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center. He also had some issues with a flat tire that wouldn’t hold a patch. By 5 p.m. on August 1, Roemer had reached Newton, Kansas and stopped at a bike shop to get a new tire.
During the days ahead, Roemer rode through Pittsburg, Kansas and rode another 15 miles into Missouri which he describes as “a roller coaster of hills” and despite all the rain he enjoyed the scenery. He also enjoyed talking to a family who raised sharks to feed to royalty.
By June 11, Roemer had reached Carbondale, Illinois. The next day, he took his bike into a local bike shop to fix the hub on his front tire so it could connect to the fork properly.
To make up for his time lost in Carbondale, Roemer put in some long days so he could reach his goal of riding into Asheville in time for Orientation on Aug. 20.
Roemer reached his goal and arrived at Warren Wilson on time for Orientation/Move In Day after spending a total of 335 hours on his bike to get there.
“[It] was a pilgrimage to the deepest recesses of myself, who I am and who I want to be,” Roemer said.
While Roemer thinks he would do this trip again, he wants to move on and go on other adventures. He hopes to learn to sail and to take a sailing trip around the world.
His advice to others who want to accomplish the same feat is to watch out for sprinklers, which caused him trouble early on in his trip.
“Planning is optional, money is helpful,” he says.
All one needs is a bike.
“If you are willing you can do it.”
Roemer was no stranger to help on this trip.
“It is no bicyclist sin to ask for help,” he said. “Never refuse help when you need it.”
His final advice to fellow adventurers can be applied to anything you want to accomplish in your life.
“Be true to yourself, hope and wait for the day when you can find a strand, a strand that leads you along on the path you are meant to take and fight with every ounce you are worth, with all of your being, for all of your days. Hold tightly to that thread, never let it go. Not for anybody or anyone. The world is wonderful and the place to be and you light your light by following your path and keeping yourself whole.”