Will Groth '14 bikes across the United States via TransAmerica Trail

A Roanoke College senior took a bike ride around the block this past summer, a block that just happened to span about 4,500 miles.

Will Groth returned to campus this fall for his senior year with a major accomplishment under his belt. He completed a cross-country cycling trip from Yorktown, Va., to Astoria, Ore., in a little more than two months.

Groth of Roanoke made the trek with four cyclists who he connected with through the Adventure Cycling Association.  The group met  in Virginia on May 11 and set out on the TransAmerica Trail, also known as the classic route to cross America by bicycle.

The young men all made it to the west coast of Oregon together and then went their separate ways. Two of the riders pedaled down to San Francisco while Groth and the other two cyclists finished the original route.

"It went by really quickly," said Groth. "It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. It was much more of a mental challenge than a physical challenge."

The group camped, rented a few hotel rooms and even utilized a website called warmshower.org to find places to stay. In Elkhorn, Ky., the mayor even let the travelers stay in City Hall so that they could avoid a major storm.

Weather was an uncontrollable variable that had a major impact on the riders. During most days Groth and his companions pedaled into the wind. When the group was lucky enough to get a tailwind one day, they were able to travel 75 miles in four hours and 130 miles. However, the weather conditions did not stay on their side for long.

"Towards the end of that day we hit a dust storm, luckily we were only five or 10 minutes from our destination when the dust storm was just getting to us," Groth said. "We got off our bikes just as the wind started picking up to about 30 or 40 miles per hour."

Food was another challenge of the trip that the group had to consider. Meals needed to be both filling and cost effective.  Brunch was the crew's largest meal of the day. The hungry cyclers frequently ordered large portions of pancakes for only about $4 from small restaurants along the route. Because Groth is allergic to both oatmeal and nuts, he was limited in on-the-go food options. 

"I am never eating Pop Tarts again," Groth said. "I had almost 40 Pop Tarts on me at once."

Even though Groth faced hardships during the trip, a smile came to his face as he spoke about the scenic view he experienced as he rode into Colorado with the Rockies in sight. In fact most of the stories that Groth had to share were filled with nostalgia.  

"I miss everyday being a new experience and waking up somewhere new every day," said Groth. "I never knew what was going to happen next."

After reaching his final destination, Groth shipped his bike back to Roanoke and spent some time on the west coast as a tourist with his father who had flown out to meet him.

Upon his return to Virginia, Groth had his father drop him off at the local bike shop where he had sent his bike. From there, Groth officially finished his trip by pedaling to his Roanoke home.

-Published Oct. 7, 2013

Released: October 7, 2013