The long haul "I had an old Schwinn and I loved riding it so much I wanted a better bike. I went with a buddy to a bike shop and found a Surly Long Haul Trucker that fit me (I'm 5 feet 1). I loved it. That was the middle of last July. Then I happened to read a book -- 'Around the World on Two Wheels: Annie Londonderry's Extraordinary Ride' -- about this woman who went on this amazing bike trip in the 1890s. She had three kids and had never ridden a bike, and she got sponsorships to go ride around the world, and I thought, if that woman can do it, I can do it."
Destination: New York City "I knew the importance of telling people about my goal, because once you do that it's real and you can't back down. In January I started telling people that I was going to ride my bike to New York. People thought I was crazy. I lived in New York for almost 20 years, so it was a great destination. It's 1,623 miles, so for my 40-day trip, it was 30 days of riding 54.1 miles per day."
Panniers and pie "I had two good waterproof panniers on my bike. I mailed stuff home three times. ... after a few 95-degree, humid days of hills, I thought, Why am I carrying a real-sized bottle of hair conditioner? The guys at the bike shop laughed at me when they saw that. But I couldn't do without my cellphone -- I'd put notes in there or e-mail myself -- or extra tubes. I had about 10 flats along the way. I'd eat bananas or gels or yogurt on the road, and I always had one pancake, one egg and one piece of toast for breakfast. At night, I'd have spaghetti with lots of bread; I'm a vegetarian, but I ate meatballs on this trip for protein. Or I'd have fish. I could eat as much as I wanted. I had lots of ice cream. And pie. People said, Did you lose a lot of weight? I think I just lost inches. Last summer I lost 20 pounds when I started riding."
Sweat, eat, sleep "People always asked me the same three questions: Where are you going, where are you from, and why are you doing this? When I'd say I was doing it solo, their mouths would just drop. Women just loved it, and young girls and teenagers thought it was the coolest thing ever. One man said to me, 'You must only have time to sweat, eat and sleep.' You totally live in the present -- it was true!"
Where there's a DQ ... "I brought a couple of biking maps, but they were so detailed and I was so busy before the trip I didn't have a chance to plan much, route-wise. My plan was to go to Duluth to Bayfield and then across the Upper Peninsula. I just rode into town and found the best and cheapest motel, asked how much it was, and when they'd say $55, I'd say OK, I'll give you $40 cash. It always worked. One time after I'd ridden my 55 miles, I got to a little town with a Dairy Queen, so I figured there must be a motel -- but there wasn't. I had to ride another 17 miles down the road, and it was almost dark when I got there."
Finish line "I got to New York in July. It was super hot, and I was no longer by a Great Lake, and my asthma started acting up about 70 miles north of New York City. I texted my workout buddy, 'I think I'm done.' The next day, I took a commuter train to my friend's office on Park Avenue. Within an hour, I was riding my bike around Central Park."