We've received tons of questions from people as we've shared the story of Looking Out Across America with them over the past several months, so we decided to put together a short FAQ section for your inquiring minds :)
This is, by far, the most difficult part of planning a trip like this…Erica will be taking an unpaid leave of absence from her career, with no guarantee of her job still being here when we get back (it should be though), and Mel recently found out she’d have to resign from hers. She’ll be re-hirable when we return though, and we expect that she’ll be able to fit right back in as long as there is an open position. It isn’t easy to take three months out of real life, but nothing worth doing is ever easy!
We, probably like all of you, have many monthly monetary obligations to meet (mortgage, utilities, loan payments, insurance, etc, etc, etc). While we are not yet independently wealthy, we manage to make ends meet. Thankfully, we had the foresight to save a good portion of our tax refund last year, most of this year’s refunds, have some other random (yes, legal) income in the first part of this year, and we should therefore be able to cover life’s expenses without income while we’re gone. We are also both lucky enough to have some paid time off to tap into when we leave, and that will help immensely.
I won’t tell you exactly how many thousands of dollars we need to have on hand to take care of our expenses while we’re away, because frankly, it’s rather silly and makes us want to move to a shack in the woods and forego all material possessions forever…but suffice it to say, it’s a heck of a lot of thousands.
I will admit (this is Erica, btw), that I am not always the most conservative when it comes to fiscal matters. If I find an opportunity to do or buy something I really want, I’ll find a way to make it work. As with most things in life (kids, vacations, once-in-a-lifetime adventures), if you wait until you think you can afford it, it’ll never happen. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Sometime in our lives, we were going to take this trip. We’d much rather do it as 30-somethings than as retired 60-somethings (or 70-somethings, as the case may be!). You are never guaranteed another day on this earth, so figure out a way to make things happen so you can make the most of your life while you have it to live!
Erica's brother will graciously come and stay at our house - exchanging caring for the dogs and cats in exchange for a summer's worth of free rent! He'll have Mel's parents as a backup for doggy care in case he needs to go somewhere, or just wants the occasional break :)
Our plan is to spend most of our time camping. We need to keep it cheap! Every now and then, we will need to partake in comfortable beds and a hot shower that doesn’t involve bathing in a locker room at a public pool, or in some roadside gas station’s bathroom sink, so we will have some hotel/motel nights. We’re also willing to sleep on living room floors, set up our tent in front yards, or keep horses company in mostly clean barns…so if you know anyone along our route, tell them to get in touch! **wink, wink, nudge, nudge**
Why not! Truthfully, we’ve wanted to do this for years, and finally just decided to do what it took to make it happen. There are other life goals we have, which, once they come along, make disconnecting from reality for three months much less realistic. It became one of those circular arguments that went something like “Well, we can’t do A until we do B”, “Well, we can’t do B until C is taken care of”. Then we said screw algebra, let’s just do it! If you take a leap of faith, it’s amazing how things fall into place to help make your dreams come true.
I think this is a very common misconception about our trip! While the TransAmerica Trail is a known, mapped route from coast to coast (thanks Adventure Cycling!), it is almost never on a designated bike path! It typically runs on secondary or country roads across the country, and occasionally requires a ride on the shoulder of a major highway. Most states don’t allow non-motorized vehicles on highways, but there are some that do, because there just aren’t any other options (picture a Wyoming highway in the middle of nowhere).
Our daily mileage average has to be 50+ miles to make our destination in time. We anticipate pedaling an average of 10 – 12mph, so that means 5+ hours in the saddle each day. That isn’t including time for rest breaks, and meals, but we hope to get started early each day, and finish by early afternoon.
We fully anticipate that they will! At least for the first few weeks. To help with this, we ordered up some Brooks saddles, and the very generous folks at Brooks have gave us a fantastic discount to help us with this purchase (their leather saddles are not cheap!). The version we ordered comes pre-aged, so they don't take as much breaking in as their regular saddles, but they are like baseball gloves in that they fit to your body the more you use them. We’ll also wear padded cycling shorts, but likely will still do a lot of whining about sore butts in the first few weeks – consider yourselves warned!
We finally have a rough list of cities we’ll be staying in and when we’ll be there! You can find it here, on our Route page.
We have a kickoff party planned in Indianapolis on May 25th, and another in Washington, D.C. on June 2nd. Head on over to our Facebook page for details and to RSVP! We'd love to see you, so come on out to one of the parties if you can! We’re also just beginning to discuss a cool fundraiser idea with a group in Colorado, so keep your eyes out for details on the site!
Also, don't forget to sign up on our Get Involved tab to be notified when we're in your area - we can always plan some spontaneous meet-ups along the route!
· I want to talk to my company or a business-owner I know about sponsoring Looking Out Across America, do you have a formal request letter I can pass along?
Absolutely! Check out our Sponsors tab – there you’ll find our formal sponsor letter in pdf format. Let us know if you need any further information!
We are selling t-shirts as a way to raise funds to cover our personal expenses during the trip. You can find them and order yours HERE.
If you really feel inclined to help further cover some of our personal expenses for LOAA, we can let you know how to do so. Obviously, our first request is that you donate to the Looking Out Foundation via the link in the right sidebar, or via our Donate tab. If you want more info on how to donate to us personally, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
· What is your fundraising goal for the Looking Out Foundation?
We haven’t set a formal goal, because we don’t want to set ourselves up for either failure or complacency if we don’t meet our goal, or meet it early. We see any funds raised as a success – we are going to take this trip regardless, and every $1 we can pass along to the Looking Out Foundation could be $1 that may not have made its way to the Foundation on its own. We do have an arbitrary goal we'd like to meet bouncing around in our brains, and we'll let you know at the end whether we met it or not :)
· Are you going to continue to sell t-shirts while on your trip?
We fully intend to do so, as long as we can convince someone to fulfill our orders! We obviously cannot carry a stock of t-shirts with us on the bikes, so we’ll have to have a contact at home to manage all of the shipping. I think we can talk someone into it though ;) Our supply will also be limited as of the time we leave for the trip. We obviously won't be around to order new stock, and don't want to burden someone else with the details of doing this, so we will probably just have what we have as of June 3rd for summer sales. Get yours now if you want to make sure we still have your size! Check out our "Merchandise" tab.