BAR HARBOR — Kendrew VanGorder, a 2017 graduate of Mount Desert Island High School and a 2021 graduate of St. Lawrence University, completed a solo bicycle ride from Seattle, Wash., to his home on Mount Desert Island.
Van Gorder began his trip on Aug. 8 and summited Cadillac Mountain on Oct. 24. He chose to take the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) Northern Tier route. “The Northern Tier runs from a town just north of Seattle, Wash., directly to Bar Harbor so being from MDI was why I chose that route. I just really like the idea of this being my end point,” he said. Spanning over 4,200 miles, ACA’s Northern Tier route takes cyclists through all of the most northern states.
Routes listed on ACA maps include resources for cyclists’ trips. “A little bit of a difference between hiking and biking is that hikers spend a lot more time on hiking trails that take you through the wilderness where you’re dependent on the rest and restocking stations,” said VanGorder.
While cycling throughout the route, VanGorder said he passed through towns with lodging, restaurants and grocery stores. “Most of the time I was on public roads generally with pretty low traffic with the exception of sometimes the route having separated, somewhat rare bike paths specifically for cyclists and pedestrians,” he said. VanGorder said he very seldom cycled two-lane highways when there were no lower-traffic routes available.
Throughout his excursion, VanGorder traveled with four different bags attached to his bike that included camping gear, clothing and room for supplies. He stayed at various campgrounds and stocked up on food at different grocery stores across the country. From Washington to Maine, every three to four days VanGorder would restock his food supply.
Rarely, when road conditions were poor, VanGorder would eat at restaurants and stay at hotels. “One night when it rained pretty heavily all day, by the end of the day my gear was soaked so I stayed at a comfortable hotel to dry off,” he said.
VanGorder also relied on a website called warmshowers.org, a volunteer-based website designed for long-distance cyclists. “[Warmshowers] is really like a couch surfing type deal where people sign up to be hosts and traveling cyclists create an account. I just reached out a day or two in advance to people in a town I was going to be traveling through to see if there were any hosts available,” he said. Typically hosts are happy to house cyclists for a night or two. He found that even when people weren’t available to host him, they were happy to offer recommendations.
VanGorder’s trip, which lasted just under three months, included a couple of breaks. “I wasn’t riding that whole time. There was a spot kind of in the middle of the trip where I was just a little bit mentally and physically ready to take a break,” he said. When he arrived in the Midwest, there was a family friend he bunked with for a few days. His Jamis Aurora touring bike also experienced a few flat tires, but people were happy to lend a hand to get the cyclist back on his way.
VanGorder finished his journey on top of Cadillac Mountain on a sunny day. “It was around 4:30 or 5 in the afternoon. It was also the first time I had ever ridden my bike up there,” he said.
One of the things VanGorder said he was looking forward to most upon his arrival back home was to go hiking, which he did the next day.
As for his cross-country experience, VanGorder said he is grateful that things went smoothly. “It was really an enjoyable experience. I’m glad that I did it.”