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Writing across America: 5 greatest moments

Janeen sunset

This summer, freelance copywriter and Australian native Janeen McCrae embarked on the epic quest to bike across America, equipped with little more than her tenacity, unflappable sense of humor and a bionic bicycle named Precious. A mere 73 days later, she had ridden every inch of 4,410 miles and seen more of America than most lifelong Americans. To celebrate her achievement, we asked Janeen to share her five favorite moments from the ride. The result is a list that's far from typical travelogue fare: horse skeletons, bear repellent, unexpected mountains and even more unexpected bursts of fame. Check out all five of her greatest TransAmerican moments after the jump.

Most clichéd moment: First time seeing the Tetons

Tetons

I’ll be honest: I knew nothing about the Tetons. Judge me, I don’t care. Seeing them as they squatted there on the horizon made me reach for every jaw-dropping, breathtaking, pants-wetting cliché in the book. They completely snuck up on me. I’d cycled around a bend and BOOM!, there they were all naked and lovely. I couldn’t help saying something highly inappropriate out loud the first moment I saw them. It was such a beautifully clear, fall day with the crisp feel of the air and the Tetons all blue and snow dappled and smug. It’s one of those sights where you feel like turning to someone and saying: "Do people know about this?!" I guess they do. Seriously magnificent. Top marks, Earth!

Most unexpectedly awesome stay: Guffey, Colorado

Guffey colo

It was one of those days when plans quietly exit out the back door without saying goodbye. I had a mileage goal in my head, and as the day dwindled the climbs just got to me. The air was getting cold and by 4 in the afternoon I still had 40 miles to go. I knew I just wasn’t going to make it another 40 miles. Just off the route was the tiny town of Guffey, Colo. Small. Hidden in pines. I pulled up in front of the most eclectic garage store front I have ever seen, was handed a beer (in a tinned potato tin to disguise it was a beer) by Bill the owner, and managed to get a free stay in one of the little rental shacks. I'm talking rustic, wooden, no internal plumbing, "I'm in a freakin' Western!" shack. There were animal skulls and skins everywhere, PLUS two horse skeletons rearing up and pulling a prison carriage. It was an amazing place. The shack had a VHS collection. I watched The Man from Snowy River, which is my right as an Australian.

Most thankful about: Not getting eaten by a bear

Bearspray

This is not my country. These dangers are not my dangers. All I know about bears I learned from Discovery Channel and Grizzly Man, and that doesn’t end so well. Before I started the trip, I'd done a bit of reading and knew about bear bags and not to keep food or anything with a scent in my tent. So I was at peace with the thought of bears. But then I hit Wyoming and people were all about scaring the crap out of me. Are you alone? Do you have bear spray? Grizzlies are really bad this year. Blah blah. It started to really eat away at me, so I ponied up and got some bear spray in Dubois as insurance. Paid through the nose like a true tourist for peace of mind. Sadly, the only bear I saw was a very recently roadkilled baby bear, and honestly, that was just tragic. I wish I hadn’t seen it.

Creepiest non-creepy thing: Being recognized

Janeen highest point

Scenario 1: Imagine you’re riding along a less-than-busy Colorado road. Mountains rearing up to your left. Wide open spaces between. In the distance, you can make out two people stopped on motorcycles by the side of the road. You get closer. Closer. Then you pass by. As you do, one says, “How was the milkshake?” (Referring to one you’d had earlier and mentioned on Twitter). Creepy. Scenario 2: You’re in the street in Boulder, Colo., unloading Precious from a car trunk. You lay him down at the curb and turn back to get his wheels out. Some stranger calls out from across the street as they rush over to you, "Is that Precious?!” Creepy. Scenario 3: You’re pulled over at the top of a climb on Highway 101 about to take a photo of the wonderful Pacific Ocean. You suddenly notice a man walking quite quickly towards you. He stops about 20ft away and takes a photo. Not of the view. Not of the ocean. A photo of you. Creepy. Fortunately, none of these situations turned out to be that creepy, but I didn’t know that in the first few moments. These were just people following us on Twitter and wanting to say hi. I never quite got used to it, but I really appreciated the support.

Most emotional: Realizing I was going to do it

Janeen finish

For the majority of the ride, I never really thought about the fact that I was riding across the USA and that it was maybe a thing to get all w00ty about. I was too focused on the day-to-day and "just get through it" thoughts. But emotions came out of nowhere in Eugene, Ore., three days from the finish. I was starting out and noodling along the street thinking about the next few days. About how I was going to be finished soon and I’d be able to say that I'd done this thing — ridden across the USA by myself after crashing so spectacularly at the start. I suddenly choked up. Got a lump in my throat and a case of the ol' leaky eye thing. I was so overwhelmed by it, I had to stop for a minute to compose myself. I was nearly done. I’d be able to say I’d done this thing that I’d set out to do. Me. Just that sense of being so filled with an unexplainable joy that seems to start in your chest and radiate out through your limbs. It was a great (though kind of embarrassing in traffic) feeling.

Janeen McCrae is New York-based freelance creative who previously has worked with Poke New York and Agency.com. If you'd like to help commemorate her ride across America, consider donating toward her Livestrong Challenge fundraising goal of $21,310.

All photos are courtesy of Janeen McCrae. For many more, visit her ride blog and Flickr galleries.

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Topics: Biking, Griner, Travel
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