On the Road with Maddie Plank

Maddie and Charlie on the road again.

Ten days into our cross-country bike trip, and Charlie and I are currently staying in a hotel in Belmont, Ohio. I would have never had the opportunity to explore this region of the country if it were not for taking on this challenge. We have already experienced a variety of terrains, weather, and sleeping arrangements, keeping us on our toes at all times. The journey to this point has been anything but easy. We have suffered aggressive back, neck, butt, and knee pain; however, our bodies are finally beginning to adjust to our new normal.

Generally, we hit the road early, fueling with energy and protein bars and trail mix. We depend heavily on music and sunlight to take on and thrive during our 60-mile rides. Our current favorites are “Mystery Lady” by Masego, The Hamilton Soundtrack, and “Vacation” by Dirty Heads. After a long day of riding, we camp, stay with friends or family, or connect with hosts using the warmshowers app. We have learned that it is very taxing on the body to ride for hours on end and then sleep on the ground, so we are definitely still big fans of beds.

The highlight so far has been the Great Allegheny Passage from Cumberland, Maryland, to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The well-manicured trail had amazing views of the Laurel Highlands. One day, we climbed for 25 straight miles, with picturesque wind turbines and rolling hills ahead. Upon crossing the Eastern Continental Divide, we rode 50 miles downhill, only stopping for some refreshing ice cream.

The hardest thing about the trip has been the rollercoaster hills that we generally face on state roads. On our third day, we rode 89 miles with 3,700 feet of elevation to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. For two inexperienced cyclists, this was the longest physical challenge we had ever endeavored. As the day wore on I questioned why we started this challenge in the first place. The day seemed to last forever, and every part of my body ached and tightened.

There is so much more I can share about this experience. Every day has been a new challenge and completely different experience. We continue to support the National Alliance for Mental Illness with this ride and are attempting to find other ways to contribute to the destigmitization of mental health discussions.

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