Adventure on two wheels: cycling across America

After touring the world in 80 days in 2007, central Ohio resident Travis Casper wanted more.

So on May 1, Casper hopped on a bus to New York City, where he began his latest journey – biking across the country.

Armed with his new bicycle and 100 pounds of basic essentials, the former United States Marine Corps officer  climbed off the bus in New York, mounted his bicycle and found a path which lead him out of the city and on his new adventure.

"I had a couple of different aspects to doing this," Casper said. "First, it was a physical challenge, getting from point A to B. Next, the mental challenge and endurance aspect. Being on a bicycle all day, it’s not a quick sprint. And I think another aspect was that I was traveling under my own willpower…(also) I didn’t rely on gasoline and relied on eating a lot of nutrition each and every day."

The nationwide bicycle tour seemed a natural next step for Casper, who enlisted in the Marine Corp in 1998. Casper spent time in Fallujah during his time with the military, and upon returning to Ohio, earned a scholarship to The Ohio State University. In 2003, he was commissioned as an officer, and in September, he ended his military career. He is now working on creating three different businesses, two of which will focus on health, education and leadership, and one non-profit organization.

During the last several years, Casper’s sense of adventure has lead him on a world tour in exactly 80 days, visiting such places as New Zealand, Australia, Russia, Japan, Mongolia, Greece, Egypt and Israel. He has visited each Disney park, United Nations, and has met members of Rotary International service clubs.

Not much of a bicyclist before, and only traveling 50 miles on a bicycle in one trip, Casper researched the best bicycle for his needs. The new bicycle, a Jamis Aurora, took adjustment, along with learning to ride with his shoes clipped into the pedals of the bicycle.

Casper picked May as the time to start biking across the country in honor of National Bicycle Month. He headed west by himself, sleeping in a tent wherever he deemed safe and out of the way of big cities.

"If I was to have arranged to sleep somewhere, it would’ve been harder," Casper said. "Being by myself, I could go as far as possible, each and every day."

In one day, Casper traveled 140 miles. Some nights, especially after purchasing a better headlight for his bicycle, he would pull all-nighters, traveling until his body couldn’t go any further.

Though physically fit, Casper found himself running into physical challenges.

"Since I never really bicycled much, it wasn’t so much that my legs got tired," Casper said. "When shifting on a bicycle, the bar was under my hands, causing my hands to go numb. Later, I was having to use my whole arm to shift gears."

Casper realized his left hand was hurting worse when he couldn’t play his acoustic electric travel guitar, an instrument he picked up on his worldly travels.

The last day Casper was in Wyoming, it snowed and the temperature was so frigid that even though he wore gloves, the moisture still seeped through, causing fatigue in his hands. He eventually had his hands checked out at a hospital in Minneapolis, Minn., and decided to pad his handlebars with extra padding.
Casper learned other ways to adapt to his travels when biking across the country. He learned to carry lots of bottled water for times when he reached a remote area with no water resources. Once, he reached a town in South Dakota with only a rest stop and no available bottled water. He carried an ultraviolet water purification light, which purifies a half of liter of water in 60 seconds. But when he reached Las Vegas, Nev., the temperature was more than 115 degrees and his water was so hot, he couldn’t drink it.

The bicyclist wasn’t without technology on the trip, and carried the purification light along with a laptop computer, GPS, smart phone and recording equipment. To charge all of the electronic equipment, he used a solar panel hooked to his bicycle. He kept in touch with family via phone and e-mail, and to pass the time when not sightseeing, Casper wrote songs about his journey.

"It was a way to incorporate things from my trip," Casper said.

Casper also purchased a small camping stove along the way, and even made elaborate breakfasts such as eggs, bacon and pancakes with berries.

To find his way across the country, Casper relied heavily on his smart phone as the GPS required battery power. He also had a compass attached to his watch, and a map of the country.

Through his travels, Casper met new people, many of whom were bicyclists and could tell he was on an adventure.

"The big question was, ‘where are you from? Where are you going?’" Casper said. "When I first started out, I would hear, ‘Oh, you’re going all that way?’ In the end, it was, ‘You’re halfway there.’"
Casper hit both coasts, as well as the borders of Mexico and Canada. His favorite spots were Yellowstone National Park and Hard Rock Cafes he visited.

Though some parts of the journey proved difficult, such as weather conditions and water resources, Casper said he always tried to keep a positive attitude.

"The biggest thing is a positive attitude," he said. "I understood what the weather would be like, I understood how far I was from different resources, water, food. Having a mental attitude that this is where I am, how far I’ve come, how far I can travel, depending on weather, I had to think these are my limits."

Through the challenges, especially through windy Wyoming, Casper learned, that just because circumstances can prove to be hard, it doesn’t mean they can’t be rewarding.

"I had to think, ‘Am I going to push through because it will be hard?’" Casper said. "But I still pushed through it, even though it wasn’t the best of circumstances. Because even if it’s hard, when you make it through, you can say you made it."

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