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Biking across America

Megan Ausen and Kara Capelli will depart March 2 for a three-month, cross-country bike trip. Megan, a 2005 Jefferson High School graduate, is the daughter of Dave and Mary Ausen of Alexandria. (Contributed photo)1 / 2
Megan Ausen back in the day with her first bike. Back then, she and her sisters ventured out on eight-mile bike rides from Lazy Day Villa Resort to Carlos Corners. (Contributed photo)2 / 2

It's likely a childhood bike ride with her sisters from Lazy Day Villa Resort in Alexandria to Carlos Corners inspired Megan Ausen to tackle a bike ride across the country in adulthood.

"We would really get into this eight-mile bike ride," Ausen told the Echo Press. "My sister, Sonja, even strapped a portable radio to the handlebars of her bicycle to provide us with music while we rode."

Ausen, now 26 years old and living in New York City, will depart for a cross country bike ride on March 2.

She and her friend, Kara Capelli, will leave from Washington, D.C. and head for San Diego, California. The trip should take about three months.

"Our route will take us from Washington, D.C. through Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana before we cut down to the southern tier of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California," Ausen explained.

BUILDING ON A

PASSION FOR BIKING

Ausen said she didn't ride bike much during college, but rediscovered her love for biking while traveling across Russia and Eastern Europe during the summer of 2010.

"At the end of that trip, I visited a friend in Amsterdam. Our primary mode of transport was a bicycle, which was my favorite aspect of the city. It's such a bike-friendly place," she said. "When I got back to New York, I purchased a vintage bike that I used to commute to school. But I wanted to go faster and ride longer distances."

Soon after, she bought a faster road bike and that fueled Ausen to complete three century rides last year. These 100-mile biking treks brought her through The Hamptons and boroughs of New York City.

"For me, biking is one of the greatest feelings," she said. "I am completely free and mobile when I am on my bicycle. To be able to travel around New York City while seeing all of your surroundings is pretty special; much better than being underground in a subway."

Ausen and Capelli had talked about biking across the U.S. someday, but during the New Year holiday, the two young women talked about making some big changes in their lives - changes that included quitting their jobs and starting a new chapter.

"We began to talk about the cross country trip again. We decided that this was the perfect time for us to embark on this trip," Ausen said.

PREPARATION

AND PURPOSE

Ausen said, "Because the weather hasn't been the best, a lot of our training preparations have been off of our bicycles - spinning classes, cardio building and stair climbing. In addition to the physical training, we've been in constant communication about the logistics of our trip, our route, places to stay, safety, etc."

They have also talked to other cyclists for their advice on everything from what routes to take to the kind of fabric their gear should include.

"We will have target dates of when we expect to hit certain cities, but we will be planning our rides day by day, being open to inevitable changes that will happen along the way," she said.

"I think a lot of the big challenges we will face will be mental - motivating ourselves to keep going when we don't feel like hopping on our bikes and riding," she said.

They've been busy preparing physically, logistically and mentally, but there's also purpose motivating the adventure. It's as simple as water.

"I am riding for Chicago-based charity, Surge for Water," Ausen explained. "They partner with local organizations to provide safe water access to those who do not have it, and that's one-in-six of us.

"I was drawn to Surge because safe water is vital to my ability to cycle. In September 2011, I went to the emergency room because I was experiencing heart palpitations. My heart was racing because I was extremely dehydrated. Since then, I have been extremely conscious about drinking a lot of water when I take long bicycle rides, and in everyday life, and realize that there is no way I could ride my bicycle without safe water. And there is certainly no way Kara and I could ride across the country without clean, safe water."

TRACK THEIR TREK, HELP THEIR EFFORTS

The women will document their trip with photos and blog entries at bikeamazingstreet.tumblr.com.

"I am developing a hobby of storytelling and will be using a portable microphone to record conversations we have with people we meet along the way. I want to make a podcast using the theme of life in America. I also want to explore the idea of clean water in America," Ausen said.

In addition, Capelli will record the entire trip using a GoPro video camera.

"We're asking for moral support to get us through this ride with no injuries or major problems," Ausen said. Also, if you know of a place the women could stay along their route, contact them at bikeamazingstreet@gmail.com. "We are asking everyone we know of places to stay along our ride, with relatives, friends, friends of friends, national parks, etc.," Ausen noted.

"We are also asking for financial support to our charities." More information is available at www.surgeforwater.org.

THE ADVENTURE BEGINS

When asked what they're looking forward to most, Ausen said, "We are really excited to ride through the Blue Ridge Parkway, Kentucky's Bourbon Trail and Nashville before heading south. I've not spent much time in the south, so I am excited to ride through the large, open expanses of the Southwest. I'm also looking forward to passing through the Rockies!

"I'm most excited to see the United States by bicycle! I'm also really excited to meet a lot of interesting people and hear about their lives."

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

(320) 763-3133
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