Q&A: A copywriter’s quest to cross America

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There's a very real chance that you will never ride a bicycle as far in your entire life as Janeen McCrae is about to travel in one ride. A freelance writer who spent time at both Agency.com and Poke New York, McCrae is preparing to set out on a 4,262-mile bike trek from Virginia to Oregon. Why? As an Australian who's spent almost all her stateside time in New York City, McCrae wanted an epic challenge that would test her limits and help her experience more of America. She's also hoping to land a book deal and raise $1 per mile for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. The plan is to set off in late May, filing video and blog updates all along the way. (She's already started an impressive video collection at her cycling blog, No Direction Known.) Before she begins her journey, AdFreak wanted to learn a little more about what she's doing to prepare, what she expects to accomplish, and most of all, what the hell she was thinking. Below is our e-mail conversation, with photos by Adweek's Manuela Oprea.

—Posted by David Griner

  Q. Last time we saw you, you were the blogging voice of Poke New York. What have you been up to since then?
  A. I left Poke in early 2008 so I could take the idea of writing a book a bit more seriously. People who know me are rolling their eyes right now as they read that because I've been talking about this damn book for years, but I've been working on that.
  Then there's the economic reality that goes along with writing a book—it's called rent. So I've been freelancing on and off to keep my nerd core juiced and the gas connected.
  It doesn't help that I'm easily distracted by travel, personal projects and, for past the 17 months, cycling. If you follow me on Twitter, first of all, I'm sorry, and second, you can probably tell that my life has been completely consumed by all things bike.

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  Q. Where did this transcontinental bike ride idea come from?
  A. From the idiotic idea corner of my stupid brain. After the initial thought raised its hand, the Internet egged it on. Initially, I was looking for something that challenged me to ride a long way in one go. I started noodling around online, looking for a double century or something, and stumbled across the Adventure Cycling Association maps for the TransAmerica Trail. Finding that was like dousing the idiotic idea with high-octane awesome-gas and lighting it. Whoosh!

  Q. What are you doing to get ready?
  A. Riding my bike as much as I can. I put a lot of miles in the legs last year and kept riding all through winter, but I've only recently started focusing on bumping up the long hours on the weekends. There's a lot of, um, arse prep involved. It's not about speed; it's about time in the saddle.
  I'm also reading. A lot. Mostly blogs of people who've done it already and seeing what I can learn from them. I've also reached out to a few seasoned bike tour veterans. One of my Kickstarter backers took four years to ride around the world. My trip isn't as epic, but I'd be nuts not to pick his brain.
  And then there's gear. I find I'm actually enjoying the process of researching gear, and finally spending the money I've been saving for this trip. There's a certain thrill to coming home and finding little packages on your doorstep, and I had no idea I could get so excited over a dry sack, or a tent! At the same time, I'm also conscious of just how much stuff I am accumulating, weight wise. A lot of people seem to send a bunch of gear home after a week or so, simply because they're not using it. I'm hoping my practice run will give me an idea of how manageable my gear is, and what I can jettison.