Face Time: A coast-to-coast adventure

AUBURN — Greg Merritt and Jason Parker biked from one L-A to the other in 49 days.

Merritt, 21, is an Edward Little grad from the class of 2008 and a senior at Colby College. Parker, 22, graduated from St. Dom's in 2007 and the University of Vermont in May. They left home June 1. Both Merritt and Parker blogged about their adventure. They passed packs of dogs in Arizona, were inspired by cute Ali in Ohio . . .

Best let them describe the rest.

Anything you specifically wanted to hit/avoid?

Greg and Jason: We decided that we had to hit the Grand Canyon, Ithaca, N.Y., Muncie, Ind., and a few spots in Massachusetts (all of the above except for the Grand Canyon were places that we could get a home-cooked meal, a bed and a shower). We wanted to avoid the Rockies initially by going through New Mexico, but it ended up not making much sense and so we just plowed right through the mountains in Colorado.

Did you have to bike much in the rain?

Jason: Most precipitation came through during the night, which was a pain. Greg slept like a rock through all of it, but I'm a lighter sleeper so I had some rough nights in the tent. I'm soft. We had a couple of bad storms during the day as well. A huge hail/thunderstorm in Kansas comes to mind. We saw it coming, but had literally no place to go. I was in front cruising at around 17 mph and when the storm hit, it stopped me dead and started pushing me backwards.

Most scenic sight along the way:

Greg: Our longest day of the trip, a ridiculous 138-mile day through Arizona, ended with a 30-mile climb to the Grand Canyon. We rode along the canyon’s edge for about 20 miles with a nearly full moon to light everything up. It was truly breathtaking and a magnificent introduction to the national park. The Rockies as a whole were amazing as well, especially through northern New Mexico.

Meal that most stands out:

Jason: The sandwich from a meat market in Epping, N.H. on day two. One of the best sandwiches ever. Next would be our first encounter with Mexican food in western Kansas. I met a burrito that was truly heaven in my mouth.

Greg: I’m going to go with one of our cheapest meals. There’s a “low-budget grocery” chain called Aldi which first started to appear in the Midwest. We bought a bag of bagels, ham, imitation cheese slices, mustard and two drinks for about $10.

Weirdest thing spotted:

Greg: “Weird things” could be the tag line for the whole trip. In New Mexico and Arizona there are just regular domesticated dogs wandering around everywhere. They are in parking lots, fields and on the side of the road.

Jason: The weirdest thing was a road in western Pennsylvania in the middle of Amish Country. This road was paved for 100 yards or so and then it would go to dirt for the next 100 yards, alternating back and forth for between 5 and 10 miles. This was extremely annoying, as dirt roads were one of our biggest nemeses. WHY COULDN'T THEY JUST PAVE THE WHOLE ROAD?!?!?! MAKE UP YOUR MIND!!!!!

Nicest person met:

Jason: Tie. Ali, the cute girl in Hubbard, Ohio, who gave us a ride to the supermarket and socialized/inspired us and became the only reason for ever going back to eastern Ohio. Also, Nancy from eastern Kansas, who gave me a ride to meet up with Greg on my first day back after returning to Maine for a family emergency. I had biked 70 miles in 105+ degree heat and still had around 35 to go, most of which would have been dirt roads. I wouldn't have made it to the campground until 2 a.m. at best, but fortunately I met Nancy, who saw I wasn't looking well, so she drove me the last 35 miles to reunite with Greg.

Greg: I’m going to have to go for a tie as well. We met Terrence, a retired Vietnam veteran, at a gas station in Kansas. We spent about an hour chatting with him and hearing about all of his post-retirement adventures. There was also Gary from the campground in Lyndon, Kan. I’d spent the day waiting for Jason to come back (the same day Jason got a ride from Nancy). He invited me to his camper to get out of the heat, and I sat with him and watched TV while eating my dinner. He had lived in Reading, Kan., when it was hit by a tornado about a month before. He lost his house and was living at the campground until he could get a down payment on a new place to live.

Favorite part of the experience:

Greg: Getting to Venice Beach in Los Angeles and jumping into the Pacific Ocean. It was absolutely the most alive I have ever felt. Nothing could ever compare to that feeling of accomplishment, and it’s something that I’ll remember fondly for the rest of my life.

Jason: Being able to say I did it. The day to day was pretty rough, but the trip as a whole was an incredible journey. Frankly, it's a hell of an accomplishment, and it has given me a renewed sense of confidence in myself and in any challenge I face. We were losing it by the last day and getting to that beach was the best feeling I have ever experienced. Complete bliss.

OK, be honest: Coast to coast, 49 days, 3,000-plus miles. How tired are your legs?

Jason: Tired. I was done as soon as I hit that beach, and I don't want to ride a bicycle for quite a while.

Greg: The first week or so was pretty miserable, but once I got into reasonable biking shape it was fine. You get to a point eventually where having your legs (and everything else) be tired just feels normal, so you don’t really notice it anymore. Unlike Jason, I can’t wait to get back on a bike; after all, the whole reason for doing this trip was to have an excuse to ride my bike every day.

 kskelton@sunjournal.com

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Once in a lifetime....

Kudos to the both of you! Many talk about taking such a trip, but you both followed through! I can only imagine the sense of accomplishment you feel. You have proven that when you put your mind to it (and your legs) you can accomplish amazing things....

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