This commendable lady just biked across the nation from Portland, Oregon to the Atlantic Ocean this summer, with a brief stopover at Ace Hotel New York before she crossed the finish line. In a self-initiated tour de wellness supporting an active, grounded and playful lifestyle, Jessica has taught us so much. When she’s not riding the steel pony like a boss, she runs Cairn Guidance, consulting with public schools about health and wellness. Soon, Jessica will be celebrated by our friends at the Clinton Health Initiative and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation at the Healthy Schools Forum in Little Rock, in honor of the funds her adventure raised to fight childhood obesity.
We were really inspired by her journey and wanted to snag some photos of her in the photobooth and ask her a few questions, to which she obliged.
What was the moment at which this idea came to life and started germinating for you?
I was 15 years old and had just returned from a bicycle tour trip with other teens in Europe. I told my parents I would someday ride across the US. 23 years later, I fulfilled my dream.
When you first set rubber to road after your send-off breakfast, how massively free (and terrified) did you feel?
Three friends joined me for a few miles on their bikes from the Tin Shed Restaurant to the Springwater Corridor Trail. I remember my body was buzzing. Buzzing with excitement, independence and freedom. It was a gorgeous day. Once my friends left me, I remember looking ahead on the beautiful trail and thinking, “I’m doing this. I’m bicycling all the way across this country.” I felt more proud of myself in that moment than I ever have in my life.
Was there ever a moment where you wanted to give up? Who egged you on?
Of course there were challenging moments and days. My first challenge brought me snow in Montana (blog post entitled First Tears). My second challenge was in Kansas with thorns (6 flat tires in 2 days), 105 degree weather 4 days in a row and brutal head and side-winds. My third challenge was fatigue starting in the Appalachian Range for the last few weeks. These challenging days taught me to ask for help and reach out for support when I needed it. I might have been the one pedaling and carrying 80lbs of my own gear, but I never felt alone. Hundreds of people supported me, texted me, emailed me, posted about me, loved me, prayed for me, donated to my cause, fed me, hosted me, cheered me on and celebrated with me. A few people were there for me on a daily basis. My parents, Elin and Rick Lawrence, my personal trainer Aaron Sompson, at Kinetic Integration Manuel Therapy and Performance, Jamie Sparks, a colleague and close friend in Kentucky and Jamie Waltz, Alison Hansen and Ginny Ehrlich, all close friends. There was one day in particular I reached out to Aaron and cried. I was fatigued and didn’t know if I’d make it through the day. I rarely felt lonely as a result of all the people mentioned above.
Any revelations from the road?
Many. I would say my top three revelations include: 1. I’m so proud to be an American. I never want to take for granted how safe I felt as a female bicycling across this country (in spandex!) alone. We are fortunate that we live in such an amazing country with access to potable water and well-paved roads. Meeting Americans was the best part of the trip. People were unbelievably generous, inquisitive and supportive. 2. Laugh a lot. I loved the uncertainty of what my day would look like and where I would stay each night. It could be scary, stressful but also incredibly freeing. And, with that much alone time, you heal, process, reflect and laugh at yourself. Laughter played an important role on my trip. 3. My last revelation is the belief I can do anything I want. Doing something like this, as a solo female was the most empowering experience I’ve ever had. I’m incredibly proud of myself. Road to Rhode was a dream come true.