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We are two goobers that decided to get on our bicycle and ride coast to coast across America this summer. How about you shift into second gear this morning and Ask Us Anything!

Aug 15th 2014 by bikegoobers • 32 Questions • 275 Points

**Hey there! Our names are Connor O'Brien and Athena Jones. This summer we rode our bicycles from Virginia Beach, Virginia to Cannon Beach, Oregon. We went with an affordable housing organization called Bike and Build which sends groups of roughly 30 riders on 8 different cross American bike trips each year to raise money and awareness about the affordable housing problem in America. We were on the central route with 31 other riders. Along the way we had some pretty great times that we would like to share with you all. Here is our route http://bikeandbuild.org/rider/route.php?route=CUS&year=2014

(sidenote, we do not formally represent Bike and Build, this is just us sharing our experiences) **

**Proof: (Connor)I took at least one panorama photo a day while on the trip. This is the first part of my daily panorama album, I'll release the whole thing in a separate post/when it all eventually uploads.

http://imgur.com/a/DwMFO#0

Also, here are our profiles on the official Bike and Build Website. We each were required to fundraise 4,500$ to join the trip.

Connor:http://bikeandbuild.org/rider/7298

Athena: http://bikeandbuild.org/rider/7247

(Athena) a random video, not the best, but proof https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvhKpw39V40&feature=youtu.be**

Edit: Please feel free to check out Bike&Build.org It really is a good cause and a great program that I cannot recommend enough. No one has asked this yet, but I was not a cyclist before the trip, I barely knew how to use clip in pedals. If I can do it, you can too!

Edit #2: Thanks everyone!

Q:

As someone from Virginia beach, did you do this simply to get away from Virginia beach?

A:

(Connor) haha, we actually had a fun time there. It was our orientation. We only stayed on the beach for a few minutes though. I remember it being pretty nice, aside from the military jets flying overhead every few minutes!


Q:

THAT WAS THE SOUND OF FREEDOM

A:

"OK, welcome to bike and build, we are here to, oh wait, hold on..." FREEDOM


Q:

Did you guys ride with someone named Reuben Cheng?

A:

Nope


Q:

He must've been in another group because he literally just biked coast to coast for affordable housing or something... Well props to you guys... Congrats on making it

A:

Thanks!


Q:

If I wanted to take such a journey, what should I do to prepare, what would I need to take, and where do you recommend I go?

A:

(Athena) If? Sounds like you totally want to do it! Preparation: I was surprised by how little preparation it took to actually be ready for this sort of a trip. It’s not usually a situation of “can or can’t” but “will or won’t.” We had to ride 500 miles beforehand as training to get accustomed to the bicycle/riding. What to bring: lots o’ stuff! If you plan on camping I would suggest ultralight equipment esp if you plan on using panniers. Bring clif bars! You can never have enough clif bars in your jersey. Otherwise, I’ve heard success stories of people staying with random strangers. 1/5 will let you camp on the lawn or even let you in their home if you tell them what you’re doing. Get a camelback or other hydration system. 100oz should do the trick! Where?: The route we took was awesome! I would recommend going West to East if you are looking for an easier time since we had to endure headwinds pretty much the whole way. When you are in the west however, be mindful of the heat and lack of water sources. Include (which should be easy) Appalachia, the plains, and the rockies whatever you do! For someone who isn’t quite confident to do it themselves or as a self-supported cyclist I would suggest Bike & Build to you. I would do it again s-s but it was nice to have a van + 32 friends the first time


Q:

It's so true... There are pretty parts, but it's like riding through an oven

A:

(Connor) Agreed. Riding 100 miles to Pinedale Wyoming. Heavy headwinds, a giant desert with nothing to see. Wind makes everything worse. We could not even talk to each other. Just hours and hours of hell, looking out into nothingness. When I got there I had a shower and burger, and was happy.


Q:

You only took three rest days over the entire trip? Whoa.

Did anyone have any physical problems from all the riding, or did your bodies get accustomed pretty quickly?

