Finding Hope and Battling Fear on Two Wheels
It wasn’t in Florida that the journey started, even though that’s where it was intended to begin. The journey started in Louisiana—when she was left alone, on her bicycle, still 4,000 miles from her destination in Oregon.
Her only companion gave up and turned around despite their months of training for this drastic bicycle trip across the United States. According to her map, she had 223 hours left on two wheels with no lifeline outside of a cell phone wrapped in a plastic bag.
She’d have to finish what they started—alone.
Brittany Morris is no amateur—she raced competitively and received sponsorship from esteemed gear companies—but this was a situation where physical strength seemed insignificant. Being physically capable didn’t change that she was about to face the loneliest roads of America by herself.
A fearless woman was suddenly terrified.
“When he left, I felt immediate acceptance," Morris told Argot. "I knew I could not convince him to stay, even though we talked for a year about not wanting to do this alone. I also didn’t want him to stay because of me. I wanted him to actually be there for himself and for the adventure. And then I made some demands. I made him get me a hotel room so I could recalibrate my direction."
She knew that one night in a hotel and figuring out the logistics of riding alone could mean many nights of re-planning, possibly hanging low until someone else was able to come along for the ride. She realized that even after offering people payment to join her on the journey, getting a partner was impossible. “You can’t just ask people to drop everything and do this kind of trip," she said.
Morris decided that her temporary mission was just to get to Austin, where she had a confirmed safe place to stay. Her new goal was to get to a safe destination, to fine-tune her mechanic skills.
But then there’s the checklist.
Every woman who has ever traveled solo by foot, bike, or even train and plane knows about the checklist: a mental compilation of all the horrible things you’ve ever been told could happen to you. Survival instinct kicks in and the weapon of choice that you’ve adopted—pepper spray, knife, tightly held keys—are in the ready position.
When a woman says she’s traveling alone, it’s assumed that they are vulnerable and in grave danger.
“I felt like a sitting duck," Morris told me. "The first two days, especially in the first couple hours, I felt like everyone could see me—see that I was a woman and see that I was vulnerable. I felt like the few cars that passed, the few semis, knew I was alone. They could do whatever they wanted to. In this moment of fear, I became highly protective of myself. I thought, yes I’m vulnerable, yes, men can see me, but I’m going to protect my life. I told myself I would fight to the very last breath if something happened.”
Her first day alone was ninety miles long. She recorded videos of fledgling birds over piles of logs, seeing herself the same way—leaving a long-held comfort for the first time. No one else can hold up your wings and help you fly. You just have to jump and hope they work.
Day two was 107 miles. Afterward, she wobbled into a cabin made just for touring cyclists and woke up in her bunk to a large wooden sign reading “RISING WARRIOR.” The symbols of her having to prevail were becoming too obvious to ignore. Every warm shower she was offered brought about a new link of trust.
And that’s where a new sort of optimism kicked on. Faith. That's where she began to see compassion and humanity in all of its forms: Firemen all across the country opened their stations as overnight shelter. A stray dog stood guard outside her tent in the middle-of-nowhere Texas. Home recordings of a tribe’s native music was played for her in the pick-up truck that rescued her from a desert thunderstorm. A distant uncle gave her fire-starting techniques and rattlesnake troubleshooting tactics. Although they had no direct interaction with her, a group of elderly woman covered her tab after she had just finished an 8,000 foot climb.
She made it to Texas. She never even had to pull her knife.
She found a companion who was able to join her from Texas to Oregon. Their time between each state brought about even more abundant generosity, and they ended their trip to friends with open arms.
In a bold trip where the only thing between your body and the road is some dainty pieces of metal and rubber, you can experience a range of emotions. You may start out vulnerable, alone, on guard. You may continue on with some optimism, extreme hunger, and exhaustion. You may finish with delight, surprise, and hopefulness.
The road will not promise a journey without fear. There will be danger. You will have reservations. It’s these experiences that turn into usable tools for the rest of your life. They are lessons the road is offering in exchange for your time. They’re the reason you should do exactly what you want to do, take a risk that is bold and terrifying and meaningful.
Now is the time to liberate yourself from your own fears and take on the challenge you’ve been eager to overcome.
Even if it means you have to go at it alone.
Morris is compiling a zine that contains more detailed stories of her trip. If you’re interested in obtaining a copy, you can find contact her through Big Bike Dream.