An Immense Journey, An Interview of Thomas Coder

A picture of his fully packed touring bike, which weighed about ninety pounds

Jonathan DeMontagnac, Staff Writer

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Today I had the privilege to interview Thomas Coder. Thomas is currently a junior at Oratory and is involved in sports such as lacrosse and cross country. This summer Thomas biked from coast to coast in six weeks with a tour group. In this interview, we are able to get a better view of what this trip entailed and the hardships he had to face.


1) When did you start long-distance biking?

This was my first ever bike tour. The average bike tour is about 1 to 2 weeks but I wanted to do something a bit more daunting, and when I heard about the cross-country route, it sounded perfect to me. 


2) Who inspired you to start this kind of biking?

The thought of being able to live from my bike was very appealing to me and I specifically like the independent part of it. Everything that I would need to live was on something that I could take wherever I wanted to go, and I thought that such a simplistic lifestyle would be something I enjoyed. 


3) During your trip, how many miles did you have to bike in a day? In what amount of time?

We averaged 85 miles every day. Some days we would bike 100+ miles in only 6 hours, and some days we would only ride 60 miles and it would take us more than eight hours. The amount of time it would take to complete mileage all depended on terrain which varied drastically as the tour progressed. We started with rollers in the southern part of the country, utterly flat area through Oklahoma and specifically the panhandle where headwinds raged, and mountain climb after mountain climb as we entered New Mexico, Arizona, and California. 


4) In total, how many miles did you travel?

3,200 miles in six weeks. 


5) What was the most exciting/interesting thing you saw during your ride?

The most exciting thing I saw was a mountaintop we camped in Abiquiu, New Mexico. We had finished the day with a 10-mile climb and our reward at the top was not only the view of the beautiful area but also our campsite which meant our mileage for the day was over. The lengthy descent we had the next morning also set a good tone for the rest of the day. Other honorable mentions include the Grand Canyon and the Ozarks in northern Arkansas, specifically Petit Jean Mountain in Arkansas. 


6) What was the most challenging thing you had to do while on this trip?

The most challenging thing was the routine, specifically in the mornings. We would wake up at 4 AM every morning and be riding as soon as there was enough light outside in order to avoid the heat in the afternoon as much as possible. Regardless of whether you’re a morning person or not, waking up at 4 AM every morning would really get frustrating, and packing your bike every morning was equally as annoying. 

As far as difficult locations to ride through, I still can’t decide if the Oklahoma panhandle or the Mojave Desert was more difficult. We met demoralizing headwinds in the panhandle and despite our efforts in pedaling on flat land, we could still hardly move over 10 mph because of how strong the winds were. Additionally, we were on the same road for four days as we went through the panhandle into New Mexico, so mentally it was equally as challenging. The Mojave was just scorchingly hot, and that was also very challenging. 


7) Was there anything you saw that changed the way you perceived things? 

In the first leg of the trip as we biked through the south (Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi,) we would literally encounter a Church every 5 miles, despite it being a very rural area with a low population density. The south was the place where we encountered the most hospitable and thoughtful people I have ever met in my life and probably will ever meet. I made the linkage between the faith-centered lifestyle of the South and Southern hospitality, and that was really something that resonated with me the whole trip, especially considering we stayed only in Churches for the first 1,500 miles of the trip. 


8) What is your next goal for long-distance biking?

When I’m older, probably during College, I want to do a one month tour completely alone around Europe. That is going to require some extensive planning but I’m definitely up for the challenge, bike touring is something very rewarding. 


9) Would you encourage someone to start this? If so, what would you say to them?

I would definitely encourage everyone to at least try bike touring, perhaps even if it is a week tour. There’s no guarantee that it is for everyone, but with proper planning and a little bit of determination, you might surprise yourself to see the type of lifestyle you could support, even if it is for a week.