A:

(Athena) The worst physical struggle of riding so many miles was the pain on the rear. A lot of the team was consumed by saddle sores for numerous reasons like poor fit of shorts, bad bike fit, or not applying ahem butt'r before riding. Some people experienced knee pain from all of the climbing.

I personally got a bike on craigslist for $280 before the trip which was not meant to climb such steep mountains as we saw on the Blue Ridge Parkway so I was peddal mashing quite a bit.


Q:

Very interesting AMA, thanks for doing this. My question is, what is the best place you went?

A:

(Connor) So many great ones, but personally I loved Flaming Gorge, Utah the most. Here is a Panorama from my upcoming album of it at sunset

http://i.imgur.com/w0sONwg.jpg


Q:

Nice panorama mate.

A:

(Connor) Thanks! I'm trying to upload my whole album, I took at least one a day


Q:

For a second there I thought I read your name as Conan O'Brian. Anyways...What would you say is the hardest thing into setting this trip up was? (Or maybe it was the trip itself?)

A:

(Connor) No worries, happens to a lot of people. I usually joke and say he's my third cousin. The hardest thing setting up the trip was fundraising the money. We have to raise 4,500$. So I had to send out a billion emails to just about everyone I know. As for the trip itself, it was probably the first week. A lot of us were not as in shape as we would like to be, and going over the Appalachian mountains really killed us.


Q:

What were your eating habits like during the trip?

I had some friends do something similar from Vancouver to Mexico and by the end of the trip they were downing half gallons of ice cream just to take in enough calories. They were basically down to 8% body fat by the end of the trip.

A:

(Connor) Our eating habits were basically:

NOM NOM NOM lookmorefood!!! NOM NOM NOM. Pretty much every chance to eat would be a feast. We had a good deal of pasta, lots of peanut butter, and bowls of cereal all the time. We were pretty good about covering all bases though. We had several vegetarians and those with peanut allergies on the trip, and they all were well fed. We did down a great deal of ice cream too (nothing like half gallons though). Because we burned it all, we could pretty much eat whatever we wanted. I lost 12 pounds on the trip!


Q:

What were your eating habits like during the trip?

I had some friends do something similar from Vancouver to Mexico and by the end of the trip they were downing half gallons of ice cream just to take in enough calories. They were basically down to 8% body fat by the end of the trip.

A:

(Connor) I was the slowest rider in the group for most of the trip. Than on the second to last day, I made a bet that if I got to the host site (where we slept at night) before 1PM (70 mile day) I would get a steak. I sprinted over a mountain, across gravel, and through some strong headwinds, and I made it there in the nick of time and NOMed on some awesome steak


Q:

What were your eating habits like during the trip?

I had some friends do something similar from Vancouver to Mexico and by the end of the trip they were downing half gallons of ice cream just to take in enough calories. They were basically down to 8% body fat by the end of the trip.

A:

(Connor) yea, in WV someone even threw garbage at us.


Q:

thats weak. did you guys have a running total of how many middle fingers you saw? :)

A:

(Athena) also - my mom drove me to the beach from nj and we picked up another rider at the airport before arriving. Lots of bikers are still on the west coast even though we finished on the 8th. I flew back on the 11th so I had more time in portlandia


Q:

Biking across the country has always been a goal of mine, although I'm probably a few years away from having the luxury of taking the time off to do it. I never considered doing it with a large group of people (more than like...4...certainly not 30.)

Do you feel like having such a large group lessened the experience in any way or did you find the company and support to make the trip a better experience?

A:

(Connor) I moslty liked the large group. Personally I think 20-25 would be more practical, but I still I had a great time with the group. To clarify to some, we only all rode together once, at the very end. Usually you would be in a group of 2-6, and it was fun to get to know each other and make friends. We even had a few relationships pop out of our trip. I don't think the company lessened the experience. Sure, it was not ideal, there were one or two people in the group I did not care for, and I do value my alone time, but by and large, the group as a whole was very supportive and helped me out more times than I can remember. If I didn't have them there to lean on, it would have been a far more grueling experience.


