A Journey of Self-discovery–By Bicycle!

For a lot of people, the quest for identity and self-fulfillment is an inner journey; one undertaken via deep thought and introspection.  For those like Cathie McCormack, however, it’s a real trip!

Three years ago, Cathie, a veteran of the US Army, lost her job.  As a result, she also lost her home and everything she owned.  She was able to find another job in a small town just outside Philadelphia(  “…a good job, with good people.”), but something was missing.  Cathie wasn’t happy.  Athletic in her youth, she was “overweight, unhealthy and unhappy with myself.  I needed a change; something that would help me to uncover who I am and why I’m here.”

Cathie first considered a bicycle trip through Maine.  While researching routes on the internet, she discovered the American Discovery Trail, a coast-to-coast, non-motorized recreational trail that stretches more than 6800 miles across 15 states.  At first, she didn’t mention the idea to anyone; learning about the ADT, thinking about it, returning to the American Discovery Trail website, and thinking about it some more.  Ultimately, she decided to do it!  First up, she needed something on which to take the very few personal possessions with which she would travel.  She and her friend Mike purchased a tiny trailer from an online resource, and then modified it with the addition of the back halves (frames and wheels) of two bicycles.  They made sure that this “trailer” was no wider that the handlebars of her own bike, ensuring that it would be able to pass through any narrow passages she encountered.  Cathie quit her job, packed her essentials (“I read in a biking magazine what to take [tools, spare parts and a tire repair kit for her bicycle; a few changes of clothes, food and a cooler], and then I doubled up on the socks.”), then caught a ride to  Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware, the eastern terminus of the Trail.

On June 28, Cathie headed west on her “personal journey of discovery.”  She did not bring a cell phone, wanting to maintain the focus on herself and her personal growth without a lot of outside distraction.  She does have a tablet, and occasionally goes online (when a hot spot is available) to check her Facebook page and communicate with those who are following her journey.  The cross-country trek would be a challenge under any circumstances.  How was it during what was the hottest summer on record for many states?  “I did get a heat rash when I first started.  I hadn’t had one of those in years!  I kept the cooler filled with ice and water, and drank probably three to four gallons of water each day when I first started out.”

Cathie doesn’t have a specific time frame in mind, taking each day as it comes; stopping for as little or as long as seems right at the time.  Sometimes, the decision is made for her.  While traveling through West Virginia in the wake of a severe storm, she stopped at a tiny town for something to drink.  While there, some of the local residents asked her where she was headed.  When she replied, they told her she would never make it.  They didn’t mean to be discouraging; they just knew that the gravel road to Dolly Sods Scenic Area was a mess following the great storm.  Cathie’s response?  “Well, I will–because I have to.”  Abandoning the trail–and her quest–was simply not an option.  Ascent to Dolly Sods, elevation 3955 feet, was, however quite a challenge.  It took Cathie seven hours on a gravel road to cover the same distance that takes about 45 minutes by vehicle.

In spite of the difficulties, Cathie’s journey seems to be paying off.  She has lost weight, and her arthritis “…doesn’t bother me as much; as long as I keep movin.'”  She has enjoyed seeing the country  “…from a viewpoint other than a car,” and is finding great benefit in having lots of time for personal reflection.  She mentions often the wonderful communities she has encountered along the way, citing the town that allows bikers and hikers on the American Discovery Trail to sleep in their gazebo; the grocery clerk who, when she learned of Cathie’s journey, paid for her groceries (along with another store employee who made her a sandwich to go!); and the policeman who came up behind her, asked where she was going (Cathie:  “California.”  Police officer:   “No, I mean where are you going today?”), then alerted her to an upcoming storm and directed her to a rest area nearby, because he didn’t want her to be out in the bad weather.  Another favorite part of the journey so far was the time two dogs escorted her–one leading the way, the other right behind her–until she reached the edge of their home area.

Cathie stopped in St. Louis on the evening of Wednesday, September 5.  On Thursday morning, she came to The Bridge for breakfast.  (She also had the opportunity to shower and received some food for her journey.)  While in St. Louis, she planned to visit the VA hospital to have a prescription refilled, and then she’ll head west again.  Her ultimate destination is the western terminus of the ADT, San Francisco, a point she plans to reach sometime next summer.  Her current goal is to cross Kansas before cold weather hits and then, hopefully, get a job somewhere in Colorado for the winter.  When the passes over the mountains reopen in the spring, she’ll be on the trail again.  Asked if she has plans beyond the completion of her journey, Cathie said that she’s going to apply for a job with Google Maps.  “I love maps, and seeing where things are.  I used it (Google Maps) to see the topographical view of places.  I’d like to take photos for Google.”  If that doesn’t happen, she’s thinking of returning to West Virginia to help with a shelter in which she stayed while traveling through.  (Her comment about The Bridge?  “Great job.  You’ve got your hands full.”)

Wherever she ends up, she’ll arrive with a lot of good memories about her cross-country journey of discovery.  Summing it up, she says:  “All you hear about is the bad, but there’s a lot of good out there.  There are so many angels on earth.  You just don’t know until you run into them–or they find you.”  Godspeed, Cathie.  May you encounter many more angels on your way.     cheap Diflucan