Q:

My friend actually rode across Canada this summmer, From Vancouver to Halifax, and he met up with a surprising amount of other people doing long treks on their bikes as well. Did you guys run into, and join up with anyone else along your journey?

A:

(Connor) Yup! Apart from seeing plenty of people going long distance the other direction, including Race Across America (those guys are literally insane). We also met up with several times with two groups from 4K for Cancer, an organization similar to ours.


Q:

Is this available to anyone or just US citizens? It sounds like the sort of thing I would love to do in a few years time when I take my gap year!

A:

(Connor) As far as I know, it's open to everyone! I met a German guy doing Bike and Build


Q:

Thanks for the reply, what was the age range of people taking part? I know you can only do it up to about 25-26?

A:

(Connor) yea, 18 is the start, and 25 is the cutoff. Most people were around 21-22.


Q:

Hmmm... I should name my bike. Great idea! No wonder she's jealous -- I named the Harley and not her.

Lisbon to Stockholm sounds like a blast -- Dad was stationed in Lisbon back in the day... Maybe we can go on a family ride!

A:

(Athena)I was thinking of doing another transam ride in the future but for the next 2 years I think I'll be finishing up school and working a new job. South America seems interesting or maybe Anchorage to Cape Horn??? I would probably get a new bike since mine came to me with dents and a poor climbing cassette


Q:

That sounds amazing. You guys have me thinking about an extended ride now

A:

(Athena) I personally feel a lot more confident that I can do anything I set my mind on. The country/continent is a lot smaller than I thought too and being exposed to so many different cultures and environments within the US made me think about how great it is to live here.


Q:

That sounds amazing. You guys have me thinking about an extended ride now

A:

(Athena) 24/7 moments


Q:

Lol, it was just a spongebob reference, man. But thanks for the reply ; )

A:

(Athena) lol you're welcome


Q:

Worst smell so far?

A:

(Connor) Burnt rubber. Hate Hate Hate it. Roadkill is a close second


Q:

Worst smell so far?

A:

(Connor) Oh wow! Sorry, we didn't meet up with that group


Q:

What percentage of donations is disbursed to real affordable housing projects/recipients? How much of the donation is spent on 'overhead'?

A:

(Athena) By "Overhead" you are probably referring to administrative costs? Only 3% goes to employees of B&B of which I believe there are 2 or 3. 45% goes into the cause and the rest is the cost of transporting us across the US. Most of the cost is for the van and trailer which make the journey safer for all. Each rider can send $500 to an AH org of their choice, each host can designate $100, and then the rest is used in our competitive grant process.


Q:

I looked at the annual report for 2013 and it looked like about 1/3 of the income went out as grants.

A:

That may be correct but there are donations not included in the grant program mentioned above


Q:

How many flat tyres did you get?

A:

(Connor) me? Like 30. I have the worst luck


Q:

Are you going or have you been through Montana?

A:

(Connor) We actually finished the trip last week, and no, sorry, we did not go through Montana


Q:

What was the average speed? And who slacked off more?

A:

(Connor) I have no idea, probably 13-14. but it really depended on the day and the wind. I slacked off more, Athena is a tank. She would fly up mountains, than come back down just to try and get a smile out of me. MULTIPLE TIMES IN ONE DAY! She is the best riding partner ever


Q:

my friend and i were considering the same thing through japan. has this trip had any profound impact on the way you view things now?

A:

(Connor) yeah, it really irked me the wrong way seeing pretty bad poverty in the US and the huge general amount of apathy towards it. I'm going to try to volunteer a lot more to try and help people, both in the AH world and other types of organizations.


Q:

How many times did cars honk at you guys to get out the way?

A:

(Athena) but if you're getting philo w/ this, I'll definitely take the 100 mini horses.


Q:

How many times did cars honk at you guys to get out the way?

A:

(Athena) duck sized horses - aren't those pretty much dogs? sort of?